Books that center around the power of friendship are a great way to incorporate social and emotional learning into your curriculum and your classroom. Books about friendship explore important themes like empathy, kindness, compromise, and learning to put yourself in someone else’s shoes—all critical emotional tools that will help kids both inside and outside of the classroom.
We’ve rounded up our 5 favorite books about friendship—perfect for kids in grades 3–5—along with suggestions on how to teach them so you can embrace the power of friendship in your classroom.
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Ravi is the new kid at school who just arrived in America from India and isn’t quite sure where he fits in. Joe has lived in the same town all his life, but is dealing with a new reality now that his best friend just moved away. Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same school, and now share the same common enemy—the class bully.
Why We Love It: From exploring issues of cultural identity and facing new challenges to themes of bullying and, of course, the power of friendship, there’s so much to unpack in this compelling novel by award-winning and bestselling author Sarah Weeks and debut voice Gita Varadarajan—and that’s what makes it so great. It’s engaging, funny, and serves as a reminder to kids that friendships can often blossom where you least expect them.
How to Use it in Your Classroom: Lead a discussion around welcoming a new student into your class. Have your students imagine themselves as the “new kid in school” and list some of the emotions and fears they might be feeling. Then ask them to offer suggestions on how to show kindness to a new student. How can they initiate a new friendship? Could they create a welcome kit for a student who just moved to town? Brainstorm with your class and talk about why doing these things can be so meaningful.
Friendship According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
Humphrey the hamster is shocked by a big surprise after the holidays: he’s not the only class pet in Room 26 anymore! What will happen to Humphrey when all the kids are so interested in Og the frog that they stop paying attention to everyone’s favorite classroom hamster?
Why We Love It: Kids will laugh along with Humphrey’s animal antics, but they’ll also be learning important lessons about real-life friendship, jealousy, and kindness along the way. Humphrey’s adventures are especially great for any animal-loving readers!
How to Use it in Your Classroom: Even though Humphrey’s a hamster, his feelings when Og the frog shows up in class are the perfect springboard for a discussion about jealousy. Here are a few questions for you to discuss with your students:
The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix by Gale Galligan
The Baby-Sitters Club is back—now in awesome graphic novel editions! This fresh take of the popular series is the perfect way to introduce America’s favorite foursome to a whole new generation.
Why We Love It: The warm, spunky illustrations throughout this graphic novel series capture Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey as they navigate the trials and tribulations of starting a baby-sitters club. But at their core, these are books are about friendship, and the series does a brilliant job of showing kids the importance of working together, listening to each other, and supporting your friends no matter what. The graphic novel format is also a powerful motivator for reluctant readers.
How to Use it in Your Classroom: Make your own friendship graphic novels! Have each student create their own short story in graphic novel format, focused around the theme of friendship. Suggest some plot prompts to get them started, but make sure to emphasize that the story needs to center around friendship in some way.
Bluish by Virginia Hamilton
A beautifully moving novel that documents the rewards and difficulties of friendship between two young girls, one who is facing cancer.
Why We Love It: Although the backdrop of cancer is certainly somber, Newbery Medalist Virginia Hamilton manages to put the powerful story of friendship between two strong young women at the forefront of this novel that so beautifully depicts the struggle young people face as they simultaneously assert their independence yet still yearn for guidance. Interwoven with themes of multiculturalism and what it means to be different, this novel teaches that although friendship isn’t always easy, it’s always worthwhile.
How to Use it in Your Classroom: Dreenie, the main character in the book, keeps a journal and writes down her observations when Bluish joins her class. Ask your students to keep a journal for several weeks and record their observations about what’s happening around them. Encourage them to focus on specific details and even use the journal as inspiration for creative writing.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
A brilliant, sensitive story that takes an insightful look at how one person's differences can affect the lives of so many others.
Why We Love It: The novel that hit #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, inspired a movie, and launched the Choose Kind movement is, truly, a wonder. Few other stories explore themes of friendship, empathy, compassion, and what it means to be “normal” in such an astute, beautiful way. It’s a must-have for any classroom library.
How to Use it in Your Classroom: Help your students choose kindness by hosting a “Get Caught Choosing Kindness” week with your class. Talk about what it means to choose kindness, then give each student a stack of five blank index cards. Each time they catch a classmate in a kind act (being nice to another student, sharing, asking someone to join in during a game, etc.), have the student record it on a card and hand it out to the classmate. At the end of the week, have fun going over all the awesome ways your students choose kind.
• Why do you think Humphrey feels jealous when Og arrives in Room 26?
• . Have you ever felt jealous of someone else? Why?
• . What are some things you can do to move past those feelings?