Books That Teach

I just love using literature as a way to infuse values and virtues into our character building. Here's a list of some of my favorite books that infuse character values and traits, most with links that will take you to a review and integration idea, exercise or activity.

A Castle on Viola Street by DyAnne DiSalvo (citizenship, volunteerism)

A Little Spot of Empathy by Diana Alber (empathy, perspective-taking, kindness)

A Small Kindness by Stacy McAnulty (kindness, empathy, pay it forward)
A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulkner (justice, equality, respect for differences)

A Thousand NO's by DJ Corchin (growth mindset, resilience, creativity)

ABBS by Melisa Hayes (respect for differences, belonging, connection)
Agate by Joy Morgan Dey (celebrating differences, respect for self)
All The Lost Things by Kelly Canby (curiosity, generosity, hope)
America Is Her Name by Luis J. Rodriguez (compassion, empathy, confidence, pride)
America's White Table by Margot Theis Raven (heroes, citizenship, honor)
Annie's Plan by Jeanne Kraus (personal responsibility, self-discipline)
Armando and the Blue Tarp School by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson (culture, compassion, goal-setting)
Anika's Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis (caring, compassion, culture)

Because by Mo Willems (inspiration, work ethic, stakeholders)

Be Brave, Little One by Marianne Richmond (courage, bravery, strength)

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller (empathy, kindness, friendship)
Bedtime For Superheroes by Katherine Locke (superheroes, kindness, healthy habits) 
Be You! by Peter H. Reynolds (identity, empowerment, self-awareness)

Blabber Mouse by True Kelly (loyalty, trustworthiness)
Bird Child by Nan Forler (respect for differences, empowering bystanders)

Birdie & Mipps by Barbara Gruener (nicknames, respect, kindness, friendship)

Brave Every Day by Trudy Ludwig (anxiety, fear, bravery)

But It's Not My Fault by Julia Cook (responsibility, taking ownership, choices)
Carla's Sandwich by Debbie Herman (respect for differences, acceptance)

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krause Rosenthal (character values)
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima (respect for differences)
Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller (friendship, manners)
Does This Make Me Look Beautiful? by Harriet Morse (peer pressure, inner beauty)

Draw The Line by Kathryn Otoshi  (conflict, feelings, friendship)
Dream BIG, Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi (goal setting, perseverance)
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (caring, including new students, kindness ripples)
Earth Day - Horray! by Stuart J. Murphy (recycling, teamwork, conservation)
Ellison the Elephant by Eric Drachman (respect for differences, self discovery)

Elmore by Holly Hobbie (celebrating differences, friendship)

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson (friendship, respect)

Evie's Field Day by Claire Noland (sportsmanship, empathy, compassion)

Fair Is Fair by Sonny Varela (fairness, equity, equality)

Finding Messi by Trevor Ostfled (pets, loss, empathy)

Flight School by Lita Judge (mindset, empathy, compassion, kindness)

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed (fairness, friendship, caring)
Getting To Know Ruben Plotnick by Roz Rosenbluth (respect, caring, friendship)

Gifts from the Enemy by Trudy Ludwig (empathy, compassion, kindness)

Good Bye Bully Machine by Debbie Fox and Allan Beane (respect for differences, courage, kindness)
Good News Nelson by Jodi Moore (problem solving, being a change agent, service learning)
Grandfather's Wrinkles by Kathryn England (intergenerational connections, caring)
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo (caring, compassion, empathy)

Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds (growth mindset, dream big, creativity) 
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud (attitude, kindness, appreciation)
Heartprints by P.K. Hallinan - (caring, kindness, compassion)
Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose (respect, golden rule, peer pressure)
How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer (kindness, caring)

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes (identity, empowerment, pride)

I Am Human by Susan Verde (growth, empathy, courage)

I Promise by LeBron James (affirmations, empowerment, leadership)

If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover (responsibility, self-control, stakeholders)

