Okay, everyone, it’s almost March, which means… It’s time to gather books for our next Family Focus character trait! Our family character trait(s) for March are teamwork and cooperation! (You can read more about our 12 character traits for 2020 here, here and here.)
The funny thing about trying to help children understand character traits such as empathy, compassion, teamwork, and cooperation is that these terms very abstract, so children usually need some direct instruction to understand what it means to show compassion or to be a good teammate. In fact, it wasn’t until our older daughter’s second season of an organized sport that we realized she didn’t really understand at all what it meant to be a good teammate (to have teammates and coaches relying on you to do your best, to listen, to work with everyone else instead of on her own…). After that lightbulb moment, we spent some time with our girls actually talking about teamwork, defining it for them, and trying to make it more concrete… That was a year and a half ago, and how I wish I had made this list of books then!
But never fear, I’ve got it now! Of course, this list goes far beyond simply being a positive member of a sports team… From teamwork to bossiness, collaboration and compromise, we’ve got your teamwork and cooperation needs covered below! So scroll down, take a look at some of the titles we love, and then start to collect them from Amazon (Affiliate links below), your local bookstore, or the closest library, and join along on our teamwork and cooperation journey this month.
Fantastic Reads to Build Teamwork and Cooperation Skills
All links for purchase are Amazon Affiliate links, and most age ranges listed are publishers’ recommendations. Always remember that you know your child best! Thank you for considering making a purchase through my links!
Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham — Morris does an amazing job in Bear Came Along of illustrating how as individuals, we have unique identities, but when we work together as a group, our understandings of self and world strengthen and our community unifies. Ages 2-5, but this was a favorite in my first-grader’s class during their Mock Caldecott this year.
Pie is for Sharing by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrated by Jason Chin — Do you love books that help your children develop generous, sharing hearts? Or books highlighting gentle, warm diversity? Definitely check this one out! There is a subtle focus on the 4th of July, but the main takeaways of this book are on community, play, and sharing, making it perfect for this list, too. Ages 2-6.
How to Build a Snow Bear by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin — Though there’s never really any conflict that needs to be overcome in this one, I adore the way Thomas patiently meets his younger brother’s needs, while encouraging his younger brother (“the bear”) down a path of cooperation to meet Thomas’s goal. Thomas understands “the bear’s” needs that must be met first, and because these needs are met and “the bear” feels cared for, he’s enthusiastically willing to help with Thomas’s amazing snow creation. A perfect read for winter, for brothers, or for siblings working on cooperation. Ages 2-6, but our 6.5-year-old also loved this one!
Garcia and Colette Go Exploring by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Andrew Joyner — This book might be my girls’ favorite on this list. They get such a kick out of these two friends who both love exploring and adventuring, but can’t agree on where to go next. In the end, after realizing exploring solo is lonely, they find a way to compromise, realizing “they were not lonely. Not one little bit.” Ages 3-5, but loved by the first graders I’ve read this one to!
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld — Oh y’all, this book is just so, so wonderful. Yes, the bulk of it is about grief, sadness, and emotion, followed closely by how to support a friend through these feelings, but the moment of cooperation and teamwork at the end… If you’re a crier, it just might make you tear up! You can read my Instagram review here. Ages 3-5, but great for all ages.
Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols — The second book in Nichols’s sweet series, Maple and Willow Together accurately depicts the ups and downs of sibling relationships. Maple and Willow, sisters, are the best of friends who love to play together creatively and have wonderful imaginations (they’ve even made up their own language!). Like any siblings though, conflict does occur, and Maple and Willow serve as terrific role models for seeing others’ perspective, making amends, and moving on. Ages 3-5.
Ta-Da! by Kathy Ellen Davis, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita — What happens when two very creative, imaginative children get together to play, but have very different ideas around which direction their play should go? You can just imagine that the day wouldn’t be without any bumps in the road… Davis has done a terrific job of very realistically depicting how this conflict might occur in this playdate, but also shows young readers how they can work with their friends to overcome this conflict and “mix” their ideas and stories together… And in the end, the collaboration will be more creative and imaginative than anyone could anticipate, AND both children are happy! Ages 3-5.
When Pencil Met Eraser by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr., illustrated by Germán Blanco — What happens when two people are trying to work in really close proximity to each other, but they have completely different opinions on what makes a perfect final product? Kilpatrick and Ramos, Jr. effectively use common objects with which children are intimately familiar to teach children how they can stop, take in someone else’s opinions and goals, and figure out a way to work together. Ages 3-6.
The Squirrels Who Squabbled by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field — Is sharing a tough aspect of teamwork and cooperation for your kiddos? If so, then this book might be perfect for your house! With winter fast approaching, Cyril and Bruce fight over the very last pinecone and its nuts… When their squabble puts both of their lives in danger, they realize their friendship and health are much more important than greed and selfishness. Ages 3-6.
Ally-Saurus and the Very Bossy Monster by Richard Torrey — Admitedly, I haven’t read the first book in this series, Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School, but fortunately, you don’t have to read this series in order! Ally is a girl-turned-dinosaur-in-her-imagination, and her life is pretty great. She gets along well with her neighbors and brother, and though they all like to play differently, they’ve figured out how to accept those differences and play together anyway. Until Maddie, who is a little (okay, a lot) bossy, moves next door. Maddie likes to be in charge, not only of what games the children play, but also of all the rules of everything they do (even the rules for lining up to get on the bus!). Yes, Torrey gives young readers a lesson in bossiness, but the messaging of accepting differences and diversity is terrific here, too. Ages 3-6.
Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night by Josh Selig — Sometimes, we come up with things that seem like they are wonderful ideas, but it turns out, they’re only wonderful for us. And it can be really, really difficult to come to terms with the fact that if our wonderful ideas only serve us, maybe they’re not so wonderful after all… Red and Yellow have to learn this lesson the hard way, as Red wants to make long, loud music, but Yellow is desperate to go to bed. This short and to-the-point story about conflicts, respect, and conflict resolution gives many wonderful teaching points for young audiences! Ages 3-6.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni — The ocean can be a very scary place, especially if you are a tiny fish living close to the bottom of the food chain. Scary for those fish, that is, until Swimmy comes along and teaches them a thing or two about working together to stay safe. We often use the phrases “Safety in numbers!” or “Two heads are better than one!” Swimmy is a terrific book (and a Caldecott Honor winner) to help children understand just how beneficial it can be to work together. Ages 3-7.
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Tricia Tusa — Inspired by an incident from Al Abdullah’s childhood, The Sandwich Swap teaches a powerful lesson about preconceived notions and prejudices in a non-preachy and easy-to-read way. As Al Abdullah writes in the Author’s Note, “If we take the time to get to know each other, stand in each other’s shoes, and listen to a different point of view, we learn something wonderful– about someone else and about ourselves.” The soft illustrations are as gentle as the message, with tiny bits of humor thrown in! Ages 3-7, but terrific older as well.
The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neil, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith — As adults, we all know that navigating the freedom of recess can be one of the most difficult parts of a child’s school day. O’Neill has written this in rolling rhyme, and managed to include laugh-worthy words such as “lollapaloosh ’em.” It’s fun to read aloud! Though the brightly-colored illustrations include silly touches like charicature-type people and steam coming out of characters’ ears, readers do sense the emotion and intensity of the realistic situations shown. I love this one because the conflicts are solved through kindness and cooperation, unlocking the kindness that “Mean Jean” does indeed have inside her. Ages 3-7 and perfect for older classrooms in specific lessons.
Molly and Mae: A Friendship Journey by Danny Parker, illustrated by Freya Blackwood — I bought this one sight-unseen just for this list, based solely on the reviews that I had read, and I am so glad we will now own it! It’s a delightful story of an unexpected friendship forged on a train journey. If you’ve been around kids at all, then you’ve likely witnessed when, after a certain amount of uninterrupted time with only each other, children start to… well… not get along quite as well as they were when the time started. Though Parker only gives us a snapshot of one day in the friendship of Molly and Mae, we are able to see that cooperative arc take place, as they journey from fast friends, to frustration, to resolving their issues through heartfelt apologies and forgiveness. I think the fact that Parker highlights the characters owning up to their own mistakes is what makes this book stand out from others! Ages 4-7.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson — What do seeds need from us in order to grow and thrive? They need our love and care. And guess what? The same goes for our relationships! Nelson’s beautifully illustrated (of course it’s beautiful, coming from Nelson) story neatly connects relationships with others to how we help plants to grow, and he also shows young readers what happens to both plants and relationships when that love and care disappears. For more of my thoughts on If You Plant a Seed, you can find my full review here. Ages 4-8.
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems — It takes a lot of courage to ask children if you can join their game, and it’s not always easy to let that friend join in… Especially if the game has already started, positions or roles have been chosen, or that friend doesn’t exactly… fit… the game. But Elephant and Piggie, terrific role models of kindness, don’t let that stop them when a snake (with no arms, obviously) wants to play catch with them. They try and try and try again to figure out a way that he can be included in their game so that all team members are happy! Ages 4-8, but definitely appropriate for younger listeners, too.
That Fruit Is Mine! by Anuska Allepuz — Illustrated in eye-catching bright colors, That Fruit Is Mine! emphasizes teamwork and cooperation in an obvious, but not didactic, way, to help children gain and understanding of the importance and benefits of working together toward a shared goal. Allepuz tells the story of five elephants who all want a new and enticing piece of fruit for themselves, and their individual adventures to try to get said fruit. In the meantime, however, we also see (mainly told through illustrations, not the story itself) five tiny mice working together towards a slightly different goal — to get the fruit and share it. This one might be especially powerful in a house or classroom where children focus a lot on “mine!” Ages 4-8.
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo — If I could manage to find a way to include this book on every single list I make, I would. It’s just that good! In fact, it has made its way to many of my lists: 50+ Books to Help Build Compassion and Empathy, 90 Books for 90 Days of Summer 2019, and Books for Fostering Kindness and Empathy. You can read my Instagram review here. Yes, it’s mainly a story of friendship and inclusion, but those children who come together after being excluded work cooperatively to make magic happen! Ages 4-8, but wonderful for all ages.
Grace Goes to Washington by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by LeUyen Pham — Yes, this is mostly a book about branches of government. But, it’s also about a class full of students who can’t agree on how to spend money earned from the school’s bake sale. DiPucchio filled this with gems of listening to other’s opinions, being flexible with your own, collaborating, compromising, and most importantly, including everyone in the community (I absolutely LOVE the idea they come up with, of using the money to create a “Friendship Mall,” described as “a place where you can go at recess to let other studnets know when you need a friend.” (The Buddy Bench is terrific book based on a true story, with a similar idea for a school). Ages 6-10, but could work for the right younger audience, too.
Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth — Possibly the quintessential example of books teaching children the value of cooperation and collaboration, the story of Stone Soup has been around for ages. In fact, you can find many versions of this classic tale, but I love Muth’s illustrations. If you don’t know the story, three monks are traveling through the mountains, on a quest to understand what makes one happy. They reach a village and decide to ask around, but they find the village closed to strangers… And to each other, it turns out. With a little trickery, the monks are able to get the villagers to come together once again and make soup from stones. This one’s a timeless tale for your bookshelf! Ages 6 and up.
Will you be reading about teamwork and cooperation with us in March? If so, please let me know your favorite books to help strengthen these traits in children, especially if I didn’t have them on my list!
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