Celebrating Books That Build Character

Posted by Susan Marotta, Lower School Head on Jul 16, 2015 9:16:35 AM

In my 20+ years working in education, I have found that books can strongly influence young children. My favorite class by far in college was my children’s literature class. I dreaded taking this class as I heard it was a very time consuming class with many hours per night in assignments. Boy, was I wrong to dread it! I had a brilliant professor who taught me to look beyond the words and the pictures for the meanings in the simple stories brought to us in children’s books. Ever since that class, I find myself always drawn to the children’s books section in any book store. When I give a Chapel talk here at Montgomery School, which is a character-based presentation, I usually choose a book to illustrate my points. 

I always have books displayed in my office, and I frequently use them when speaking to students. Here is a list of some of my favorite books that build character, and some of the important lessons children (and adults) can learn from them.

I_Call_My_Hand_GentleI Call My Hand Gentle, by Amanda Haan - I like this book especially for 4 and 5 year olds as it very simply reminds children the way our hands should be used and beautifully illustrates the sense of the word gentle.

The_DotThe Dot, by Peter Reynolds - Children will learn several lessons from this book, including the process of taking a chance, seeing where that leads you, and making your mark. Many messages come about in this, my all time favorite children’s book! It is a good reminder to be proud of everything you do! After reading this book, I became a Peter Reynolds fan for life!

IshIsh, by Peter Reynolds -  It only takes one thoughtless remark to change one’s opinion about him/herself. This book defines not only overcoming that and believing in yourself, no matter what, but it also reminds us that not everything needs to be perfect to be beautiful.

One_Of_Those_DaysOne of Those Days, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - Over 20 common childhood miseries (Keep Spilling Stuff Day, Gutter Ball Day, etc) are laid out to show that everyone has “one of those days.” Rosenthal reminds us that the day will come to an end and with the next day comes a new beginning.

Yes_DayYes Day!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - A fun read that gives children many moments to let their imagination thrive and dream of just one day that adults would say, “Yes!” to everything that children asked!

.jpg !, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - A good lesson about how being different is not a bad thing! This book can be used to discuss fitting in, the power of punctuation when writing, and even the creative technique of conveying emotions with your words and pictures.

The_OK_Book The OK Book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - It’s OK to be OK! I love that this book takes the time to say that you don’t need to be perfect; just do your best. We can’t be great at everything, and that’s OK!

Only_One_You Only One You, by Linda Kranz - What drew me to this book was the unique cover and recognition that the fish on the cover were actually beautifully painted rocks. When I read the book, I knew this was a Chapel in the making. There’s really a message to be discussed on every page that is given by the mamma and papa fish as they give their little fish advice from lessons they’ve learned over the years.

I_Like_Myself  I Like Myself, by Karen Beaumont - The opening page says it all - “I like myself - I’m glad I’m me! There’s no one else I’d rather be!” Enough said...

A_Perfectly_Messed_Up_Story A Perfectly Messed Up Story, by Patricia McDonnell - This book actually reminds me a little bit of the pigeon who I love in the pigeon series by Mo Willems. Nothing is going right for this little guy, and he’s ready to wallow in his misery, but instead he is reminded that everything is fine.


No matter what book you choose to read with your child this summer (and I hope there are many!), always discuss the book’s message with your child. He/she will probably surprise you with an amazing interpretation that will give you much to discuss. Have fun with it! Remember, if your child experiences joy reading during these young ages, the future is full of many fulfilling moments ahead while sharing books together!


What children's books do you recommend?

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Topics: Reading