Reading with your child is a wonderful thing. It stimulates their imagination and teaches them about the world. It’s also a fantastic way to bond with your child.
There’s another kind of bond that’s critical for children too. That’s the bond they will eventually form with friends. Books can help teach children how to make and keep friends, which will encourage those healthy bonds later in life.
So, read on to find out more about the importance of friendship, and the books that can help your children in their friend-making skills.
- “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”
- “You have been my friend,” Charlotte replied. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
- “With her irrepressible spirit, the new girl dethrones the reigning recess bully by becoming her friend.”
- “Good friends are one of life's blessings. Don't give them up without a fight.”
- “Poor Big Al! He just wants to make friends. And in the whole wide blue sea you can't find a nicer fish.”
- “The human beans in Wellington have an especially scrumpdiddlyumptious taste.”
- “But he's not a pet, Mom. He's a friend.”
- “All of a sudden the hare said, loudly and clearly, 'Good morning.'”
- “Dad was more direct: ‘For God’s sake, Ellie, that skirt barely covers your knickers!’”
- “I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. ”
Why Is Friendship Important for Children?
Many parents want their children to be popular. They figure if their child is well-liked, they’ll be happier in life generally. While a child doesn’t need to be the most popular kid in school, friendship is always beneficial.
Before they go out into the world, you can help teach your child about friendship. And do you know what an ideal tool for this is? Books!
Children start developing friendships as toddlers, although toddlers often haven’t developed empathy yet. So, don’t be alarmed if they sometimes lash out at others (1).
As your child grows, they will naturally learn how to interact with others better. They will develop understanding and empathy, which will frequently occur through play (2).
However, you can assist your child in understanding certain friendship aspects early. You can help teach them important concepts such as how other children are different or making compromises. The books on this list can help you.
The Best Children’s Friendship Books of 2020
1. Winnie the Pooh
A.A. Milne’s famous Winnie the Pooh series centers around a teddy bear and his toy animal friends who all live in the Hundred Acre Wood together.
All of Pooh’s friends are not only different animals, but they also have unique personalities. These books teach children about overcoming differences for friendship.
2. Charlotte’s Web
A classic that many will already know, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is the story of a pig named Wilbur. Wilbur befriends Charlotte, a spider, who tries to help him when his life is threatened.
A fantastic story, although it does deal with death, so parents should consider this. This book could prove way too sad for toddlers or younger children.
3. The Recess Queen
Mean Jean is the bully of the playground. The other children do whatever she says and wants. All that changes when a new girl arrives and wants to be Mean Jean’s friend.
Alexis O’Neill’s colorful book looks from the bully’s perspective. It can teach kids an interesting lesson about conflict.
4. Harriet the Spy
Harriet wants to be a spy, and she writes down absolutely everything in her notebook. However, disaster strikes when her friends find her notebook and read what she has written about them.
Louise Fitzhugh’s story is great for pre-teens, with its strong characterization and an engaging sense of humor.
5. Big Al
Big Al is a scary-looking fish whose intimidating appearance means he doesn’t have any friends. However, that all changes when Big Al saves other fish from a fishing net.
Great for elementary school children, Andrew Clements’ book teaches children not to judge by appearances.
6. The BFG
Sophie, an orphan, befriends a giant who carries her off to a fantasy realm. The other giants in the land, however, are not so kind.
A wonderful fantasy by Roald Dahl, best read aloud due to some unusual vocabulary. Best for ages 8 and older due to talk of giants eating children.
7. The Iron Giant
This modern fairy tale is the story of an alien metal man who is built to be a weapon of war. He befriends a young boy in the English countryside.
A classic tale by Ted Hughes that deals with issues of war and environmentalism. Some heavy themes, but great for older children.
8. Harriet’s Hare
Harriet is 8 years old, lives on a farm, and over the summer she meets an alien disguised as a hare. The alien, Wiz, uses his alien abilities to make Harriet’s life better.
A quaint tale with a strange premise, Dick King-Smith’s book is sure to intrigue most children.