Imogene's Last Stand by Candace Fleming (patriotism, civic duty, heroes)

Invisible Jerry by Adam Wallace (kindness, friendship, hope)
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (self control, not interrupting)
It's Not Fair by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (equality v. equity)

Jacob's Eye Patch by Beth Kobliner Shaw and Jacob Shaw (respect for differences)

Josias, Hold The Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (responsibility, problem solving, Haitian culture)
Jungle Bullies by Steven Kroll (negotiation, friendship, anti-bullying theme)

Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor (celebrating difference, courage, confidence)

Just Snow Already! by Howard McWilliam (patience, mindfulness, humor)

KiKi's Hats by Warren Hanson (caring, kindness, generosity)

Kind by Alison Green (empathy, compassion, kindness)
Kindness Is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler (kindness, getting along, service)
Knitting Nell by Julie Jersild Roth (citizenship, knitting for service)
LEO the Lightning Bug by Eric Drachman (perseverance, attitude, courage)

Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth (compassion, teamwork, hope)
Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely & Polly Dunbar (respect for differences, fairness)

Martha Doesn't Share! by Samantha Berger (fairness, taking turns, sharing)

Mason's Greatest Gems by Chelsea Lee Smith (values, virtues, character)
Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel (conservation, citizenship)
Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley (friendship, acceptance, gratitude)
Mine! by Kevin Luthardt (fairness, sharing, taking responsibility)

Mindset Matters by Bryan Smith (mindset, perseverance, grit)

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban (managing feelings, self-control)
Mr. Quigley's Keys by Barbara Gruener (empathy, perseverance, gratitude)
Off to Serve by Richard Galentino (service, volunteerism, citizenship)

One by Kathryn Otoshi (respect, tolerance, anti-bullying message)

One Drop Of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak (kindness, friendship, connection)
One Grain of Rice by Demi (fairness, trustworthiness, great math extension!)

One Smile by Cindy McKinley (kindness, caring, compassion, stakeholders)
One Thousand Tracings by Lita Judge (caring, compassion, empathy)
Our Friendship Rules by Peggy Moss and Dee Dee Tardif (trustworthiness, negotiation, cooperation)

Pete The Cat's Groovy Guide To Kindness by Kimberly and James Dean (kindness, inspiration)

Penguin Flies Home by Lita Judge (dream big, growth mindset, friendship)

Penelope Perfect by Shannon Anderson (perfectionism, growth mindset)
Pink Tiara Cookies For Three by Maria Dismondy (triangle friendship, loyalty, kindness)
Rabbit's Gift by George Shannon (sharing, generosity, friendship)

Race To Kindness by Orion Jean (empathy, compassion, kindness ripples)
Raj The Bookstore Tiger by Kathleen T. Pelley (the power of words, friendship)
Rock What Ya Got by Samantha Berger (identity, empowerment, growth mindset) 
Rotten and Rascal by Paul Geraghty (fairness, greed "eats you alive")
Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin (trustworthiness, honesty, loyalty)
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn (Chinese New Year, compassion, generosity)

Shhh! by Jeanne Willis (perseverance, listening, respect, peace/non-violence)
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney (non-violence, racial equality)

Sloth To The Rescue by Leanne Shirtliffe (empathy, compassion, mindfulness)
Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough (positive-thinking and attitude)
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli (caring, stakeholders)
Something Else by Kathryn Cave (respect, diversity, friendship)
Sometimes We Were Brave by Pat Brisson (patriotism, service, courage)
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy (respect for differences, kindness, courage)
Super Manny Stands Up! by Kelly DiPucchio (empathy, kindness, upstanding)
Squawking Matilda by Lisa Horstman (responsibility, perseverance, caring)
Stand In My Shoes by Bob Sornson (empathy, compassion, understanding)
The Band-Aid Chicken by Becky Rangel Henton (justice, empathy, acceptance)
The Boy Who Changed The World by Andy Andrews (stakeholders, helping others, The Butterfly Effect)
The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister by Linda Ravin Lodding (the over-scheduled child, purposeful play)

