Communities are amazing places full of people and resources just waiting to be discovered. Use these children’s books about community to broaden the horizons of the students and help them learn about what it means to be a part of a community.
I asked my friend Lauren Bercuson, the blogger behind Happily Ever Elephants, to put together a list of picture books about community for you. She came up with an AMAZING list. Take a look.
Books About Community
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Hey Wall: A Story of Art and Community, by Susan Verde and illustrated by John Parra: The mere mention of a wall is so divisive these days, but in this book, a wall becomes an extravagant mural showcasing the beauty and diversity in one neighborhood. The wall, big and bleak, is an eyesore in Angel’s bustling community, and he wishes it adequately reflected the joy and laughter spilling out of every doorway. Angel wants to make a change, but he knows he can’t do it alone. Harnessing the power of art, Angel and fellow community members turn that wall into a joyful mural, representing the hearts and lives of the people residing within their town.
Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson: As a boy and his grandmother ride the bus one afternoon, the boy continually asks his grandma about various luxuries he sees others enjoying that he and his family do not have. His grandmother opens the boy’s eyes to all of the ways in which they are rich, even though they may not have the particular possessions the boy so admires. When their bus ride ends, the reader learns grandmother and grandchild are going to volunteer at a soup kitchen. We love how this story shows that no matter where you fit in your neighborhood, we can each find meaningful ways to give back to our communities.
*Also, check out our Family Dinner Book Club featuring Last Stop on Market Street.
What is Given from the Heart, by Patricia McKissack and April Harrison: James Otis and his Mama don’t have much, but they have their health and strength, so Mama knows they are blessed. One Sunday at church, their reverend makes an announcement: a family in their community has lost everything in a fire, and the congregants will compile a Love Box containing anything they think will be helpful to the family. James Otis wonders hard – what can he give? What would the family’s young daughter want from him, a boy who has so little? James Otis eventually comes up with an idea from the heart – but will it be enough? This book is sheer perfection, teaching every human being, no matter how old or how young, that even those who have so little still have much to offer others.
Thank you, Omu!, by Oge Mora: A stunning debut! Everyone in the neighborhood follows the delicious scent of stew to Omu’s doorstep, where Omu (meaning “queen” in the Igbo language of the author’s parents) lovingly dishes her stew to her neighbors. But when it comes time for Omu to sit down for dinner, she realizes she’s left no stew for herself! This is a gorgeous, timeless story of generosity and community, beautifully conveying that one good deed deserves another — and sharing is everything.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell: Young Mira believes a little splash of color can make a big, big difference in her otherwise dreary community. Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, Mira shows us how even kids can accomplish great things – including harnessing the power of art to transform and revitalize an entire city. Rafael Lopez, the book’s illustrator, was also the artist behind the Urban Art Trail. His illustrations are as gorgeous as his real-life murals.This is such an evocative story of community, conveying how together we have the power to create beauty where it didn’t before exist.
*Also, grab our book activities to accompany Maybe Something Beautiful.
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love, by Michelle Edwards and illustrated by G. Brian Karas: Mrs. Goldman is known for knitting hats for everyone in the neighborhood and helps so many people stay warm during winter’s chill. So when the freezing temperatures arrive and Mrs. Goldman has no hat of her own because she is so busy knitting for all her neighbors, Sophia decides to make something special for her special friend. A wonderful story of paying it forward that describes how small acts of generosity make the largest impacts on people’s lives!
The Very Last Castle, by Travis Jonker and illustrated by Mark Pett: One old, seemingly abandoned castle is ripe for rumors, and the people in town have no problem spinning tales about the horrors that must lie inside. We love the way this book challenges the preconceived notions of an entire community – all, that is, but one small, curious girl who constantly tries to catch the eye of the man guarding the mysterious castle. The child overcomes fear of the unknown by being brave enough to discover for herself what really lies behind the foreboding doors. In the process, she discovers her inner courage, makes a new friend, and creates a big change right within her neighborhood.
