Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Disclosure in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
Long before I pull out the festive Christmas wrap, I’m on the hunt for great books to gift to my army of niblings. We look for stories about all kinds of cultures and life experiences from all over the world, kids big and small. We find that this is the best way to teach empathy and other great character traits like being thoughtful and considerate. It’s all part of becoming a good human.
The Best Christmas Books for 5-8 Year Old Kids
Everybody Cooks Rice
A young girl is sent to bring her little brother home for dinner and has to search through the neighborhood for him. In her trek, she gets to see what each home is preparing for their dinners and sees that rice is popular across many cultures.
This wordless picture book follows a day in the life of a boy and his family in Sydney and the day in the life of a boy and his family in a Moroccan village. While these are totally different worlds, the illustrations start to uncover similarities between the two cultures.
Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still
Nadia Comaneci grew up in the forests of Romania, fearless, energetic, and always active. Her journey to a record breaking performance at the 1976 Olympics isn’t entirely smooth but the story stays upbeat and hopeful.
The Invisible Boy
Brian, long-ignored in his class and cohort, makes the first move to include the new boy to his class. This small act of kindness lets both boys flourish.
Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story
Lailah was excited to participate in Ramadan this year but having recently moved to the United States from the UAE, she feels awkward about practicing such a different tradition among classmates who knew nothing about it. Her school librarian encourages her to communicate with her teacher and finds that sharing her culture doesn’t have to be painful.
My Name Is Sangoel
Meet Sangoel, a refugee from Sudan. Arriving in a completely foreign United States after losing his father to war, he battles homesickness in a unique way.
Four Feet, Two Sandals
Lina and Feroz each manage to grab one sandal that fits their feet, and together they make a pair. They learn to share the sandals instead of being possessive of the one shoe they each held.
As an adult, it’s easy to forget what drives kids to want the same things other kids have, to fit in by being like the others, and an easy way to do that is to have the things they have. Jeremy wants those shoes, and has to learn in his own way what’s more important than having things like the other kids.
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees
In a time and place where women were expected to keep quiet and their eyes down, Wangari Maathai created Kenya’s Green Belt Movement and spent her lifetime leading women in a nonviolent effort to bring bring social and environmental change to Africa through its planting trees. Her monumental life was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
Based on the real life stories of around 30,000 southern Sudanese boys displaced by civil war, walking nearly 1000 miles looking for safe harbor. They reach a refugee camp only to flee again to Kenya when fighting breaks out again in Ethiopia. An American hears one leader’s story and tries to find help.
What If Everybody Did That?
Such a simple question opens up an entire world of perspective. A child might think that one thing they do doesn’t matter but the best way to show them is to question that assumption and show them that each and every one of us can make a difference.
What If Everybody Said That?
The companion to What if Everybody Did That? asks kids to consider the power of their words.
Beanie misses her Nonni. In this world where families move far away from each other, lots of kids will have a loved one to miss, and this story helps them learn to cope.
Mali Under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Home
Taking nothing but her memories, young Mali and her family flees their beloved home and country when civil war breaks out in Laos. Arrested for not having a home, Mali shares stories of her home with her fellow prisoners.
A fun and silly story about dragons, Danny Dragonbreath has to get help when he gets a bad grade in school.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
The simple questions in this book are no less powerful for their simplicity. The beautiful story and illustrations encourage kids to be thoughtful, considerate, kind and bold.
They All Saw A Cat
This book takes kids into a journey of perspective and how what we see or perceive influences how we interact with the world around us.
Ricky, the Rock that Couldn’t Roll
Ricky the rock is too flat to roll with his friends, so the rocks and ladybug have to work together to find a way to bring their friend along to play.
Eraser just wants to be appreciated. Is that so much to ask? She tries to make herself stand out like her school supply friends and in the process, starts to figure out who she is.
I’m NOT just a Scribble…
Scribble is dismissed as “just a scribble” because he doesn’t look like everyone else. He starts to teach the drawings about acceptance and that teaches kids about including others even if they are different.
What were your favorite books in early elementary school?