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Picture Books to Teach Character Traits

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Picture books can be wonderful resources for teaching young children about character traits. This lesson gives you some ideas about picture books that will get students thinking about character.

Why Picture Books?

Picture books are invaluable resources for teachers of young children. They often tell marvelous stories and engage with issues of strong psychological import. Picture books can also be great for teaching children about elements of story like character, plot, and conflict. This lesson gives you some suggestions for picture books you can use to teach about different character traits.

A Bargain for Frances, by Russel Hoban

This book tells the story of a young badger named Frances who is trying to make a deal with her friend Thelma. Both girls want the same tea set, and Thelma tries to trick Frances into buying a different one. In the end, they learn valuable lessons about what it takes to be a good friend. This book will help you talk about character traits such as loyalty, cunning, and determination.

Owen, by Kevin Henkes

This story is about a young boy who does not want to let go of his special security blanket, no matter what. His parents support him even as others around him make fun of him for wanting something that seems babyish. Owen struggles with the teasing, but sticks to his guns about what matters to him. At the end of the book, he discovers a way to keep small pieces of his blanket with him more discretely. The book teaches character traits including patience, caring, and inner strength.

The Little Engine that Could, by Walter Piper

This classic picture book tells the tale of a train getting stuck because its engine breaks down. Several other engines refuse to help the train, but finally a small blue engine helps and works with the passengers to get the train over the mountain. The book teaches about the importance of determination as well as a willingness to collaborate.

Weslandia, by Paul Fleischman

In this story, a young boy named Wesley is often mocked by his classmates. He decides to devote the summer to developing an imaginary society all his own. He considers all of the different elements his civilization will need. Eventually, when his peers find out about Weslandia, they are impressed and long to join him there. Wesley is no longer mocked but, rather, revered by those around him. This book teaches character traits including creativity, leadership skills, and courage amid adversity.

Thank You, Mr. Falker, by Patricia Polacco

This story is about a little girl whose family deeply values knowledge. The little girl struggles tremendously in learning to read, and she believes that she is stupid. Others begin mocking her because of her weaknesses. Finally, a caring teacher takes the time to help and support her. Mr. Falker sees her strengths and works with her patiently until she is able to read. The book teaches character traits like bravery, fortitude, patience, and trustworthiness.

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