Books Featuring Courageous Role Models

Books Featuring Courageous Role Models

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post rounding up our favorite books to read to help children overcome fear and anxiety. Then, when my husband and I drafted out our year of Family Focus Traits, we knew that we wanted to include courage (by the way, courage is our July Family Focus Trait!), and in my head I thought, “Ooh, I’ve already got a great list written for that trait!” But, the more I thought about it, I knew this list needed to be slightly different. While my list of books to help overcome fear and anxiety focused on specific fears with explicit strategies to help overcome that fear (which often took courage, for sure!), our list of books featuring fiercely courageous role models shows characters demonstrating courage in other situations, too. Yes, there is some overlap between the two lists, but the books you’ll find on the list below tend to focus more strongly on the courage rather than on the fear or worry itself. So, read on to see which books we love for featuring fabulously courageous role models!

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50+ Books to Help Build Compassion and Empathy

50+ Books to Help Build Compassion and Empathy

Drum roll please… Our family character trait(s) for February are… compassion and empathy! (You can read more about our 12 character traits for 2020 here and here.) With Valentine’s Day in February, we wanted to focus our month on love and kindness, but in terms of having family conversations about our behaviors, those are both very broad, general terms. The more we thought about how we wanted to help our girls grow, we realized we wanted to help them SEE others more. To see other people and notice how they might be feeling. To put themselves in others’ shoes and act on what they observe. So, while we also obviously hope our children are kind in every way and show love to important people in their lives, we really want them to start to notice. To pay attention to others. To stop and help if it seems that they can, or to make amends for their own choices if they need to do so…

In other words, to approach the world around them with compassion and empathy!

As Jamie C. Martin wrote in Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at at Time, “Books help your family grasp on a new level that what we have in common with our worldwide neighbors far outweighs what separates us… It naturally develops compassion… because we all have similar needs, hopes, and desires. Great stories build an empathic foundation that leads to a life of service and concern for others” (p. 26). To that end, we love to use children’s literature to help our children develop fully as people. So, of course, we’ll be reading a lot of books showcasing compassion and empathy in February! Below, I’ve got 50+ amazing books for you to read with your children. Check it out, read along with us, and let me know if I’ve missed any amazing stories that our girls need to know and love!

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Books to Foster Growth Mindsets in Children

Books to Foster Growth Mindsets in Children

As a teacher, I studied and pondered the effects of mindset on our behaviors a lot, hoping to help my students see challenges and learning opportunities as chances to grow, rather than obstacles they might not be able to overcome. Now, as a parent raising two girls to approach challenges and new endeavors with optimism, perseverance, and a positive mind, I find research into growth and fixed mindsets even more fascinating and compelling (which I didn’t think was possible!).

So, what are growth and fixed mindsets? In a fixed mindset, one believes that qualities such as intelligence, personality, and moral character are set in stone, or fixed; he believes he cannot change these aspects of his lives and therefore feels he must prove himself or fear failure. A person with a growth mindset, however, believes that his intelligence, personality, and character can be changed through hard work, perseverance, dedication, and support from others; they believe that their potentials are unknown and unknowable (from chapter 1 of Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential)).

For more information, I highly suggest reading Dweck’s Mindset. While I had read snippets of her research through my education and professional development, I figured her actual book would be heavy and hard to read. Boy, was I wrong! I am so glad I finally picked it up, because I don’t want to put it down!

So, to help with the important goal of raising growth-mindset-oriented children, I’ve compiled a HUGE (25+!) list of picture books to encourage growth mindsets with children of all ages, to help them understand that challenges are learning opportunities, failures chances to try again, and potential unimaginable! I’ve got fiction, biographies, and what I’ve called “direct instruction” books, books written explicitly to teach children about growth mindset.

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What If by Samantha Berger

What If by Samantha Berger

What if you woke up one day and the pencil you’d always used to tell your stories had disappeared? That by itself is likely an easy problem to solve, as you’d have other ways to express yourself. But what if all of your creative outlets had disappeared? Would that stop you from creating? What If by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato, addresses just this conundrum.

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The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Up today, I’m sharing one of my all-time favorite books about creativity —  and the beauty of this one is that it also encompasses so many more important life lessons that you can read this multiple times and have completely different conversations with your children each time. Read on to see why we love The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater.

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Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Are your kids in major need of escape from your apartment or house right now? If so, Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat (the same duo who brought us Drawn Together), might be the perfect inspiration for some much-needed imaginative adventures! Read on to see why we love this picture book (that is also a perfect bridge into reading graphic novels) that perfectly captures the ups and downs of sibling relationships AND will motivate children to transform their days with a simple push of a button.

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June Family Focus: Creativity

June Family Focus: Creativity

As I hope you saw a few weeks ago when I published the booklist, our Family Focus Trait for June is creativity! We officially wrapped up honesty and kicked off creativity on June 1 with a yummy family dinner and family meeting (because, by now, you all know that in our house, family meetings are much more successful when everyone’s tummies are satisfied and their hearts are happy!). For our creativity kickoff, I chose to read Windblown by Édouard Manceau, which led into a corresponding process art activity that we all thoroughly enjoyed. Read on to hear about the book and get some information about the process art!

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The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack

Don’t you worry, we’re still reading all the best honesty books over here for our Family Focus trait of honesty for May! Though we don’t really have formal trait-building activities to go with honesty month as we have in the past, we are still reading our honesty picture books and adding to our honesty chart. And this week, we read an absolute gem — The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Giselle Potter.

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A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

When I began to research books to include on my honesty booklist, I came across A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler, in lots of my research. Though I generally try to get books from the library before I buy them (our school library didn’t have this one, and even if our public library system was open, our local system doesn’t have this one either!), I figured anything written by Bunting would be a safe bet to buy sight-unseen, so I scrounged around online to find a way to get this one anyway. And y’all, I am SO glad that we own this important book.

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Our Favorite Picture Books About Honesty

Our Favorite Picture Books About Honesty

As you may have seen last week, our Family Focus trait for May is honesty. And up today, I’ve got a list of our favorite picture books about honesty! You’ve already read how we used The Empty Potand Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie for our Family Focus kick-off night for May. Today, I bring you the rest of our honesty list! You’ll find books on telling the truth versus telling a lie, for sure, but I’ve also included books on cheating and other forms of dishonesty, too. You can read my brief synposes for details about each book’s plot below.

I also partnered with my friend Lauren from Happily Ever Elephants (check out her beautiful website here and her Instagram account here) to bring you double the honesty booklists today. Be sure to pop over to her website and check out her list — you’ll see some overlap, but she’s also got a few new-to-me titles that I can’t wait to check out when the libraries open back up!

With a Family Focus on honesty, it’s worth noting that children lie. They just do. As parents, hearing that first lie can be extremely painful. But, research shows us that we’re not alone, and that a toddler’s lie doesn’t in fact mean she’s likely to be drastically antisocial down the road. In fact, researchers deem the ability to tell a lie an important developmental milestone. Of course, just because lying is something all children do doesn’t mean that as adults, we should condone it. In fact, we can do a lot to help children understand the importance of honesty, such as reading stories that celebrate honesty (and the courage it takes) over lying. The more we help children understand the positive effects of honesty when the stakes are small, then hopefully they’ll make honest choices later in life, when the stakes are big!

Will you join us in reading the books listed below and help children internalize the importance of telling the truth, no matter how hard it is?

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