The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown: This is a quietly beautiful story about a boy in a dreary town who discovers a straggling garden while out on a walk. He decides to care for it, nurturing it with love, patience and perseverance, even after it is harmed by the elements. Once he nurtures the garden, an amazing thing happens – gardeners appear from all around the city to help! They all revitalize the city’s landscape, bringing life to the city and blue to the skies. This book is stunning both in story and illustration, with themes of perseverance, environmental activism, and community improvement.
Be Kind, by Pat Zeitlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill: A young girl is in despair after spilling grape juice on her new dress. Seeing her sadness, one of the girl’s classmates wonders what it means to be kind- even when others aren’t. This book explores acts of kindness big and small and beautifully imparts that even our youngest children have the power to make an impactful difference in our classrooms, in our communities, and in the world at large simply by making kind choices.
Pie is for Sharing, by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and illustrated by Jason Chin: We love the way this book captures a community picnic and togetherness on a warm summer day! Nothing says summer like apple pie and picnics and what better way to eat a good meal than to share it? This story joyfully conveys all the things you can share with friends and neighbors in the community, and its lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations by a Caldecott award winner make it sing.
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, by Emily Pearson and illustrated by Fumi Kosaka: if you love the idea of random acts of kindness, you will love this delightful book! On her way home from her ordinary school, ordinary Mary is on her way to her ordinary house and stumbles upon a bush of ordinary blueberries. Mary decides to pick them for her neighbor, and what results is a chain reaction of kindness that takes the world by storm! This one is so beautiful for the way it shows that one good deed can truly be a catalyst for the most positive and important type of change.
Maddi’s Fridge, by Lois Brandt and illustrated by Vin Vogel: This sweet story provides an important look at community and childhood hunger in a manner so readily understandable for young kids. I always read this with my elementary students, and it prompts great discussions not just about how important it is to help others in need, but also how to handle a situation when a friend makes you promise to keep a secret that causes you to worry about his or her well-being.
*Maddi’s Fridge is also featured for our Family Dinner Book Club in the Kids Making a Difference Year.
A Chair for My Mother, by Vera M. Williams: After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa and her family save coins in a big jar. What are they saving up for? A big, comfortable chair so the family can relax after their long days. This story is poignant and so beautifully conveys one spirited family’s will to persevere after a tragedy, their neighborhood’s compassion and willingness to help, and the gratitude the family displays to those around them, even when their own losses were devastating.
This is How We Do It, by Matt Lamothe: This fabulous work of nonfiction tells the story of seven children living in various countries around the world: Italy, Peru, Uganda, Russia, Japan, India and Iran. It is a study in culture, daily routines, family, cuisine, and education, giving kids a peek into communities overseas. This is a perfect “window” book, transporting kids around the world and back again, all the while allowing them to see that while the details of our days may differ, we share the same foundations and the same passion for family, friends, education and recreation.
Ada’s Violin, by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport: Ada Rios grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. Her community feeds themselves by sorting through the trash that arrives from the capital city of Asuncion, and they make money by salvaging items which they promptly recycle and sell. Ada dreams of music, and when a music teacher by the name of Favio Chavez arrives, he begins to hold music classes for the children in the town. But musical instruments were short, so Chavez and the town’s recyclers begin to fashion all sorts of beautiful instruments from the treasures they find in the dump. With their refurbished instruments, tons of dedication, and a whole lot of heart, Ada and the other children from the Recycled Orchestra, eventually garnering international attention.
Printable Book List of Community Books for Kids
Grab the printable book list of these great books to take to the library.
Dive even further into the community and learn about community workers in our Community Helpers Preschool Literacy Unit.
And, visit Lauren’s posts below on Happily Ever Elephants. She has some great book lists too.
* Lauren is a mom of two boys like me and an elementary school librarian who is as passionate about children’s literature as I am. She reviews everything from board books for your youngest kids to books for your newest readers to novels for tweens. She also has book lists on every topic under the sun, including the importance of adopting a growth mindset and books to instill confidence in children.