Let's Encourage...With Books

Jul 31, 2018

As each new year begins, I look forward to what I will teach my students.  My vision has always been relatively the same, but as I grow and change, my lessons for my students do too.  For the past few years, we have taken the first one and a half to two weeks to focus on explicitly teaching students the meaning of curiosity, bravery, trustworthiness, strategic thinking, responsibility, respect, and persistence.  This may sound like a big task.  It is not expected for a first grader to master these skills (I'm still working on them as an adult!).  But working on them throughout the year is important.  And (of course) there is a book for that!


Being brave is all about taking risks.  This looks different for each one of our students and they need to be explicitly taught this fact.  For one student, bravery may be in the form of raising their hand to answer a question.  For another student, it may be taking risk to try a new food they have never heard of before.

Courage by Bernard Waber illustrates some everyday risks that can pop up in our lives.  While Jabari Jumps does the same, it focus on just one child and one risk...jumping off the diving board!  Girl Running by Annette Pimentel illustrates the risk Bobbi Gibb took to run a marathon at a time when women were not welcome.
One more great book to mention is Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon.  This young girl stands up for who she is and that takes guts.


We know that it takes a lot of love, consistency, and time to build trust.  In order to build independent students, we do need to maintain a level of trust.  Trust to use the restroom, walk the halls, or to work at a station.  Plus, we need to ensure that our students trust us to teach them, love them, and to create a safe environment.

The Big Fat Enormous Lie does a great job of illustrating what it looks like and feels like to be sitting with a lie all day.  This book can lead to a lot of great conversation.  The Empty Pot by Demi really shows the importance of honesty, even when you think you may not benefit.  The classic, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, really does demonstrate what can happen when you are dishonest over and over again.

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a powerful skill to possess.  We must tap into this skill when any problem arises in our lives.  It allows children to be problem solvers and fosters independence.  One important thing to note is that our students need to also acknowledge that there can be multiple ways to solve a problem.  Discuss what other ways the problems could have been solved.

Here are just a few fiction titles that spotlight characters that needed to think strategically in order to solve a problem.  Picnic with Oliver by Mika Song is a story about two friends on a quest to have a picnic together.  Unfortunately a storm pops up, leaving one friend stranded in the middle of a pond.  Quick thinking and problem solving must take place to save the little mouse!  Two Problems for Sophia by Jim Averbeck is a sweet story about a girl that is determined to keep her pet but to do so, she must solve a few complications.  There's An Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer is another creative story about problem solving and creative thinking!


"It is your responsibility."  I feel like I say this 100 times a day in my household.  This is one of those skills that we just have to continue to nurture and patiently teach over and over again.  But by fostering it, we are once again adding a layer to the growth of more independent learners.

I love how visual Pigsty is!  Mark Teague does a great job illustrating what it looks like when you are not being responsible for your own space.  Good Dog, Carl is interesting because the mother in the story is not responsible at all!  But Carl is and that can lead to some good conversation. I think The Berenstain Bears' New Pup is a book that many of our students can relate too.  Adding a pet to the household means new responsibilities for everyone.


This word can take on many different meaning in a classroom.  We must have respect for our space, our tools, and the other people in the classroom.  For children, it is important to help them respect the differences and to see value in that.

In The Crayon Box that Talked, the crayons learn that one is not better than another.  But they are stronger when used together.  I'm the Best by Lucy Cousins has a similar message.  Dog is sure that he is the best at everything but learns that each animal has their own strength.  Me and You takes a different approach to respect.  The characters both want to be like their friend.  They discover through this story to respect themselves for who they are.


This is a hard skill, but so important to learn at a young kid (and then continue to work on!)  Things are hard and to learn to persevere will help you throughout life!  We have to provide lots of support, examples, and practice with this skill!  There are so many great biographies that illustrate strong individuals persevering through hard times.  But here are a couple fiction titles:

Let Me Finish! by Minh Le is about a boy that just wants to read!  But some animals are keeping him from enjoying the book.  He does not give up on reading!  More-igami is a new favorite of mine.  A young boy is struggling to learn origami and learns he must be persistent.  Flight School features a strong character that just really wants to fly even though it may seem impossible.


Curiosity and wonder has led our world to so many discoveries and inventions.  But I fear that we have taken much wonder out of our schools.  Promoting creative thinking and questioning can help to nurture this curiosity. 

Dreaming Up by Christy Hale is an interesting book that combines photographs of architecture and illustrations of characters utilizing the photographs for their own creations.  The Cow Who Climbed A Tree shows that their are no boundaries to what we can wonder and explore.  Ada Twist, Scientist explores what can happen when we act on our questions and dive into our wonderment!

Please note that these are only a few books that hit on these topics.  There are 500 million more out there!  Especially since I didn't hit on all the great nonfiction that can also be utilized.  I am always on the lookout for more books to share.  Please let me know if you have titles you can't live without!

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