Books for Kids on Prosocial Behavior

By Jo Pick
Books can help parents explain challenging situations to children.
Books can help parents explain challenging situations to children.

Prosocial behavior is any voluntary behavior intended to benefit another person (See Resource 1). Examples include inviting, sharing, helping, cooperating, compromising, respecting others, complimenting, comforting another and hugging. As prosocial behaviors are highly valued by parents, teachers, and children, libraries contain a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction on the topic. In choosing books for a child, parents should consider their child's behavioral needs, and whether the book is going to be read to the child or the child is going to read the book independently. Given this variability, the expected age range cited by the publisher may not be a good predictor of the child's understanding of the book. A better predictor is the amount of text vs. pictures in the book.

Non-Fiction with Lots of Pictures

Cheri J. Meiners, a former first grade teacher with a Master's degree in education, has written 15 books on personal and social practices that help kids get along with others and feel good about themselves. The series, titled "Learning to Get Along," contains colorful pen and ink drawings with concise, straightforward text supplemented by suggestions for parents and teachers. The book also includes games for children that reinforce the book's lessons. Titles include: "Be Polite and Kind," "Join In and Play," "Accept and Value Each Person," "Share and Take Turns," "Talk and Work It Out," "Know and Follow Rules," "Understand and Care," "Reach Out and Give" and "Cool Down and Work Through Anger."

Non-Fiction with Lots of Text

Nadine Briggs' book "How to Make & Keep Friends" contains tips on how to handle 50 challenging social situations. Topics include how to make friends at school; manage conversational challenges; work things out; and handle lies, rumors, rejection, bullying and teasing. The book offers 10 tips for each situation, as well as a glossary and suggested reading lists for parents and kids. It also contains amusing quotations, but no pictures. "Speak Up and Get Along!" by Scott Cooper gives kids 21 strategies for expressing themselves in ways that build relationships, terminate arguments and end bullying. Strategies include the No Thanks to get others to stop pressuring a child, the Mighty Might to take the fun out of teasing, and the Thought Chop to eliminate self-defeating thoughts. The purpose of each tool is described and its use is illustrated through realistic stories. Kids also are given specific statements that they can practice and use to implement each strategy. "Dude That's Rude! (Get Some Manners)" makes it easy and fun for kids to learn good manners for various locations, the reasons why manners are important, "power words" to use and "P.U. words" to avoid, and lots of ways to handle challenging situations. The book's humorous and colorful drawings, kid-friendly text, list format, shaded text blocks and index make this a book kids will enjoy, learn from and use repeatedly.

Fiction with Lots of Pictures

Julia Cook, a guidance counselor with a master's degree in elementary school counseling, has written more than 20 books on children's behavior and health. All of the books contain humorous, colorful pictures, concise prose, and tips for parents and teachers on how to extend the lessons taught in the book. One series of books, titled "Best Me I Can Be," teaches children social skills that can improve their home and school life. A second series, "Building Relationships," includes titles on making friends, dealing with cliques, peer pressure and bullying, and helps children develop healthy relationships with others.

Fiction with Lots of Text

"Burro's Tortillas," by Terri Fields, is the classic tale of the Little Red Hen with a burro instead of a hen, and tortillas instead of bread. The burro repeatedly requests help with the tortillas, but the only time his friends are willing to help him is when it is time to eat. The book's colorful illustrations will undoubtedly engage children while its repetitive prose teaches them the value of persistence and helping others. For authenticity, the book contains both a recipe for tortillas and a sprinkling of Spanish words, all of which are defined in context. "Friendship According to Humphrey" is Betty Birney's story about two classroom pets, a hamster and a frog, who eventually become friends. Along the way, the hamster helps a new girl who has trouble making friends, two friends who get into a fight, a bully who causes trouble on the bus, and a janitor who dreams of returning to college. The book concludes with "Humphrey's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Friends," a list of eight tips on making and keeping friends. Except for a picture of a hamster on the front cover, the book contains no pictures.

About the Author

Jo Pick has a master's degree in speech pathology from the University of Florida and has studied child development at the University of Kansas. She has worked with children and families for more than 35 years and is a certified Early Intervention Service Coordinator. A book Pick edited on children's acquisition of communicative competence was published by University Park Press in 1984.