The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us. Most folks gathered with family and friends, eating the same menu as last year and sharing our blessings.
Now is the time for frantic holiday shopping and listing what we wish for rather than what we are grateful for. But we need to be grateful each and every day of the year. It is still important to cultivate the attitude of gratitude.
Here are some books that teach children the importance of cultivating gratitude.
ThankU: Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles. Millbrook Press, 2019.
This collection of poems by more than 30 poets shows that we can – and should – be grateful in all seasons. The opening poem, Giving Thanks by Joe Bruchac, tells us each day is a gift to be treasured. Some poems are not explicitly about gratitude. Instead, they give thanks for the sky, dimples, shoes, birds, snow, a rock on the beach. Some are serious; others are funny. Each showcases a different poetic form; these are explained in the back of the book.
Thank you, Earth: A love letter to our planet by April Pulley Sayre. Greenwillow Books, 2018.
Like many of the poems in Miranda Paul’s collection, this poem and beautiful photo essay is an ode of gratitude – in this case, to our earth. The poem begins:
Thank you for water and those that float,
for slippery seaweed and stone.
Thank you for mountains and minerals,
that strengthen bills and bone.”
This simple, powerful message helps us appreciate our world. The back of the book contains three pages of scientific information.
The Thank You Book by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018.
“Thank you isn’t just for learning manners. It’s also when something makes a little hum – a happy little hum – inside you and you want to answer back.”
So begins Mary Lyn Ray’s latest book that teaches about giving thanks for both small and large things in our lives. The text explores appreciation for laps, books, jackets, puddles, and the earth we live on. It tells us that thank you “is also for when hurt and sad and not-so-good gets better”. The lyrical text and detailed pencil and watercolor illustrations make the characters and the concept of gratitude come alive to young readers.
We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga by Traci Soreli, illustrated by Frané Lessac.
This beautiful, lyrical picture book focuses on the Cherokee custom of celebrating blessings as well as reflecting on struggles. The story winds its way through the seasons looking at expressions of gratitude in fall, winter, spring, and summer. Each season begins with “we say Otsaheliga / oh – yah – LEE – hay – lee – gah / we are grateful.
Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston. Zonderkids, 2017.
“The gardener’s thankful for every green sprout” is the opening line. The fun, rhyming text and whimsical illustrations with bold lines and soft colors celebrate daily blessings. The poem features examples of what people are grateful for: the gardener, for green sprouts; the painter, for color and light; the poet, for words that rhyme; children, for storytime. This great read-aloud reminds us of how special we are.
Look and Be Grateful by Tomie DePaola. Holiday House, 2015.
The short (37 words) text of this beautiful book encourages us to open our eyes, look around, and be grateful.
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012.
The story opens with “Every day I try to think about the things I’m thankful for.” The main character tries to think of something he appreciates each day: his shadow, music, his hair. Bold lines, bright colors, and easy, playful text encourage children to find something they can be grateful for.
We all need to learn to express gratitude each and every day. Here is a triolet* poem I wrote a few years ago:
For fun, for food,
What are you grateful for today?
* The triolet is a short, 8-line poem of repetition, The first line of the poem is used three times and the second line is used twice. There are only 3 other lines to write: 2 of those lines rhyme with the first line, the other rhymes with the second line.