Thank You for Reading This! Naming and Explaining “Gratitude” and Other Abstract Concepts in Children’s Books

I love a great numbers or colors book for kids. While these are considered “concept books,” they are pretty straightforward to present and kids “get” them easily.

A little more difficult? Naming and explaining more abstract ideas and emotions like “forgiveness,” “regret,” “empathy” and “resilience.”

Don’t get me wrong, your child probably has already experienced these concepts; they just don’t have the language for them yet. Books are a perfect way to introduce and explore some of these more complex concepts and start a conversation with your child about them.

Because it is November, the month of Thanksgiving – and giving thanks – let’s look at some books and literacy-related activities you can share with your child around the concept of “gratitude.”

5 Great Books Naming & Explaining Gratitude 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga written by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Frané Lessac

We Are Grateful

What is a Cherokee family grateful for? Children will be introduced to blessings both small and large in this year-long look at modern American Indian celebrations of gratitude. Written by the Tulsa-based author Traci Sorell!

Sincerely, Emerson: A Girl, Her Letter, and the Helpers All Around Us written by Emerson Weber and illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett

Sincerely Emerson

This inspiring and sweet story shows that a letter can change the world! Or at least the hearts of people.

Giving Thanks: More Than 100 Ways to Say Thank You written and illustrated by Ellen Surrey

Giving Thanks

The perfect book to find examples of how to thank others in new and interesting ways!

Dear Teacher: A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us written by Paris Rosenthal and illustrated by Holly Hatam

Dear Teacher

Wonderful teachers are all around us! This book explores just some of the people who help children every day, whether in the classroom, on the soccer field, or in the neighborhood.

Thank You, God by J. Bradley Wigger

Thank You God

A Christian exploration of the greater gratitude to God for families, friends, homes and food.

5 Great Activities to Identify and Increase Gratitude

The Tulsa City-County Library follows the Build A Reader activities identified by literacy researchers and educators as being most helpful in getting babies and young children ready to read: TALK, SING, READ, WRITE and PLAY.

Here are some great gratitude-related suggestions for each Build A Reader activity:


As part of your bedtime or dinnertime routine, share “Three Thank-Yous” – three people you are grateful to that day.


There are literally thousands of wonderful thank-you songs for children on YouTube! I’m partial to Here You Are, Thank You by Super Simple Songs because you can use it throughout the day when you are handing or taking an object (shoes, a fork, an apple) from your child.


In addition to the books above, you can regularly read out loud an ongoing list of things your family is grateful for. (Consider writing down some of your daily “Three Thank-Yous”!)


Writing thank-you notes to family, friends and community helpers is always a wonderful activity to help your child understand how we all help each other and should share our gratitude with others.


When you are playing dolls or make-believe with your child, be intentional about saying “Thank you” to them for their cooperation. Extend your thank-yous with longer explanations, such as “Thank you for bringing the Legos to this side of the room! I’m more comfortable here, and you made it easier for me to play.” You can also model gratitude between characters in role-play (“Mr. Potato Head is so happy that Ms. Barbie invited him on the spaceship to the moon!”).

Happy Thanksgiving, Tulsa parents! We are grateful that you read the “Books” column in this magazine, and we hope you will come to the library soon so we can thank you in person!

Laura Raphael is the Children’s Services Coordinator for the Tulsa City-County Library system.

Nov 2022 Books Pin

Categories: Books and Literacy