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.

Click {here} for my top ten picks from each of our Six Pillars of Character.

A Castle on Viola Street - DyAnne DiSalvo (citizenship, volunteerism)
A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulkner (justice, equality, respect for differences)
Agate by Joy Morgan Dey (celebrating differences, respect for self)
Alley Oops - by Janice Levy (anti-bullying, respect, "wrestling" with good choices)
America Is Her Name - 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)

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller (empathy, kindness, friendship)
Blabber Mouse - True Kelly (loyalty, trustworthiness)
Big Wolf & little wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme (sharing, compassion, friendship)
Bird Child by Nan Forler (respect for differences, empowering bystanders)

But It's Not My Fault by Julia Cook (responsibility, taking ownership, choices)
Carla's Sandwich - Debbie Herman (respect for differences, acceptance)
Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer (respecting and celebrating differences)
Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krause Rosenthal (character values)
Crow Boy - Taro Yashima (respect for differences)
Do Unto Otters - Laurie Keller (friendship, manners)
Does This Make Me Look Beautiful? - Harriet Morse (peer pressure, inner beauty)

Draw The Line - Kathryn Otoshi  (conflict, feelings, friendship)
Dream BIG, Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi (goal setting, perseverance)
Each Kindness - 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)

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

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 - 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 Human by Susan Verde (growth, empathy, courage)

I Hate English! by Ellen Levine (compassion, culture)
If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover (responsibility, self-control, stakeholders)
Imogene's Last Stand by Candace Fleming (patriotism, civic duty, heroes)
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 - Steven Kroll (negotiation, friendship, anti-bullying theme)

Just Ask - Sonia Sotomayor (celebrating difference, courage, confidence)
KiKi's Hats by Warren Hanson (caring, kindness, generosity)
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)
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Diane De Groat (honesty, trustworthiness, cooperation)
Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth (compassion, teamwork, hope)
Looking After Louis - Lesley Ely & Polly Dunbar (respect for differences, fairness)
Lucy Goosey Takes Responsibility by Katherine Ciriello Clark (stakeholders, accountability, responsibility)
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 - Jan Fearnley (friendship, acceptance, gratitude)
Mine! by Kevin Luthardt (fairness, sharing, taking responsibility)

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

Miranda Peabody and the Magnificent Friendship March by Susan Debell (friendship, bullying, bystanding)
Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban (managing feelings, self-control)
My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig (friendship, respect, conflict resolution)
Off to Serve by Richard Galentino (service, volunteerism, citizenship)
Okey-Dokey Oakie by Peggy Sundberg (making good choices, using refusal skills)
One by Kathryn Otoshi (respect, tolerance, anti-bullying message)
One Grain of Rice by Demi (fairness, trustworthiness, great math extension!)
One Green Apple - Eve Bunting (cultural differences and integration)
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 - 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 - George Shannon (sharing, generosity, friendship)
Raj The Bookstore Tiger by Kathleen T. Pelley (the power of words, friendship)
Red, White and Blue by Debbie Clement (patriotism, citizenship, sign language)
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)
Share With Brother by Steven L. Layne (fairness, sibling rivalry, caring)
Sheila Says We're Weird by Ruth Ann Smalley (conservation, recycling, ecology)
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 - 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 - Bob Sornson (empathy, compassion, understanding)
Sweet Briar Goes to School by Karma Wilson (respect for differences, courage, friendship)
Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf - Judy Sierra (honesty, apology, forgiveness)
The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey (goal setting, responsibility, work habits)
The Band-Aid Chicken - 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 Butterfly by Patricia Polacco (compassion, empathy, respect, friendship) 
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz (diversity, celebrating differences)
The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf (diversity, acceptance, respect)

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 Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns (acceptance, being satisfied with who you are)
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 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 Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (empathy, compassion, grit)
The Sandal Artist by Kathleen T. Pelley (empathy, compassion, sensitivity)
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania (cultural diversity, respect, friendship)
The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood (gratitude, appreciation)
The Secret Olivia Told Me by N. Joy (gossip, integrity, promise keeping)
The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson (citizenship, compassion)
The Wall by Eve Bunting (service, patriotism, honor)
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts (empathy, caring, sharing)
Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli (responsibility, accountability, teamwork)
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens (fairness, responsibility, work ethic)
Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig (trustworthiness, friendship)

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 James Said by Liz Rosenberg (friendship, mindset, trustworthiness)
When A Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore (imagination, play, pretending v. lying)
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox (kindness, caring, friendship)
William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow (respect for differences, gender stereotypes, modeling)
Will You Forgive Me? by Sally Grindley & Penny Dann (friendship and forgiveness)
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)
Zoe the Misfit by Ellen Dee Davidson (acceptance, respect for differences, friendship)


  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!