Someone asked if I knew of any books about resilience to teach children about what it means. As I was typing the response, I decided to get out of bed and throw together this post instead. The definition of resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback, to get back up after falling, and basically not giving up just because it gets hard. This is something so many of us want to foster in our students.
Even our youngest students need encouragement to conquer the challenges they face. This is important because as we encourage them to try again after falling from a climber or to build that block tower back up, we are creating that foundation of resilience. They are practicing it in our classrooms. One day, it won’t be practical, and they will need that resilience for something much bigger. Here are some wonderful picture books about resilience that help start conversations and model what resilience looks like for preschoolers.
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Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty is more than just a book about an engineer who happens to be a young girl; it is about not being afraid to be different, especially when being different is amazing. It is not always easy to march to the beat of your own drummer, and Rosie has a hard time at first but after a pep talk from a special mentor helps Rosie tap into that resilience and everything changes.
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle was a favorite of my son’s from the time he was a baby through his preschool years. It is one of my favorites to use to teach children about hard work and animal sounds. While there is no major challenge in the book, when you dive deeper it hits you over the head. It is a huge challenge to keep working while your friends want to play! This is a story of hard work, persistence and don’t forget it helps reinforce animal sounds too. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall is a sweet little book about thinking you are ready to do something and realizing that the challenge is your own anxiety. In this book, a little boy grapples with this as tries to jump off the high diving board at the pool. A supportive father is there to encourage him to try again and help build that resilience that gets him back up that ladder and jumps! The illustrations are amazing, and there is something magical about the high diving board that kids universally see as a huge scary challenge and are immediately invested in Jabari’s struggle. Great book!
Pete The Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean is a classroom favorite. My students love counting down with me as Pete loses his buttons one at a time. This book steps into teaching about resilience as Pete loses his buttons and doesn’t freak out at all! This is one of the biggest things about encouraging resilience in young preschoolers; we don’t have to completely lose it when something doesn’t go as planned. It is a hard lesson, and many of us still struggle with it from time to time well past preschool. Pete is a fun way to encourage kids to be resilient. The text is packed with repetition and students will be singing along with Pete in no time.
Ben”™s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora is a simple but profound book about one little boy’s dreams. Ben loves jazz and his favorite instrument is the trumpet. He spends much time alone playing his imaginary trumpet and listening at the door of a local jazz club. When other kids make fun of his imaginary trumpet, he stops playing, that is until the trumpeter from the club steps in. I like this book a lot because it teaches kids it’s great to dream, to work towards that dream, and even better not to give up on it when things get tough.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni has been a favorite of mine for many years. I love Lionni and how he can weave multiple layers of meaning into a simple story for children. Swimmy is a story about a little fish who lost his family to a giant tuna fish. After grieving, he remembers of all the beautiful things in the ocean and goes on. When he came across a school of fish just like his former one hiding afraid of the big fish, he knew he couldn’t let them miss out on all the wonders of the ocean, and he rallied them to work as a team. This is a great book for teaching children about resilience and working as a group to combat challenges.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. Molly Lou Melon is all the things that her bully picks on her about. She does sound funny. She is very short, and she does have buck teeth. But she is also confident and strong. She celebrates her traits in the face of bullying. I particularly love that her resilience comes from her grandmother who tells her to stand tall and be proud of who she is. She owns it and wins!
This is exactly the message I want to yell from the rooftops to kids. Celebrate who you are! Children love the super fun illustrations by David Catrow which always remind me of Seuss so much so that I have referred to Molly Lou as Cindy Lou Who more than once over the years. If you have never read this book you really must!
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev is a gem. Buy it now. I mean that. This book is about a little boy and his elephant who are banned from the local pet club because well, elephants are not allowed and for no real reason. This lets parents and teacher reiterate the fact that sometimes people are excluded for no reason. It’s not about them. It is about the people excluding them. In the book, after being banned, they find others who have been made to feel unwelcome, different, and lesser and start their own pet club. One that welcomes everyone and their pets no matter what, a perfect example of resilience!
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee is a look at how sometimes resilience is about combating one feeling with actions that create another. In this case the fear of bad things happening in the world, with simple acts of kindness. The kindness that is a part of inclusion and the inclusion that is part of kindness is what this book focuses on. Really what it is doing is teaching children one way to build resilience through actions. I love how this book shares that little gestures and acts of kindness can create a shared sense of well being and community.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch has enchanted me for years. I have read this to hundreds of children, and I can’t remember one child ever not liking it. It’s a story of Elizabeth, a princess who outwits a dragon to rescue her prince. I love that the author has switched the typical damsel in distress and has the princess as the heroine. Some parents have expressed concern about Elizabeth calling the prince a bum at the end of the book. Personally, I love it. I have always used it to explain why she was so angry, and as a reminder why calling names hurt. That said I think she is totally justified!
The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat is all about an imaginary friend who never gets picked by a child. He doesn’t keep waiting. Instead, he decides to take matters into his own hands and travels to the real world all on his own. I love Beekle’s resilience. He feels down when looked over repeatedly. Instead of accepting it, he fights for what he wants his life to be! He was sick of seeing all the other imaginary friends getting picked and knew his life was supposed to be more than just waiting around, and he was right.
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This story isn’t really about any magnificent thing, it’s about a magnificent process, that requires a certain level of resilience. This story focuses on the process of creating, and my favorite part…failing. Making amazing things is awesome, but it’s not always an easy road. This book tackles the idea that failing, then trying again is part of the creation process.
The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires is a realistic look at how it feels to be too afraid to try something our friends think is not a big deal. Lou can’t climb the tree, but her friends are like tree climbing ninjas and have no fear and way better tree climbing skills than Lou. So like most of us, she makes excuses… but not forever. By the end of the book, that seed of resilience takes root and she tries over and over. But she hasn’t succeeded yet and I love that the book ends before she does.
Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh is a book all about having the resilience to face a very scary challenge head-on and save yourself in the process! In this book, the mice outsmart a hungry snake and then save themselves from ending up in his belly. In the meantime, the reader counts along as the mice are caught and put in a jar, then again when they escape. The simple illustrations are so effective, and my students always loved this book.
Do you love a book about resilience for preschool that you think I should add? Leave a comment down below and tell me all about it.