Books for Lesson Plans

Adapting to Change/Problem solving

Buster by Denise Fleming

Buster the dog lives in a perfect world.  He loves the grassy yard and the sandpit that he rolls in.  His owner takes him to a fine park and feeds him in a bowl with his name on it. Then one day, his owner brings home Betty, the cat and Buster’s world is no longer perfect.  Frustrated with the changes, he runs away to a new park, where he has a perfect day, until he realized he has no idea how to get home.  The cat ultimately saves the day in a most unusual way.  A good book for teaching about how to adjust to change.

Who Moved My Cheese?  by Spencer Johnson

Beautifully illustrated with a great story that even young elementary age children can understand about the importance of noticing when things are changing and being prepared to adapt and move forward.

Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne

A twist on the classic tale, Jack and the Beanstalk but in this one Kate saves the day by righting the wrongs  done to her family.  When asked if she is afraid, she responds, “I am never afraid when I am doing right.  How can I help?”  A great book on problem solving and courage.

CinderEdna by Ellen Jackson

This is such a great twist on the classic Cinderella story, I wish I’d thought of it myself! CinderEdna faces many of the same problems Cinderella does, mean and lazy step sisters who make her do all the work.  But CinderEdna not only makes the best of it, she thrives and all without the help of any magic.  She manages to have a great time at the ball and marries the prince’s younger brother who lots more fun and not nearly as boring or conceited as the prince.  A treasure!

The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Determined to overcome the fate of her hapless brother the Gingerbread Boy who was fooled and eaten by the fox, this energetic girl manages to outsmart everyone.  And in the end, she fills her parent’s lonely house with welcome guests.  A great tale.

What do you do with a problem? by Kobi Yamada

This a fabulous book!  It fits into both the problem solving and the growth mindset category.  When confronted with a problem, the main character reacts by avoiding it, running away from it, ignoring it.  Finally he decides to confront the problem and learns that not only is it not as scary as he thought.  But there is an opportunity in the problem to learn and grow in ways that he would not get to otherwise.  A terrific message.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

This book could come under the category of creativity, problem solving, failure and teamwork.  The main character is determined to create a most magnificent thing and tries lots of different options.  Frustrated she eventually explodes (not her finest hour) and takes a walk to calm down.  While walking she reviews what she has already created and not only gains new insight but other people discover her failures to be useful for them.  Lots to discuss here…

Bully Prevention

One by Kathryn Otoshi

A really unique and clever book that could easily fit under the category of diversity as well. When the color red bullies blue, none of the other colors stand up for him until the number one comes along and proves the power of one.   The moral of the story?  Everyone counts:)

Character Education

A Special Thank You: Junior Discovers Integrity (Life Lessons with Junior)


It’s Junior’s lucky day when he and some friends discover $220 that someone has lost. They can’t wait to spend the money and everyone knows just what they will buy…until Junior’s mother suggests that he think about the person who lost the money and how they might be feeling.  What should Junior and his friends do?  Should they try to find who the money belongs to?  Should they spend it on themselves?  A great book on integrity and decision making.

Pigsty (Scholastic Bookshelf) by Mark Teague

Need a book to motivate your child to clean their room?  This is a cute book with great illustrations about a boy whose room is so messy a few pigs move in and create an even bigger mess.  It doesn’t seem to be a problem until they are sleeping in his bed, hogging his pillows and tearing up his favorite stuff.  Luckily they are willing to help clean up the mess and they remain friends to the end.


Courage by Kimberley Jane Pryor

A good book for explaining what courage looks like in lots of different situations.

Hilda Hen’s Scary Night by Mary Wormell

When Hilda Hen has to cross the barnyard on a dark night everything looks really scary but she is brave and presses on.  In the day time, she wonders where all the scary things are.  A good book to talk about perception and how we can decide ordinary things are scary.

Brave Irene by William Steig

Irene’s mother has finished the Duchess’ ball gown in time for the ball but she is too ill to take it to her.  Instead Irene begins the journey, through blizzard!  It is a true test of her persistence and pluck.  Will she make it in time for the Duchess to wear the dress to the ball?  Will she be buried in a snow drift and freeze to death?  I’ll let you read the book to discover the answer.  A great book to talk about overcoming challenges.


What do you do with an idea?  Kobi Yamada

Truly a fabulous book that you could create a zillion lessons from.  Besides creativity, it could also fall in the category of peer pressure or comparison, confidence, problem solving and growth mindset.  It is inspirational for kids and adults.  When the main character comes up with a unique idea, he at first doesn’t know what to do with it and tries to leave it behind.  But the idea follows him.  Once he begins to feed and nurture it, he begins to worry what others will think about the idea.  Will they make fun of it?  Some do but he persists in carrying the idea around until it finally not only changes his world but the world around him as well.