9. Girls in Love
Ellie is a 13-year-old girl who loves art, boys, and friends. She also wants to be a grown-up quite badly.
This book is the first in a series by Jacqueline Wilson, and teen girls will relate to it. However, note that it does contain some mature themes.
Auggie is a 10-year-old boy born with a facial deformity. He’s been homeschooled most of his life, but now he is going off to a regular school.
Better for children 10 and over, this is an ideal book for parents or teachers to read aloud. R.J. Palacio’s Wonder is tough but touching.
11. A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Amos McGee is a zookeeper who does everything for his animals. When he’s sick one day, the animals decide to do something nice for him instead.
This book by Philip C. Stead is a lovely read for children aged 6 and older. It is a soothing story with beautiful illustrations.
12. The Snail and the Whale
This is the story of a little snail who hitches a ride on a whale to see the world. The whale becomes beached, and the snail has to rescue him.
From the creators of The Gruffalo, this is a stunning book that toddlers and young children will love.
13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter is a young boy living in the U.K. with his uncaring aunt and uncle. One day, he discovers he’s a wizard. He also finds out some terrible things about his past.
A smash hit, this book is for the whole family (best for kids 9 and over) and shows best friends overcoming evil and adversity together.
14. Nerdy Birdy Tweets
Nerdy Birdy and Vulture are best friends, despite liking different things. But when Nerdy Bird discovers Tweetster, he begins to neglect his friendship with Vulture.
Aaron Reynolds has written this thoughtful book for teaching young children (around 8 years) about the dangers of internet obsession.
15. Be a Friend
Dennis is a young boy who prefers to mime rather than speak. He doesn’t have any friends until he meets Joy. Joy doesn’t mind that Dennis won’t talk.
This is an adorable book by Salina Yoon that teaches young children they don’t have to compromise who they are to make friends.
16. A Friend for Henry
Henry is a little boy who desperately wants to make friends at school. But whatever he does, no matter how well-intentioned, it only seems to push away the other kids. But soon, a friend will find him.
This picture book by Jenn Bailey teaches children aged 5 to 8 about autism and how autistic children feel.
17. My Friend Is Sad
Gerard is an elephant and Piggie is a pig. They are best friends, even though their personalities are opposites. One day, Gerard feels sad, and Piggie tries his best to make him happy again.
This story by Mo Willems is a humorous picture book that is great for children just beginning to read.
One is a story of colors. Red is aggressive, especially to Blue, and the other colors don’t like it. When One comes, he will teach the colors how to get along peacefully.
By using colors as characters, Kathryn Otoshi teaches small children a valuable lesson while they’re still in their early learning days.
19. Best Friends
Gemma and Alice are best friends and have been since they were born. But when Alice moves away, the girls struggle to keep their friendship together.
This is a book that would best suit pre-teens, as some themes may be too mature for younger children. Jacqueline Wilson’s Best Friends will resonate with young girls.
20. The One and Only Ivan
Ivan is a gorilla who has spent decades living in an enclosure. He has accepted his life away from the jungle. That is until he meets a captive baby elephant.
Katherine Applegate’s book is an emotional read. It’s better suited to older children due to descriptions of animal violence.
21. Love That Dog
Jack is a student who normally hates poetry. But when his teacher makes him write poetry for an assignment, Jack finds he has a lot to express.
An unusual but fun read, Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog is a series of free-form poems. Awesome for reading aloud.
22. The Jungle Book
Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is a series of stories about Mowgli, a human boy raised in the jungle by wolves. Mowgli is friends with a panther and a bear, but the tiger, Shere Khan, is the man-cub’s sworn enemy.
Kipling was a powerful storyteller, and kids will love the exotic and wild setting.
23. Because of Winn-Dixie
One day in summer, India finds a dog while on a trip for groceries. The dog, Winn-Dixie, changes her life in a myriad of ways – including helping her make friends and open up to her dad.
This award-winning story by Kate DiCamillo is heart-warming both for adults and children who are 9 or older.
