By Karen Williams
It’s the season of love, and Valentine’s Day presents us with the perfect opportunity to explore the concept of love with our little ones. How does love make us feel? How do we show our friends and family we love them? What does love have to do with being kind?
These 14 children’s picture books about love reinforce early literacy and offer a wonderful starting point for conversatins about love in all its forms. Whether it’s love for the planet, love for our friends, or even self-love—let these titles take you and your child on a reading journey that highlights what it’s really all about.
By Cedella Marley
“One love / One heart / Let’s get together and feel all right!”
Based on the classic song by Bob Marley, this vibrant picture book will have you and your child grooving and dancing to the heartbeat of love. This beautiful story is about how one girl brings her community together to bring positive change in her neighborhood.
By Bell Hooks
In Homemade Love from renowned black feminist writer bell hooks, a little girl whose mama calls her Girlpie makes a horrible mistake—she breaks a vase at home! She’s so worried about what her parents will say, but the love from her mother and father helps her pick up the pieces and make everything right again. This endearing story is a beautiful testament to unconditional love and the value of forgiveness in families.
By Meg Medina
Mia’s abuela comes to live with her family in the city. Mia wants to talk to Abuela, but she only speaks English and her grandmother speaks Spanish. A spunky parrot named Mango—just like the parrot Abeula had back home—comes to the rescue as he connects the two generations.
By Gabi Garcia
Esperanza finds a heart-shaped rock that reminds her to be kind and spread love to others in the world. But when she’s disappointed about her role in the school play, will she know how to be kind to herself? We often stress to our children the importance of being good friends to others, but self-compassion is just as important for resilience and well-being. Listening with My Heart includes kid-friendly self-compassion exercises and is a wonderful addition to any home or school library.
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal
This delectable tale is for anyone looking for the right way to express, “I love you.” Sugar Cookies is essentially an illustrated dictionary that explores various aspects of love using cookies as a metaphor. Selfless is letting your friend have the last cookies, while considerate is waiting to lick the bowl together. Enjoy this title for Valentine’s Day or anytime of the year, especially with some home-baked cookies!
by Monique Gray Smith
What does it mean to hold someone up? For young readers, it can mean sharing, playing, laughing, and even being comforted. You Hold me Up is a warm and powerful book that encourages children to consider each other’s well-being in their everyday actions. This picture book features stylized watercolor illustrations of indigenous people with a timely message about love, building relationships, and fostering empathy.
By Matt de la Peña
This profound, poetic celebration of love features majestic illustrations that depict the many ways we experience love and care in our lives. From the color of the night sky over a happy home to the echo of laughter during the summer, Love shows the diversity of scenarios where this universal bond connects us all in good times and in bad.
By Alice Faye Duncan
In this sweet, rhythmic picture book, a mother warmly shares her love for her young son. As they cuddle, eat, and frolic together in the grass, she lavishes him with sweet nicknames and lots of praise. Honey Baby Sugar Child has beautiful oil paintings and features African American dialect for a soothing read, great before bedtime with your little one.
By Leuyen Pham
What are the little things you love about your child? The way they smile? Their joyous laugh? How about the way their hair sticks up in the morning after a good night’s sleep? On each page of this love story, a mother describes one thing she loves about her son. From simple things like the way he runs, to the more heartfelt notions like his voice when he says “mama,” this story illustrates the small actions that make love grow stronger every day.
By Kadir Nelson
In this charming story, a rabbit and a mouse share the joys of gardening and delighting in their harvest. When they refuse to share their crop with a crew of demanding birds, a massive food fight ensues that completely ruins the garden. Ultimately, the gardeners share fruit with the birds, and in turn they seed the garden so a beautiful field of vegetables grows. With gorgeous illustrations and a simple, timeless story, If You Plant a Seed teaches the love of growing and tending the earth to young children, and also reinforces the value of kindness and sharing resources in our communities.
By Felicia Bond
One day, Cornelia is shocked to find herself in a downpour of beautiful hearts! She caught as many hearts as she could and took them home to make Valentine’s Day cards for her friends. She studied them carefully and learned that each heart was special and unique, just like her friends. This is a beautiful story about being thoughtful and going the extra mile to help your friends feel special and loved. Pair this selection with our book page rose activity for the perfect Valentine’s Day craft!
By Matthew A. Cherry
Zuri is very proud of her hair. It “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” When she has a special occasion and Mommy’s away, it’s up to Daddy to learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle. Any old style won’t do, so Zuri patiently teaches him how to comb her hair and the two work together. She exclaims, “He nailed it!” This book is not just about hair. On a deeper level, it’s about the celebration of family life, and the incredible bond that fathers and daughters share.
By MacKenzie Porter
In My Heart takes us through a mother’s day while she’s away at work. As a mother and child go through their morning routine before starting their work and school day, the mom reassures her daughter that even though they’ll be apart, her child is always on her mind and in her heart. The mother narrates her day alongside trendy illustrations that show the mom at work, thinking about her daughter, as her daughter plays at school.
By Eileen Spinelli
Mr. Hatch is a lonely man who leads a very boring life. He doesn’t have any friends and everyone wonders why he keeps to himself. One Valentine’s Day, he receives a heart-shaped box of candy with a note that reads, “Somebody loves you.” The mere thought of knowing that someone cares for him sparks joy in Mr. Hatch’s world, and he becomes a great friend to his neighbors and co-workers.
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