Teaching Positive Character Traits Through Picture Books
written by Meredith Bartolo Pappas
One way to teach children positive character traits is through reading books with characters who exemplify attributes that we see as important, such as perseverance, resiliency, curiosity, creativity, and kindness.
What are Character Traits? By definition, character traits are the building blocks of a person’s personality. We as teachers, parents, and caregivers can emphasize positive traits that can help children blossom.
Here is a Character Trait Book List for preschoolers and up that can illustrate these eleven important characteristics.
Character Traits: Bravery, Resilience, and Perseverance
Jabari Jumps and Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall
Both of these books feature Jabari, a young boy with a lot of positive character traits, like perseverance during times of difficulty. In Jabari Jumps, he shows bravery and determination when preparing to leap from the high dive. It’s scary to climb all the way up, can he do it? In Jabari Tries, he is a resilient problem-solver, determined to make his invention fly even when it is hard and he is frustrated. But with some flexible thinking and help from an unlikely source (his little sister), he can make it soar after all!
After The Fall by Dan Santat
When Humpty Dumpty fell off of his favorite wall, he didn’t want to climb back up again because he was afraid. He didn’t even like to get his favorite cereal from up high on a shelf! But after he has to climb again to reach something important, he realizes all he was missing out on. A lovely book that illustrates how to try again and not let fear stop you from living your best life!
She’s Got This by Olympic Gold medalist Laurie Hernandez
After falling during gymnastic practice, Zoe wants to give up gymnastics forever. But instead, her family celebrates her fall and encourages her to keep going. There will be more falls, but also much more fun and success if she keeps getting back up on the balance beam.
Character Traits: Honesty and Integrity
A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones
When Rueben finds some money, he has to decide whether or not he will buy himself the bike he wants or give the money back to its rightful owner. He really wants a bike and knows his family can’t afford one, but what about the woman who dropped the money in the first place? Does she need the money back? A moral quandary for Rueben, but with some empathy he comes to a decision that makes everyone proud.
Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds
This book shows many different ways we can speak up for ourselves, for others, for beauty, and for the world by doing everything from writing poems to stopping a bully. There is integrity and empathy in these actions, and they all come together to make the world a better place.
How To Be A Lion by Ed Vere
Leonard the Lion doesn’t want to do what the other lions do, including eat his best friend who is a duck. But does this mean Leonard is not a “real lion”? Leonard realizes he is happy just the way he is and doesn’t need to change. There are so many ways to be a lion and staying true to himself is the best way for him.
Character Trait: Curiosity
I Wonder by KA Holt and Kenard Pak
This is a book filled with questions both big and small that can help kids keep their minds curious and engaged. I wonder too, what do clouds taste like? Bonus, the illustrations in this book are also filled with beauty and wonder!
The Girl With The Big, Big Questions by Britney Winn Lea and Jacob Souva
Big questions can come from anywhere and anyone, and this girl has some good ones! This rhyming book lets children know that it’s always okay to ask questions, even if they are difficult to answer. In fact, questions can help save the day!
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, Selina Alko, and Sean Qualls
Why am I me and not you? A simple book with a complex concept that not only covers the basics of what character traits are, but also encourages curiosity in all things, even about what makes us who we are. Lovely illustrations round out the interesting context.
Character Traits: Kindness, Empathy, Acceptance
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill
What does it mean to be kind? When Tanisha spills juice on her favorite dress and everyone laughs, her classmate wonders what could she have done to help? Doing something kind, but what does that really mean? Making people laugh at her instead? Giving Tanisha her sweatshirt? Many different ways of showing others that we care are explored, and in the end, an act of kindness helps Tanisha feel better about the day.
Brave As A Mouse by Nicolo Carozzi
When Mouse and Fish are playing, three big cats come prowling around the fishbowl. What can a small mouse do to help distract the cats away from the trouble they seem to be starting? A wild adventure ensues that shows bravery, kindness, and empathy go a long way in being a good friend, no matter how small you are!
I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoet
A lovely, wordless picture book that is all about standing up for others. When Vanessa is being bullied, others come out to show her their support and walk with her each day to school. Even in ways that might seem small, we can stand up for others.
Character Traits: Confidence and Self-Respect
Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller
When the main character wants people to stop touching her hair, she learns that the only thing that works is to say it out loud, not run and hide. Saying what you need or want, and letting people know your boundaries is a positive thing! Body autonomy is another important aspect of this book and of learning the character traits of self-respect and assertiveness.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez
Even when we feel quiet or like we don’t fit in, the day we begin to open ourselves to the world and tell our stories is the day we truly begin to accept and love who we are. We can find beauty in our differences and connection in our similarities, and confidence in ourselves when we share our voices with others.
Superluminous by Ian De Haes
Sometimes we all need a reminder to embrace what makes us special and let our light shine. When Nour’s classmates tell her that her superpower of being luminous isn’t a superpower after all, she tries to dim her light. But then she is reminded how her light is beautiful and helpful, and what makes us special can be a superpower after all.
About Meredith Bartolo Pappas
Meredith is a licensed teacher with almost twenty years of experience in education. Her specialties are holistic education, early literacy, and social-emotional development. She is also a reading specialist, artist, and mom of two. She loves all things bookish, magical, and anything cozy. Find her at Sharing Circle Education sharingcircleeducation.com and on Instagram @meredithinks.
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