My sons love reading books, and we make it a point to attend story time at our local library, as much as possible. Building literacy at a young age is important for transforming kids into socially aware and engaged adults. While there are so many great books out there, appropriate for all kids regardless of gender, I just think there’s a place for books that specifically show boys of different backgrounds, exemplifying kindness and doing what’s right. These are 12 of our consistent favorites, geared mostly toward toddlers through kindergarten age.
- The Empty Pot by Demi
Currently our favorite book, it’s a story about a Chinese boy named Ping who hoped to become the emperor’s heir by winning an unusual competition. The emperor gives every child a flower seed to grow for a year, but Ping’s seed produces nothing. After a year, all he has to show for his efforts is an empty pot. The story focuses on the importance of being honest, having integrity, and putting forth your best effort. The illustrations in the story are beautiful, and it’s one of those books you can read many times without getting sick of it. But if you do get sick of reading it, Rami Malek does a great reading of the book in animated form for Storyline Online.
- Dino Block by Christopher Franceschelli
An easy read and colorful book that educates young readers on over 20 different kinds of dinosaurs. Each dinosaur is introduced with one fact and a cute drawing. The dinosaur facts compare dinosaurs to things that kids are familiar with. For example, “I stretch high like the ladder on a fire truck. I am a Brachiosaurus.”
- A Hero Is (Created To Be) by Nikki Rogers
This is a book written specifically to inspire young boys. Everyday heroes help people and do the right thing. The book highlights the qualities that matter most, like loyalty, compassion, resourcefulness, and courage.
- A Ticket Around the World by Natalia Diaz and Melissa Owens
Follow a boy on an adventure around the world! He visits 13 different countries across six continents, sharing interesting facts about each destination. Kids will see how other children live in different parts of the world and learn about a variety of customs, cultures, language, food, and more.
- Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel
The main character Jameson loves wearing his green pants everywhere. He is faced with a dilemma when asked to play a role in his cousin’s wedding and wear a tux with black pants. He just wants to stay true to himself. Can he do that and be in the wedding?
- Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
This is probably our second favorite book these days. The story is about a lion that shows up at the library. He seems to get along with everyone except the strict head librarian. She doesn’t seem to think he belongs, but the lion surprises everyone.
- Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman
A sweet book that teaches readers anyone can like any color because colors don’t have to be associated with a particular gender. It’s also illustrated really well with representation of children from different races and abilities.
The Boy Who Cried Ninja by Alex Latimer
I love this book because it’s really fun to read. There are silly, unbelievable things that actually turn out to be the truth in this wacky book. It’s imaginative and creative, but ultimately reveals an honest boy.
- Dear Boy,: A Celebration of Cool, Clever, Compassionate You! by Paris and Jason Rosenthal
This is the companion book to the bestseller, Dear Girl,: A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You! It’s a book that honors individuality and encourages every boy to be himself. Boys are encouraged to dream their dreams while being celebrated as compassionate beings.
- Big Boys Cry by Jonty Howley
Beautiful illustrations accompany encouraging text in this book about being vulnerable. As Levi start’s his first day of school, he feels scared and so does his dad. Unsure of how to comfort him, his dad tells him not to cry. As Levi observes the people around him, he realizes that it’s okay for boys to cry.
- Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley
From astronauts to superheroes, pirates to ninjas, tough guys have feelings, too! It really drives home the point not to judge people based on outward appearance and to acknowledge your feelings. I like how the book tries to get rid of the macho male notion and, instead, reminds boys to let themselves feel their emotions.
- Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
Jeremy is a boy who just wants to fit in with the current fashion trends that he sees from his classmates. The problem: His grandmother says they can’t afford the shoes he wants. The book is about feeling embarrassed and disappointed when comparing material things to what others have, but ultimately being reminded about what actually matters in life. I also love that the story is one of an interracial friendship. Jeremy really shines as a friend by being generous and kind as he exemplifies good morals.
I hope you love exploring these books as much as we have!