With the holidays fast approaching, there’s no better time to bring up the importance of gratitude! There’s so much to give and receive over the next two months, and the excitement of the holidays often causes children to overlook the little things that bring them joy every day, 365-days a year.
These 18 mentor texts are perfect for the task of teaching children about the art of giving thanks to the friends, family, places, and things that bring happiness to everyday life. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for spreading the warmth of love and gratitude at home and at school. Check out our Thankful Activity to help put you and your students into the spirit of giving thanks as you work together to fill up the turkey’s feathers with notes of gratitude.
CJ and his grandma hop on a bus across town after the conclusion of church every Sunday. On this energetic ride, CJ asks his grandma why they don’t have some of the things that his friends do, like a car or an iPod. The answers that his grandma provides help CJ to see the beauty and magic of their lives, as the book calls upon gratitude and the importance of finding joy in unexpected places.
The Thank You Letter by Jane Cabrera
The Thank You Letter follows birthday girl, Grace, as she sits down to write thank you letters to her friends and family following a spectacular birthday party. As Grace writes her letters, she notices just how many things there are for her to be grateful for! From her dog to her teacher, and even the bright blue sky, Grace writes and delivers a lot of letters to express her deep gratitude for that which blesses her life.
Teacher Tip: Have a letter-writing activity for students to express their gratitude to their loved ones. Whether students write to long-distance family members, members of the school staff, or their best friends, these letters are sure to bring joy to those writing and receiving them.
This tender book reflects on the countless things that we can be grateful for everyday through poetic verse and soft illustrations. Practicing daily gratitude can do wonders, as it helps in the process of cultivating happiness! This happiness can be found in the intentional moments of being thankful for the big and little things in our lives that make it all worthwhile.
Teacher tip: Create an activity where you and your students reflect upon the little and big things you are all grateful for. Write them down on a whiteboard or Smartboard so that all the students can spend time recognizing the range of thankfulness within the classroom. From grandmas to grilled cheese’s, there’s so much to be grateful for!
Rosa, her mother, and grandmother are left with nothing after a fire destroyed their home, so the three of them save up their coins to purchase a comfortable chair for all to enjoy. This tender tale of spirit and love is a great read to have in the classroom and is available in both English and Spanish!
Thanks a Million not only speaks volumes on the attitude of gratitude of Thanksgiving, but also provides readers with inspiration and insight into what it truly means to feel thankful. This book features a variety of poetic styles and elements, such as letter poems, haikus, riddles, and more. The rhythm of the text is paired with rich illustrations to make this book a must-have not only for the month of November, but all year ‘round!
Teacher tip: Review poetry elements with students by pinpointing a few pages of the book to discuss. Have your students create their own poems to the style of the books to reinforce themes of thankfulness while they practice writing their own poetry! The students could also pair their writings with personal illustrations to give to their families at Thanksgiving.
Delightful illustrations are accompanied with fun, rhythmic verse in this children’s book for ages 4-8. The text recognizes people, animals, and activities that can create joy in a child’s life, teaching the young readers about the rich concept of gratitude in an easily understandable format.
Bestselling and award-winning author, Eileen Spinelli, warms hearts in this children’s book that focuses on that which we take for granted while teaching children the importance of gratitude. Meant to be read-aloud, Thankful uses whimsical rhyming and illustrations to charm readers ages 4-8. This book serves as a great addition to the home or classroom around the time of Thanksgiving, and all the months in between.
Teacher tip: Encourage your students to create their own rhymes of gratitude! This activity reinforces the concept of being Thankful, while also strengthening their ability to create rhyme in their writing.
As discussed in our post on The Power of Positive Thinking, practicing daily gratitude can promote increased feelings of happiness within children and adults alike. Kathy Walsh provides children the tools to connect with their hearts and inner positivity in this book of gratitude and appreciation.
Teacher tip: This book comes with activities for children to reinforce the themes of positive thinking and gratitude practice so that the warm fuzziness of this time of the year can be revisited all-year long.