The Butter Battle Book: (New York Times Notable Book of the Year) (Classic Seuss)

This is classic Dr. Seuss with rhyming and colorful characters intent on doing away with a whole group of people based on how they butter their bread.  The battle keeps escalating until each group is ready to blow away the other off the face of the earth.  This would make a very interesting discussion with older children especially since it offers quite a social commentary on war, diversity and violence.

The Colors of Us-by Karen Katz

I love everything about this book!  It is a about a girl named Lena whose mother tells her she is the color of cinnamon.  As she walks through the city, she notices the many different colors of the people she meets.  At the end of the day, she paints pictures of each of the many diverse people in her world.  Beautiful illustrations and easy to apply to lessons on the diversity of our world.


Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein

Beautifully illustrated and told in rhyme, the book invites the reader to observe a feeling notice what it is like.  Is it bright like the sun or dark like rain? Does it barge right in or is it shy like a mouse?  Does it settle in your stomach or in your throat up high?  The back of the book suggests several activities to extend the lesson.


Goal Setting

The Carrot Seed 60th Anniversary Edition by Ruth Krauss

A simple but powerful book on hope and setting goals.  When a little boy plants a carrot seed, everyone in his life from his mother to father says it won’t come up but he still tends the soil. And it grows…

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Irma S and James H Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature (Awards))

Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole to find something spectacular.  They show great persistence but barely miss small and large gemstones in their path.  Changing direction actually causes them to miss a large gemstone.  They finally take a break and a nap.  Falling down the hole they wind up at their own house again and decide it has indeed been a spectacular day.  A good book on goal setting, failure and perception.


Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream  by Deloris Jordan

The story of Michael Jordan and the pursuit of his dream to be a great basketball player. When he doesn’t measure up to the neighborhood team, he thinks it is because he is too short. His mother recommends he put salt in his shoes, practice and pray. While he doesn’t grow taller, he does improve in confidence and skill ultimately scoring a winning point in the game. A good book on setting goals, persistence, and practice.

Mirette on the High Wire  by Emily Arnold McCully

When Mirette meets Monsieur Bellini, a retired high-wire walker, she is intrigued with his unique talent and determines to learn to walk on a high wire herself.  Despite the difficulty involved, she persists through many falls and frustrations until she is not only able to walk with confidence on the high wire but to even teach Monsieur Bellini a lesson in courage as well.  A great study in goal setting, persistence, practice and courage to persist through failure.

The Empty Pot (An Owlet Book) by Demi


When the Emperor  of China decides to choose his successor based on which of the children in the kingdom can show the best effort at growing flowers from seeds that he provides, the competition is on.  Ping gets his seeds from the Emperor and proceeds to work hard at growing the most beautiful flower.  Despite his best and most diligent effort, nothing at all grows in his flower pot and when the time comes to return to the palace with his best effort, Ping is reluctant to go with his empty pot.  His father however encourages him by saying, “You did your best, and your best is good enough to present to the Emperor.”  A surprising ending makes for a great lesson in failure, honesty and persistence.



Grandad Bill’s Song, Jane Yolen

A lovely sensitive book about different family member’s memories of Grandad Bill after his death. This book could be easily used with a grief group and followed with an activity where group members discuss memories of loved ones.

Growth Mindset and Grit

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

It’s hard to imagine coming to the US as a Jewish immigrant when you are barely in your teen and going to work to help support your family in the garment industry.  But this is the life of Clara Lemlich.  She works from dawn to dusk, locked in a room with hundreds of other young girls, some as young as twelve. The conditions are inhumane but if you protest you are fired.  Not one to be intimidated, Clara organizes the women into a union and leads them on a strike.  She is arrested 17 times and beaten, suffering broken ribs but she never loses her resolve.  In fact her fiery speeches starts the largest walkout of women workers in US history.  By the time the strike is over, hundreds of bosses agree to let their staff form unions, shorten the workweek and raise salaries.  Clara is a hero!

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Farmer Will Allen grew up in a family that grew their own fresh produce and he loved eating it… but he didn’t like the planting, weeding and harvesting that went along with it. He played basketball for a while but when he had an opportunity to dig in the dirt and grow vegetables he realized how much he missed it.  So he began a campaign that fostered growing produce in small vacant lots and other plots of land in the inner city of Milwaukee. It took a lot of work, but eventually Farmer Will became known for his produce.  He taught schoolchildren, parents and grandparents to be farmers.  Today, 20,000 people a year visit his farm to learn how they too can become farmers in their community on small plots of land.  Farmer Will is feeding the world.

Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmeah

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention and this engaging book chronicles women who have invented everything from hair care products for African American women (Madam C.J. Walker, the first American woman self-made millionaire) to a machine that manufactures square bottom paper bags (invented by Margaret E. Knight, who turned down $50,000 for her machine and died with $237.00 in her estate).  There are even examples of girls as young as ten who have invented a product that major companies later bought.  A very inspirational and informative read.

Harvesting Hope The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull

An inspiring story of one man and the difference he made in the lives of immigrant workers.  Modeling his life on other leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez overcame personal challenges such as shyness in order to right the wrongs that he and fellow workers experienced.  A great example of the power of turning the impossible into the possible.

Odd Boy Out by Don Brown

A fascinating biography of Albert Einstein that will help young readers understand that great minds face many failures as well as successes.  Despite his many challenges, Einstein persisted in pursuing his passion and his interests, doing work that mattered even when it was on his own time and through his own initiative.  His significant contributions have had a huge impact on how we live our modern lives.

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkin

Kate Olivia Sessions grew up in northern California and she loved trees.  She was the first woman in 1881 to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science.  She went to work in San Diego as a teacher.  It was a desert town and she missed the trees she had grown up with.  She began researching the kind of trees that would grow in the San Diego climate.  Gardeners from all over the world began sending her seeds and trees to plant.  When the Worlds Fair can to San Diego in 1909, she convinced people to come to the Balboa Park for tree planting parties.  When the fair opened millions of trees and plants filled the area.  Kate Sessions transformed the  desert city of San Diego to the lush leafy city it is today.


Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull

What if as a young child you contracted polio and weren’t allowed to attend school because you couldn’t walk?  What if you were African America and had to travel fifty miles on a bus to get the treatment you needed because local doctors wouldn’t treat you? What would you do?  Why you’d become the fastest woman in the world and win three gold medals in track and field, of course.  Wilma Rudolph’s story is empowering to anyone facing what seems to be an impossible situation.  Through persistence and determination, she overcame the odds.

Sharing and Cooperation


Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary and Rich Chamberlin

A book on sharing and the power of community.  When Mama Panya announces she is going to the market to buy the ingredients for pancakes, Adika goes along… and invites every friend he meets to come to the home for pancakes later.  Mama is worried that she can’t afford the ingredients to make so many pancakes but the generosity of everyone invited creates a feast for all.  Set in a village in Kenya, the book also teaches about the local culture.


Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

When Annabelle finds a box filled with yarn of every color she decides to knit herself and her dog a sweater.  With the left over yarn she proceeds to knit sweaters for everyone in her class, her teacher, her family and friends.  There is still yarn left over and she knits sweaters for things that don’t even wear sweaters.  An archduke wants her box of never ending yarn and when she refuses to sell it, he steals it, only to find the box is empty.  A great book on the power of sharing and generosity.


Should I Share My Ice Cream? (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Williams

The decision to share or not to share is a difficult one and Elephant agonizes over it.  But once he drops his ice cream and no longer has any, he is quite grateful when Piggie decides to share her ice cream.  A good book to generate discussion on when and why one should share and how decisions are made.

The Big Birthday Surprise: Junior Discovers Giving (Life Lessons with Junior) by Dave Ramsey


When Junior gets some money for his birthday, he discovers the joy of giving to others in need.  Another great Dave Ramsey book focusing on the importance of generosity and giving.



A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Amos McGee is a delightful zookeeper who spends his days a visiting all of his friends at the zoo.  He is thoughtful of their needs, bringing a handkerchief to the rhinoceros with the runny nose and running races with the tortoise who never lost.  When Amos is sick in bed one day all the friends visit him at home to care for him.  A lovely gentle book on the power of friendship and caring for others.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

This book could also fit in the self-esteem and diversity category.  Brian is the invisible boy who is quite shy and left out of everything.  No one even thinks to include him on the team or even in lunchroom conversations.  Then the new boy, Justin arrives and Brian writes him a kind note. When Justin begins including him in games and activities, Brian flourishes and everyone begins to notice his unique gifts. The text and the illustrations make this another perceptive memorable Trudy Ludwig book.  A great book to discuss around topics of friendship, diversity and valuing everyone’s unique talents.

