I heard someone say that you should not wait to be joyful to give thanks. Instead, you will be joyful if you give thanks. I think those are wise words. Here are my favorite books that are specifically about giving thanks.
Thank You for Me (ages 1-5) by Marion Dane Bauer
Using bouncing rhymes and poetic verse, preschoolers identify the amazing abilities and skills of each body part. For instance, one boys states, “I have two eyes to see my mama’s face, to see my bear, to see that paint brush over there.” It all cumulates with being thankful for the whole body, “I have one body to stretch, to curl, to bounce, to twirl.” Ultimately, the children give thanks for who they are and how they have been created. The vibrant pictures illustrate adorable preschoolers engaged in activities such as looking at books, clapping their hands, playing make-believe, eating delicious foods, splashing in the rain, and praying on their knees. Other teaching opportunities are rhyming, alliteration (same beginning sounds), body parts, and the five senses.
Thanks for Thanksgiving (ages 3-7) by Julie Marks
The rhyming couplets and vibrant, action-oriented illustrations make this one of my favorite grateful books on the list! Though the gratitude begins on Thanksgiving day, the "little things" in life are highlighted, such as dressing up, dancing, swinging, and cuddling. Sharing special times with others is the main focus. I love the pictures and the language. There is wonderful family interaction and demonstrations of love among them.
Feeling Thankful (ages 3-9) by Shelly Rotner and Sheila Kelly
This colorful book invites children to recall the many blessings in their lives. It begins with being thankful for self and continues with possessions, skills, people, home, food, entertainment, and nature. An collage of energetic pictures in various sizes accompanies each noted blessing, showing children of all ages and races in a mixture of activities, such as playing in the leaves, kissing a loved one, walking in the rain, riding a bike , and reading a book. This simple, direct text can be used year round (no specific reference to the Thanksgiving holiday).
Thanksgiving is For Giving Thanks (ages 3-6) by Margaret Sutherland
Loosely within in the framework of a Thanksgiving Day celebration, the emphasis in this book is on giving thanks. On each two-page spread, children of different races are shown in daily activities with people that they are thankful for, such as a teacher who makes him feel special when displaying his artwork, parents who love him when he is good and not so good, parents who read books to her, and friends that make her laugh. The theme is that while Thanksgiving is a day for turkey and pumpkin pie; more importantly, it is a time to giving thanks.
Round the Turkey: A Grateful Thanksgiving (ages 6-11) by Leslie Kimmelman
Jesse is thrilled about his family coming to his house for Thanksgiving. The book begins and ends with his voice of gratitude. Written in a pleasant, rhyming poetic verse, each family member recalls what he or she is most thankful for that year. Some are thankful for significant events, such as adopting a child from China or hitting a home run in baseball. Others are thankful for possessions like cell phones and pets. Most importantly, they are all thankful for their loved ones. To unify the verses and to support an authentic round the table experience, Jesse interjects (noted in italics) encouraging comments, occasional questions, and requests to pass the food. This selection can also be used to teach about “voice” and point of view.
Give Thanks to the Lord (ages ALL) by Karma Wilson
Psalm 92 is the inspiration for this book. In poetic form, the beauty of fall, the bountiful blessings of food, the love of family, and the memories of the holidays are all described. Periodically, the phrase “It’s good to give thanks to the Lord” is repeated to connect the many blessings to the one who has bestowed them. Karma Wilson has two other books that are not specific to Thanksgiving, but they are praise oriented. Let’s Make a Joyful Noise (celebrating Psalm 100) and I Will Rejoice (celebrating Psalm 118) also focus on thankfulness and rejoicing to the Lord.
Artist Mark Graham illustrates Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Father, We Thank You” with his stunning impressionist paintings. The illustrations display a family hiking through the woods and camping there overnight. The lines of the poem are included on each two-page spread. The focus of the poem is primarily on the wonders, awe, and tranquility of nature. Each line and though goes back to giving praise and gratitude to the Father in Heaven. This classic literary poem is appealing to all ages. The focus is on praising the creator rather than the creation. In short, the poem is a remembrance of the blessing of nature while the pictures celebrate the blessing of family. Ultimately, they are our two greatest blessings to be grateful for.
In this selection, a “Grateful” anthem by John Bucchino is illustrated by artist Anna Liisa Hakkarainen. The focus of the song is on the benefits of living a life of gratitude. For instance, even in the times we let our “spirits sink,” we can restore our joy by remembering our blessings. There is also an assurance of a higher power who guides us through “delight and despair.” The chorus is repeated several times focusing on being grateful, truly grateful. The song has a beautiful melody and rhythm even when spoken. In addition, there is a CD recording of the song, sung by Art Garfunkle. The words inspire and encourage thanksgiving in all seasons of life.