“How do we add yoga to our curriculum without taking up any extra time?”
We hear this question a lot from the teachers in our Kids Yoga Stories community who manage jam-packed schedules, while catering to the diverse needs of their students.
One easy way to integrate yoga philosophy is through reading picture books about kindness, happiness, gratitude, empathy, or activism.
In fact, I was talking with a preschool teacher recently, and she said, “Oh yes, this makes perfect sense to read your yoga books during story time because we read books anyway, so it wouldn’t take up any extra time!”
These are all principles found in the Yamas and Niyamas, which were written thousands of years ago by an Indian sage named Patanjali. The text provides us with a guide to make good choices in life to help us to be responsible people to ourselves, others around us, and the natural world around us.
Below you will find six books that recently caught my attention at a local event, where community organizations and preschools each decorated a tree inspired by a children’s book. These kid-approved books were just such a delight that I’m excited to share them with you!
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1 BOOK ABOUT KINDNESS TO OURSELVES
Making Happy, by Sheetal Sheth, illustrated by Khoa Lee
The author wrote this beautiful story while undertaking chemotherapy for her cancer diagnosis, in hopes that children will learn that it’s okay to have big feelings, like sadness, anger, and being scared. On this journey through incredibly gorgeous illustrations, readers can feel how the little girl felt about her mother’s cancer treatment and how the family came together to create their own sense of happiness. This is a wonderful story to talk about how to regulate and move through big emotions.
3 BOOKS ABOUT KINDNESS TO OTHERS
Sincerely, Emerson, by Emerson Weber, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett
A true story written by an eleven-year-old about what happened after she sent a thank-you letter to her postal carrier. She shows how one act of kindness had a ripple effect across the country. After the postal carrier told his colleagues about Emerson’s letter, the word spread to mail carriers across the country, who then sent her thank-you letters. This story shows readers that being kind matters, and it doesn’t take much to bring joy into other people’s lives.
Hana’s Hundreds of Hijabs, by Razeena Omar Gutta, illustrated by Manual Mirza
Another stunningly illustrated story about a girl who expresses art through her exquisitely designed hijabs. When she realizes she has too many hijabs to manage, she opens up a hijab service to share her vibrant collection while helping others to feel styled and attractive. Hana’s happiness comes from making others happy—a wonderful lesson to teach children about using our gifts to be kind to others.
The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran, by Rita Jahanforuz and Vali Mintzi
This is a sweet tale of a girl who follows her heart to show kindness to an elderly lady next door, instead of being put off by her drab appearance. She finds that her kindness leads to a beautiful outcome, whereas her greedy and selfish sister does not share the same positive experience. The authentic illustrations bring to life a tale from Tehran that can be applied to our lives around the world.
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2 BOOKS ABOUT KINDNESS TO THE ENVIRONMENT
One Million Trees: A True Story, by Kristen Balouch
The author shares her story of when she was a young girl living in Northern California, and one summer her family drove up to British Columbia to join a crew of tree planters. These efforts were part of the Canadian government’s plan for sustainability—to replace the trees that were logged for human use, including wood to build homes, furniture, and toys. The reader learns of a community of people coming together to plant one million trees, working hard together for the greater good of our environment.
Count on Us!: Climate Activists From One to a Billion, by Gabi Snyder, illustrated by Sarah Walsh
Using artful imagery and the alphabet, the reader is taken on a journey to count the ways that we can work together to take action against climate change. This book would work great as a springboard for discussions of what your class could do to make a difference for the environment, study further about the important environmentalists listed, or follow their ideas to create a school-wide weekly guide with action items.
These are just a few of the treasure of children’s books out there that naturally lend themselves to discussions of kindness, gratitude, and empathy. But one thing is for certain: acts of kindness are only going to make our world a better place to live—for each and every one of us on this planet.