The Very Lonely Firefly board book by Eric Carle

A lonely firefly searching for a friend finds many other sources of light during his night time search but ultimately finds just what he is looking for, a group of fireflies flashing their lights.  A good book to use in a lesson on friendship and persistence.


Otis and the Tornado
by Loren Long

Otis the tractor is friends with all the farm animals…except the bull who snorts and huffs and charges even Otis when he tries to make friends.  When a tornado strikes the farm, Otis guides all the animals to safety, bravely returning for the terrified bull.  Through his kindness, Otis makes a new friend.  A good book about friendly behavior and handling difficult situations.


Giving and Generosity

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas  by Eric Litwin

Christmas may have to be cancelled when Santa becomes ill, but lucky for everyone, Pete the Cat saves the Day.  A good book to demonstrate service to others.

Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid

Pearl loves to give hugs and her friends love to get hugs from her except for one problem… Pearl is a porcupine.  She tries several fixes to make her hugs less ouchy and finally finds the perfect solution.  A good book on giving (especially the five love languages-physical touch) and problem solving.

The 5 Love Languages of Children
by Gary D. Chapman

A great book for adults to understand the love languages of children and how give in a meaningful way.
Generosity (Values to Live by)

A great book to help children realize that generosity can mean several different things. Some of the ways to be generous that are mentioned include: generosity with time, food, your things, money, your knowledge and feelings.


Self Esteem/Believing in Yourself
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon  by Patty Lovell

Molly Lou was the shortest girl in her grade, has buck teeth, a voice like a bullfrog and is clumsy.  But when she follows her grandmother’s advice, “Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too.”  she not only rocks her world, she befriends the school skeptic, Ronald Durkin.  Lots of pearls of wisdom in this book thanks Molly Lou’s grandmother…
Shortest Kid in the World (Step into Reading, Step 2, paper) by Corinne Demas Bliss

Emily is the shortest kid in her class and sees this as a real handicap. She puts a lot of effort into trying to change this about herself until she meets Marietta, who is even shorter than Emily. Marietta views being short as an asset instead of a handicap and it makes quite a difference in how she carries herself and interacts with her classmates.  Emily learns a very valuable lesson about perception and being true to yourself.  An excellent book for a lesson on perception and turning limitations into gifts.

Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill


Wombat is a lively, happy character who loves to jump, run, scream, stand as still as a tree, make funny faces and poke out his tongue.  But most of all he likes to curl up in a ball, something that he does best of all.  With bright engaging illustrations and an engaging rhyming text, this book makes a great lesson for very young children who will want to act out many of Wombat’s favorite things to do.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andeae and Guy Parker Rees

In this delightful, feel-good picture book, giraffe is good at some things and not so good at others.  Unfortunately one thing that he is very bad at is dancing.  All the animals have their signature dance, but when Gerald the Giraffe dances everyone laughs and sneers. As long as Gerald listens to the criticism and believes it he is paralyzed. But when a helpful cricket teaches him that different just means he needs to listen to a different song, he learns that he can indeed dance, his own unique dance.  A good book for teaching diversity and belief in one’s own abilities.

Starting School

Brand new Pencils, Brand new Books, by Diane deGroat

Gilbert starting school and his sister is starting pre-school.  Both are a little nervous but both make friends and enjoy their day. even if it isn’t quite what they expected.


The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone

We all know the story of the Little Red Hen who plants the wheat, tends the wheat, harvests the wheat and bakes the cake all by herself while the lazy barnyard friends stand by and watch. When it comes time to eat the cake, the friends are willing but in this version she eats the cake all by herself down to the last crumb.  The end result however is that in the future the dog, the cat and the mouse become willing and even eager helpers from then on.

Bat’s Big Game by Margaret Read MacDonald

Bat is determined to be on the winning soccer team.  He sizes up the two teams and decides that the Animal team is stronger than the Bird team so he joins them.  When the animals quiz him about his qualifications (doesn’t he have wings after all?), Bat assures them that he is not a bird but an animal with fur and teeth.  Bat is happy with his decision until the Birds start winning at which point he jumps ship and joins the Bird team (doesn’t he have wings after all?).  Bat is happy with his decision until the Animals start winning, at which point he tries to switch back the to the animal team.  Bear however calls his bluff and Bat winds up with no team at all.  Bat learns a lesson that he can’t play on both sides at once.

Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough

When Duck gets his truck stuck in the muck it takes the help of Frog, Goat and Sheep to get him out, which leaves his friends… stuck in the muck.  A good story to discuss what is teamwork and how friends need to be repaid for their efforts.