24. Those Pesky Rabbits
Mr. Bear only wants to be left alone. His rabbit neighbors, however, keep trying to spend time with him. Maybe Mr. Bear could learn a thing or two about friendship.
Best for toddlers, Ciara Flood’s book is aesthetically pleasing and a little longer than the average book for this age range.
25. A Ball for Daisy
Daisy is a dog who loves her ball more than anything. One day, though, her ball is destroyed by another dog. Daisy has to deal with the loss of her favorite toy.
This New York Times bestseller by Chris Raschka is a super choice for kids aged 3 to 7 who have strong bonds with beloved possessions.
26. George and Martha
George and Martha is a series of stories by James Marshall about two hippos who do everything together. They often learn valuable friendship lessons, like how important privacy and respect is.
Although these are great books for kids, adults will also appreciate the dry humor used throughout. That’s a welcome addition when your child wants you to read the same book every night.
27. Library Lion
A lion visits a library for the first time. However, he has to follow the librarian’s strict rules. It turns out the lion is better suited to the library than the reader may think.
A silly concept made sweet in Michelle Knudson’s beautiful story for young readers who are ages 4 to 8.
28. The Teenage Guide to Friends
Nicola Morgan has produced this guide on life for teens. It includes a range of topics, including making friends and keeping friendships strong. It also covers bullying and cyber-bullying.
This is non-fiction that is incredibly useful for teenagers. It can also be read by parents who want to understand their teens better.
29. Code Name Verity
Verity is a prisoner of war. Imprisoned by the Gestapo, she tells her prison guards the story of her life. This includes talking about the women she has become close to.
Best for teens, this book about female friendship and set during World War II is by pilot-turned-writer Elizabeth Wein.
30. My Friends
My Friends is the story of a little girl who learns a variety of skills (climbing and marching) from animal friends and inanimate objects she meets while exploring the countryside.
Taro Gomi’s colorful and simple book is fantastic for toddlers and children who are just beginning to read.
31. Margaret and Margarita
Two girls with no one else to play with spot each other at the playground and try to make friends. The problem is, Margaret only speaks English, and Margarita only speaks Spanish.
This bilingual picture book by Lynn Reiser teaches children that language never needs to be a barrier to friendship.
32. Mrs. Katz and Tush
Larnel, an African-American boy, makes friends with Mrs. Katz, a Jewish lady. The two neighbors bond over their shared historical struggles. They learn that, despite their age difference, they are more alike than they think.
Patricia Polacco’s book is a wonderful read for children 4 years old and above.
33. You Are Friendly
In this book, children learn all the different ways they can make friends — sharing, being polite, and being kind to animals. There are so many ways to make friends.
Todd Snow’s book for pre-schoolers is stunningly illustrated and includes an ethnically diverse group of friends.
34. Do You Want to Be My Friend?
A little mouse is desperate for a friend. He goes on a journey, asking all kinds of animals if they can be friends. He doesn’t have much luck, though. That is until he meets another mouse.
This is an almost wordless book by Eric Carle. It’s great for parents or teachers to ‘tell’ to their toddler-aged children.
35. Hunter’s Best Friend at School
Hunter and Stripe are two raccoons who do everything together. However, Stripe is in a trouble-making mood at school one day. Hunter has to decide if he should follow suit like he normally would.
Laura Malone Elliott’s book for 4- to 7-year-olds is a good pick for teaching children about setting a good example.
36. 11 Birthdays
Amanda has a problem. She has fallen out with her best friend.
Even worse, she will now be spending a birthday without him for the first time. But suddenly, her birthday seems to be repeating itself.
This is a funny, magical book for pre-teens by Wendy Mass.
37. Strictly No Elephants
It’s Pet Club day! Unfortunately, only cats and dogs are allowed. One boy, however, has a pet baby elephant.
He’s going to show Pet Club that friendship and pets come in all shapes.
This lovely picture book by Lisa Mantchev shows children aged 4 to 8 how important both pets and friends can be.
