Top Ten Picture Books to Build Character by Anna Sedenka
At the beginning of the school year I always take a look at my collection of picture books and try to decide which ones I absolutely have to share with my class. Of course I would love to share all of my picture books with my students, but there just isn’t enough time in the school year for that! I usually pick the books that will help me to teach important lessons to my still very impressionable 4th graders. Of course I will use many of my picture books as mentor texts during reading and writing, but at the beginning of the school year I am specifically looking for ones that will help me develop my students’ awareness, compassion, and self-confidence. Here are my top 10!
Going Places is a story about a class of students who are each given a Going Places kit (go-kart kit). Two of the students decide to team up and work together on the project. They decide to go a different route with their go-kart and end up building something that isn’t a go-kart at all! I love to read this book at the beginning of the school year because it lets students know that thinking outside of the box is OK.
The OK book is about a little OK stick person. The little OK person talks about how he likes to try a lot of different things, and even though he isn’t great at most of them, he likes trying them anyway. I like to read this book to my students because it lets them know that they don’t have to be great at everything they do. As long as they have fun doing it, then it is worthwhile. I also like the end of the book because the little OK person says that someday he will be really good at something, but in the meantime he is having a great time figuring out what that might be. This reminds the students to try lots of different things throughout their life, and to persist even if they find them challenging.
Courage is a great story about many different types of courage. It teaches students that there are amazing types of courage, everyday types of courage, and all types of courage in between. The lesson is that any type of courage has value.
The Invisible Boy is a touching story about a boy named Brian. In the classroom, Brian is invisible to his teacher and his classmates. His classmates don’t notice him because he is quiet and shy, and his teacher doesn’t notice him because there are other students in the class who take up most of her time and attention. Then a new student arrives in the classroom. As the new student starts to build a friendship with Brian, Brian becomes more colorful and more noticeable. This story helps to remind students to include those student who tend to be shy and hang back. It reminds them that all students want to be included, even if they aren’t loud about it. We revisit Brian and his important story throughout the year.
Freckleface Strawberry is a story about a girl who hates her freckles so much that she does everything she can to hide them. At one point in the story she hides them by wearing a ski mask, but then her friends can’t find her. Eventually she realizes that she has great friends who love her for who she is, and she stops worrying so much about her freckles. This is a great story that teaches students to love, and be proud of, who they are and what they look like.
In this story Goat thinks that he is pretty amazing until Unicorn moves in and, without meaning to, upstages Goat at every turn. Goat decides that he doesn’t like Unicorn even though he doesn’t really know him. After Unicorn points out some cool things about Goat, Goat realizes that Unicorn isn’t so bad after all. This entertaining story reminds students not to judge others before they get to know them.
I love the illustrations of Marla Frazee, and I love this story by Liz Garton Scanlon. It is a sweet story about how all of the people in the world are connected and how they all have similar feelings and similar experiences. Fourth graders can be very self centered, and All the World helps to remind them that each of them is part of a much larger world in which people have much in common.
The Great Fuzz Frenzy has been one of my favorites for a long time. It is an entertaining story about a group of groundhogs who find a tennis ball in their “home”. They are all wondering what to do with it, when one little groundhog discovers that it’s fuzzy. They realize that the fuzz comes off and is fun to play with. Eventually the tennis ball is bare and they all start fighting over the little pieces of fuzz. When the fuzz gets taken away, the groundhogs realize that fighting over it had been a mistake. This is a good story for students of any age because it reminds them about the importance of sharing and about the consequences of greed.
Camilla loves lima beans, but doesn’t want to eat them because her friends don’t like them. She is so concerned about impressing everyone that she tries on forty-two outfits on the first day of school. At one point Camilla looks in the mirror and finds that she is covered in stripes. In the end Camilla is cured by admitting that she really does love lima beans. After that she doesn’t care a bit about what the other students think. This is another great book for reminding students to be true to themselves.
In Enemy Pie the main character is having a great summer until Jeremy moves into the neighborhood. Jeremy becomes the main character’s enemy and he tells his dad about it. His dad has a recipe for “enemy pie” that is sure to get rid of one’s enemies. The tough part is that you have to spend the day with your enemy and you have to be nice to them and pretend you like them. By the end of the story the main character has turned his number one enemy into his number one friend. This is another great story that teaches students to get to know people before they make any judgment about them.
Anna Sedenka is currently a 4th grade ELA and social studies teacher. She lives in the beautiful state of Maine with her husband and two young daughters. She is a lover of books and is proud to be a nerdy book lover! She also loves doing anything outdoorsy, in any season. This is her first published blog post.