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Thanks to seemingly endless advances in technology, social media and general knowledge, our children are smarter than ever. But that doesn’t always translate into kinder and more empathetic children. Luckily, parents are more aware than ever that teaching mindfulness and social consciousness is critical in the social‑emotional development of well‑rounded kids. This selection of books can help them on their way to being kinder more mindful children as well.

Superbuns
Written and illustrated by Diane Kredensor

A cartoon rabbit standing in front of a chalkboard dressed in a super hero outfit

Superbuns is a super kind bunny rabbit, who loves being kind to everyone no matter what her big, bossy, know it all sister rabbit, Blossom, says or does or even assumes about superheroes. One day, Blossom decides to take a fresh baked piping hot carrot cobbler to Grammy’s, accompanied by Superbuns. On their way to the store to pick up some cold milk to drink with the cobbler, Superbuns stops in order to help their neighbors; her kind acts then catch the attention of little Miss Fox, who quietly follows the two sisters on their errand. After arriving at the store, Superbuns generously opens the door for her sister to enter first and sweetly invites Miss Fox to follow. “A Fox?! Run, Buns, RUN!” Blossom screams in a panic, for foxes, she believes, will eat both the cobbler and rabbits.

However, a happy ending is in store, once Blossom learns that kindness is its own superpower. Read the book to find out and enjoy these sister rabbits, Miss Fox, ridiculous random facts and some humorous illustrations by author Diane Kredensor. (Ages 4‑8 years)

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Written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis

A close up of a girls face covered by a large maple leaf

Like the famous Rodgers & Hammerstein song, Antoinette Portis invites readers to experience a girl’s favorite things as she experiences them in the moment. She introduces readers to her favorite breeze, leaf and even a hole in the ground. Why each is her favorite is made clear through the manner in which she immerses herself in them or relates to them: she says, for example, “his is my favorite hole (this one) because it’s the one I’m digging.” The girl shares more of her favorite things in nature (even a lowly worm) before moving on to let us know of some her body’s favorite actions (singing, gulping, eating); again, she either tells readers directly why with text or with pictures. As day moves into night at home, readers watch the girl enjoy interacting with her loved ones as well.

Portis’ book was a 2017 Kirkus Prize Nominee; it movingly depicts the girl and her surroundings in the moment and invites us to enjoy our own favorite moments as well. The story’s text eschews long explanations and instead provides simple, heartfelt affirmations. (Age 3‑7 years)

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Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing
Written by Christopher Willard and Daniel Rechtschaffen, Illustrated by Holly Clifton‑Brown

An alligator and a young boy standing with arms streched out breathing deeply

In this fun book, children can learn the ABCs of fun, mindful breathing at the same time. From the start, children can breathe and mimic the physical movements of certain animals they know of, like alligators, butterflies and lions. They’ll be invited to imagine themselves breathing in natural places such as mountains, oceans and redwood forests, a little like the famous folk song. More humorously, they’ll be encouraged to breathe in the scent of their favorite foods and beloved objects like cake, oatmeal and teddy bears. Readers are invited to take conscious breaths during familiar situations like elevator rides, yawning and falling asleep, or when feeling common emotions like gratitude. Other original situations are also presented to focus attention on breathing, including the Xylophone Breath, where children are asked to, “Imagine playing a xylophone from the bottom to the top on the in‑breath. Then play it from the top to the bottom on the out‑breath.”

Authors Chris Willard and Daniel Rechtschaffen are clinical psychologists and educators who’ve worked with other educators, children and teens to develop attention, compassion and mindfulness in youth. Holly Clifton‑Brown is a London‑based freelance illustrator of numerous picture books, including Sewing the Rainbow: A Story about Gilbert Baker, and Tell Me a Story, Rory. Her hand‑painted drawings are loose, colorful and playfully shaped; child characters have endearingly large heads and small eyes, and various living creatures, objects, and natural settings are easy to recognize and relate to. (Ages 3‑6 years)

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Try a Little Kindness
Written and illustrated by Henry Cole

Cartoon bear in the rain holding an umbrella over a mouse

This wonderful book outlines what a day of being kind might look like from the perspective a child. It begins by addressing young readers with encouraging lines of verse: “Our animal friends will show you/Exactly how it’s done./Make it a daily habit…/Kindness can be fun!” It then takes young readers through a day of kind acts, such as “Waking up with a smile,” “Invite someone over to play with you,” “Share your toy,” and “Give someone your seat.” In case young readers should feel that they will have performed enough good deeds for a day, Cole gently urges them: “We need to keep on going./Being kind is so much fun.” The book closes with evening and bedtime and some gentle instructions, again in verse, on how to successfully end the day and how to think about how kindness counts.

Henry Cole illustrates animal characters energetically performing everyday acts of living and of kindness, in the old‑fashioned spirit of a Ben Franklin primer, year book or calendar, but with humorous images to match. The characters also speak the appropriate words and phrases to accompany the act of kindness. (Ages 4‑7 years)

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Breath like a Bear
Written by Kira Willey, Illustrated by Anni Betts

A cartoon bear, fox and owl sitting in a medatation circle

This book aims to introduce teachers, parents and kids to easy mindfulness practices to help kids “develop self‑awareness, improve focus, release anxiety and stretch their imaginations.” A few can be selected to work on each day, however, one can also work through them systematically. They are grouped under affirmations and concepts like “Be Calm,” “Focus,” and so forth. Under the first affirmation to “Be Calm,” readers are told how one’s mind and body might feel restless and hyper with detailed description. Specific practices related to that concept are then introduced and explained, along with the needed body posture. Examples of practices include “Candle Breath,” “Hot Chocolate,” “Flower Breath,” “Take 5,” “Bear Breath,” and others.

According to her website, Kira Willey is an “award‑winning children’s music artist, kids’ yoga & mindfulness expert, speaker, and creator of Rockin’ Yoga school programs.” Anni Betts’ pictures of sweet animals, objects and situations will help young readers better grasp concepts and practices. An audiobook version is also available on Hoopla. (Ages 4‑9 years)

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