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Teach Kids About Forgiveness with Picture Books

Simple themes and relatable characters help kids understand this important concept

Published on: November 28, 2023

Mom and daughter sitting on a couch reading a book together

There comes a time when every parent has to teach their kid to apologize. At some point, their child hits, or bites or says the wrong thing, and we get down on their level and calmly explain that hitting hurts, teeth are for chewing food, and when we hurt someone’s feelings, it’s important to say “I’m sorry.”

During the tough toddler years, I found myself prompting my firstborn to apologize over and over again, like a broken record: “Uh-oh! Blank is for blanking. Please say you’re sorry.” And he would promptly and proudly repeat the requisite “I’m sorry” without much thought. It wasn’t until a friend of his followed up an apology with “Do you forgive me?” that I started to question what’s behind the ritual.

Apologizing is only half the equation. Forgiveness completes it. One acknowledges your mistake. The other acknowledges its effect and your commitment to do better. When you really think about it, it’s a tough concept, especially for young kids. Help them dive into forgiveness with these great reads:

Rita and Ralph’s Rotten Day” by Carmen Agra Deedy

"Rita and Ralph's Rptten Day book cover"
Trouble between friends calls for this book about two best friends who live on two different hills. They play well together every day until one day they don’t. It’ll take a new idea (that isn’t so new) to bring them back together again.

The Berenstain Bears and the Forgiving Tree” by Jan and Mike Berenstain

"The Berenstain Bears and the Forgiving Tree” book cover"
A brand-new bike and an accident are the focus of this book about forgiveness. Read it to find out if Sister Bear can convince Brother Bear to forgive Cousin Freddy in spite of his anger.

That’s My Carrot!” by Il Sung Na

"That's My Carrot!" book cover"
A giant carrot. A bunny rivalry. Who will win in the end? The bunnies can if they learn to forgive each other and work together to find the missing carrot.

Otter and Owl Say I’m Sorry” by Crystal Bowman

"“Otter and Owl Say I’m Sorry” book cover"
A big idea that ends in disaster leaves Owl worried that he’s ruined his friendship with Otter. But a very simple lesson helps him mend the break.

The Sour Grape” by Jory John

"“The Sour Grape” book cover"
This title says it all. A sour grape walks around holding grudges. But are those hard feelings worth it? See how forgiveness and compassion play into this tale that will appeal to every young reader.

The Forgiveness Garden” by Lauren Thompson

"“The Forgiveness Garden” book cover"
Inspired by the real Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, this book tells the story of two friends who learn the power of forgiveness through its simple yet touching narrative.

More books to help kids learn and grow

8 Classic Books That Help Early Readers Learn About Friendship

5 Books to Cultivate Social-Emotional Learning in Children

Kids’ Books That Share True Stories of Native Peoples

7 Children’s Books That Celebrate Juneteenth

Sibling Stories: 21 Books That Celebrate Sib Bonds

Best Books to Celebrate Black History With Kids All Year Long

Beyond Harry Potter: 12 Inclusive Fantasy Series To Read Instead

9 Books for Kids That Feature LGBTQ Characters

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