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz (diversity, celebrating differences)

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (friendship, courage, celebrating differences)
The Earth Book by Todd Parr (conservation, citizenship)
The Empty Pot by Demi (trustworthiness, honor, problem solving)
The Fiesta Dress by Caren McNelly McCormack (cultural awareness and celebration)
The Forgiveness Garden by Lauren Thompson (forgiveness, healing, friendship)
The Giant King by Kathleen T. Pelley (kindness, dignity, law of attraction)
The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper (respect, diversity, caring)
The Heart And The Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (grief, emotions, hope)
The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers (trustworthiness, taking responsibility)
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (kindness, imagination, friendship)
The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown (caring, compassion)
The Lunch Thief by Anne C. Bromley (empathy, compassion, sharing, caring)

The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord (conservation, citizenship, recycling)

The Mitten Tree by Candance Christiansen (empathy, generosity, kindness)

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (mindset, perseverance)

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (respect for differences, cultural awareness, compassion)
The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff (respect, celebrating culture and diversity)
The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Noble (caring, problem-solving, love)
The New Bear at School by Carrie Weston (acceptance, respect for differences, friendship)
The Peanut-Free Cafe by Gloria Koster (respect for peanut allergies, flexibility, friendship)

The Power Of One by Trudy Ludwig (empathy, compassion, kindness)

The Quickest Kid In Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller (dreams, determination, friendship)

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (empathy, compassion, grit)

The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros (family illness, memories, legacy) 
The Sandal Artist by Kathleen T. Pelley (empathy, compassion, sensitivity)
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania (cultural diversity, respect, friendship)

The Secret Olivia Told Me by N. Joy (gossip, integrity, promise keeping)
The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson (citizenship, compassion)

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts (empathy, caring, sharing)
Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli (responsibility, accountability, teamwork)

Turning Cartwheels by Amy Adeney (belonging, perseverance, friendship)

Your Name Is A Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (names, identity, equity) 

What Do You Do With A Problem? by Kobi Yamada (mindset, problem solving, responsibility)

What Does It Mean To Be Green? by Rana DiOrio (conservation, recycling, citizenship)

What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio (kindness, caring, empathy)

What if Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick (kindness, empathy, friendship)

What James Said by Liz Rosenberg (friendship, mindset, trustworthiness)

Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming by Jean Davies Okimoto (citizenship, conservation, responsibility)
Wolf! Wolf! by John Rocco (trustworthiness, cooperation, friendship)

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal (power of words, kindness, caring)

Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins (heroism, courage, citizenship)
You Can Be A Friend by Tony and Lauren Dungy (friendship, loyalty, trust)
You're Mean, Lily Jean by Frieda Wishinsky (respect, caring, kindness)
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi (self-worth, value, perfect for math integration!)
Ziba Came On A Boat by Liz Lofthouse (empathy, culture, hope)


  1. Thank you for the extensive list. I enjoyed your presentation at USD last week and am looking forward to adapting your ideas - especially- the cape idea ( I have your book on order) to use at my Reggio inspired preschool on the campus of USD. I am excited to begin a new school year with Character Ed at the forefront.

  2. This is such a great list of books. I use many of them in my classroom and see I have more I need to get! I also recommend the classic, 'Rainbow Fish', as well as 'Vulture and Hummingbird' for books on friendship. Thank you for this wonderful website! :)

  3. Thanks for this great list of books that teach about character. I will definitely check these out and recommend this resource. You might also like to include the books at . The Talking with Trees book series for kids teaches about good traits through warm stories kids can relate to. Be Proud teaches about honesty, conscience, and forgiveness. Be Bigger shows children how to treat friends with respect and how to persevere when they have friendship troubles. And What if shows children a helpful way to remember to think about whether they are being respectful and responsible before they speak and act. Thanks again for sharing your insights.


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!