Douglas Wood pays homage to the natural world in this inspirational text which paints the world in vivid illustration and writing. It’s a wonderful world which offers us all so much to be grateful for, reminding readers of the blessings that we so often take for granted.
Teacher tip: Incorporate a daily practice of gratitude by starting a daily gratitude journal in which students can add to in the creation and cultivation of thankfulness and happiness.
A dog named Pearl and her best friend Squirrel live in a big city where they roam the streets together looking for adventures. On the morning of Thanksgiving, Pearl and Squirrel call out things that they’re grateful for. Pearl is grateful her time playing in the park, while Squirrel is thankful for her cozy nap spot. However, in the end, the two pals realize that what they’re most grateful for is their friendship.
Readers learn how to say, “Thank you!” in Spanish with this bilingual book about giving and gratitude. Mr. Panda gives all his presents away to his animal friends, but they aren’t grateful for the gifts. The presents are a tad mismatched since the mouse gets a huge sweater and the octopus receives six socks despite having eight tentacles. Mr. Panda’s friend, Lemur, helps to remind them all that it’s the thought that counts, teaching the animals and readers about the importance of saying “thank you”.
Teacher tip: This read could spark an important pre-Christmas discussion about expressing gratitude when receiving gifts, whether it’s exactly what you want or not.
Ostaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is a word used by the Cherokee tribe to express gratitude. This tale of modern Native American life travels through all four seasons to recount the many blessings that can be recognized all year long. Written by a member of the Cherokee Nation, this story is rich in Native American culture and is accompanied by a glossary and Cherokee syllabary in the appendix.
Teacher tip: The historic origins of Thanksgiving are often misunderstood, as they tend to lack true Native American recognition. This mentor text would pair well with a history lesson on the influence of Native American culture on some of our classic Thanksgiving dishes!
This book is a celebration of the many different people, places, and things that make up our beautifully diverse world. Readers will join the narrator and her dog on their daily walk through the neighborhood, where they greet and say thanks to the mail carrier, school bus drivers, trees, and more.
Teacher tip: So often, sanitation workers are forgotten despite their very important role in keeping our schools, neighborhoods, and cities clean. Have your students write notes of gratitude to local custodians and bus drivers to spread the love and warmth around school.
Readers will automatically recognize this famous hungry caterpillar as it gives thanks to many different things that make our world a joyful place to be. Eric Carle is the brilliant author and illustrator of this book. He used the caterpillar from his best-selling book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has sold over 55 million copies and is translated into 70 languages! His beautiful way of showing us to be thankful with all the colorful art and words is amazing.
Teacher tip: Have students create big bubble letters of words related to being thankful and color them.
It’s Thanksgiving time for Llama Llama and his family, which means delicious food, autumn leaves, and lots of giving thanks! Although Thanksgiving is only one day out of the year, Llama Llama and his family practice thankfulness all year ‘round. The story’s short and rhythmic text is perfect for introducing gratitude to babies and toddlers.
This book helps teach early readers positivity in the form of expressing gratitude for all things, big and small. In a world focused so much on what we lack, this story helps instill within children the importance of recognizing what we do have! There is so much to be grateful for, and in the practice of gratitude, readers can begin to see the world through a new lens of positivity.
Before becoming a beloved American children’s book author, Patricia Polacco was a young girl named Trisha. A special teacher by the name of Mr. Falker helped encourage Trisha to overcome her dyslexia, a teacher to whom she dedicated this book of thanks.
Teacher Tip: Have students write a thank you letter to any current or previous teacher.
So often it takes losing things for us to realize how much we appreciate them! Tiny mouse Rita experiences a life without her everyday items, which teaches her to appreciate them even more. Told from a child’s perspective, this story instills readers with values and virtues on gratitude while encouraging children to work through problems by thinking about positive solutions.
Teacher tip: Collaborate with your students to create a list of everyday objects that they would miss if they couldn’t have them anymore.
I hope you found some ideas to use to teach the character trait of Thankfulness!
For a full list of thankful mentor text, check out Rockin Resource’s Amazon list.