38. Tiger Heart
Fly is a chimney sweep who meets a caged tiger. The pair form an instant bond, and Fly is determined to get the tiger back home. This will involve traveling through mystical lands.
A brand new 2020 release, this fantasy adventure by Penny Chrimes is a good choice for pre-teens.
39. Should I Share My Ice Cream?
Gerald is an elephant and Piggie is a pig. They are best friends despite being opposites. Gerald has an ice cream cone, and he has to decide if he’ll share it.
Mo Willem’s book has an elementary vocabulary and teaches kids about sharing. It’s great for ages 4 to 8.
40. Elmer and Rose
Elmer and Wilbur are patchwork elephants. One day, their grandfather tells them they have to take another elephant, Rose, back to her herd. Rose is bright pink – as is her herd.
This picture book by David McKee is beautiful in its imagery. It’s a gentle book for young readers.
41. Just Jaime
Jaime has a group of good friends. However, on the last day of school, her friends are suddenly excluding her. Even her best friend, Maya, is being off with her.
What can Jaime do?
This book by Terri Libenson is great for pre-teens. They are sure to connect with the topic of friends falling out.
42. The First Rule of Punk
It’s Malu’s first day of school. And already, she has upset the most popular girl in school. And the kids don’t like her punk-rock look either. But Malu knows that being a punk means being yourself.
Celia Perez’s story of a Mexican-American girl trying to be herself is a good example for pre-teens, especially those who feel different.
43. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friendship Troubles
This book is all about helping girls with their friendship troubles. Topics include backstabbing, feeling excluded, and how to balance a friendship of three.
This is another non-fiction book, this time by Patti Kelley Criswell. It’s great for pre-teen girls and parents.
44. The Girl and the Bicycle
A little girl longs for a bicycle from her local shop. However, she doesn’t have enough money. She ends up working for a friendly neighbor to make money and finds a great friend doing so.
Mark Pett’s sweet and emotional wordless story would make a lovely gift.
45. Four Feet, Two Sandals
Lina and Feroza are two girls living in a Pakistani refugee camp. Lina finds a shoe, and Feroza finds the matching one. Can the girls learn to share?
This tale is better for slightly older children due to the theme of refugees. But Karen Lynn Williams’ story is both heartwarming and educational.
46. I Will Always Write Back
Caitlin’s class has an assignment: to write to someone in another country. Martin receives Caitlin’s letter. Over six years, the two become best friends and change each other’s lives.
This is a true, heartwarming dramatic story by Caitlin Alifirenka. It’s a good pick for pre-teens and early teens.
47. Horrible Bear!
Bear feels bad when he accidentally breaks a girl’s kite. She calls him horrible, and he wants to react. But maybe the girl will learn that Bear isn’t horrible at all.
A nicely illustrated book for young readers by Ame Dyckman. It’s great for teaching kids how to say sorry.
48. Bob and Otto
Bob is a caterpillar, and Otto is an earthworm. They are best friends who love spending time together. However, Bob is about to change and grow wings.
Can their friendship survive Bob’s huge physical change?
This is a sweet book by Nick Bruel for children aged 4 to 7. It discusses friendship and insects’ place in nature.
49. The Selfish Crocodile
Crocodile makes sure that no other animal goes into his river. And no animal is brave enough to do otherwise. But one day, the crocodile is in pain, and it’s going to be the smallest of animals that helps him.
This moral story by Faustin Charles is excellent for young readers.
50. On Sudden Hill
Sudden Hill is where Etho and Birt love to play. But the twosome is about to become a triangle when a new boy, Shu, arrives. Birt soon has to deal with feelings of jealousy.
Linda Sarah’s poetic and expressive book will help kids from age 3 and up to deal with sharing friends.
Your child’s friends may be with them for a long time. Even if they aren’t, those early bonds will help determine your child’s social life for years to come.
Helping them learn how to make friends and deal with social conflict will be infinitely valuable to them throughout their lives.
Not just that, but many of these books will help your child’s literacy skills. That’s something else that will help them throughout their lives.