10 Life Lessons Kids Can Learn from Reading

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Encouraging a love of reading starts from an early age and has significant and lasting impact on a child’s emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. Enthusiastic readers become critical thinkers who are excited about new ideas and open to exploring worlds beyond their own. In celebration of National Literacy Month, we selected 10 of our favorite books that teach kids of all ages important life lessons. Read on to see our picks.

Life Lesson 1: The Power of Making Choices

In the old days, we had Choose Your Own Adventure books, which let pre-teen readers customize their reading experiences by selecting between different storylines within each book. Today, kindergarten and first grade readers will enjoy helping superhero-in-training Danny make the right choices in the clever and fun What Should Danny Do? book series. Written by former educator Ganit Levy and her husband Adir, What Should Danny Do? teaches kids ages four through seven about the consequences of the decisions they make throughout the day.

Life Lesson 2: The Power of Teamwork

The titular character of writer Anna Kang and illustrator Christopher Weyant’s delightful, pun-filled book Eraser is a hard-working eraser who has grown tired of always cleaning up after everyone else’s mistakes. In this well-drawn world of anthropomorphic school supplies, preschoolers to second graders ages three to eight will enjoy reading about embracing their mistakes and learning the value of teamwork.

Life Lesson 3 : The Power of Curiosity

Inspired by pioneering, real-life female scientists Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Twist, Scientist tells the story of a precocious and inquisitive girl who never stops asking, “Why?” Kindergarteners through second graders ages four through eight will enjoy writer Andrea Beaty’s well-constructed rhyme schemes and illustrator David Roberts’ engaging visual style, all while learning the importance of curiosity.

Life Lesson 4: The Power of Embracing What Makes You Special

Recognized by The Huffington Post and Essence Magazine as one of the best children’s books of the year, writer Crystal Swain-Bates’ Big Hair, Don’t Care tells the story of Lola, a girl who has really big hair—much bigger hair than the other kids at her school. Despite the stares and comments she gets from other kids, Lola confidently tells anyone who will listen just how much she loves her big, beautiful hair. Young readers ages five and older will enjoy learning about embracing what makes each of us unique and the importance of self-confidence.

Life Lesson 5: The Power of Caring for the Planet

In Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, artist and writer Oliver Jeffers has created a lovely and sweetly humorous love letter to the place we all call home. Although the book was created specially for his young son, Jeffers tells a universal story that all parents and children can embrace: while the world is very big, you’re never alone on Earth and we’re all in this together. Written for preschoolers to second graders ages three through eight, the book’s central lessons of compassion, consideration, and caring for the planet will appeal to readers of all ages.

Life Lesson 6: The Power of Self-Expression

The old adage, “Dance like no one’s watching,” doesn’t apply in author Thyra Heder’s delightful book, How Do You Dance? Written and illustrated in an exuberant and engaging style, young readers from ages five and older will soon find themselves wiggling, jiggling, and bopping along with the other dancers in the book, while learning the lesson that the best way to express yourself is any way you want.

Life Lesson 7: The Power of Embracing Your Fears

With The Day You Begin, National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have created an inspiring book about a girl’s journey to find the courage to work through her fears. Through lyrical text and lovely illustrations, the story of Angelina reminds readers what it feels like to be an outsider and how to bravely move forward. Aimed at readers ages eight and older, the book teaches young readers about embracing their fears.

Life Lesson 8: The Power of Including Others

Writer Trudy Ludwig’s book, The Invisible Boy, tells the story of Brian, a quiet boy who is often “invisible” to others. Classmates and teachers don’t often notice or include him, but the situation changes when a new kid comes to class, and Brian starts to become visible to himself and others, thanks to the simple acts of kindness and inclusion. This book gently teaches readers ages eight and older about the importance of compassion and inclusion.

Life Lesson 9: The Power of Seeing Beyond Appearances

Wonder, the No. 1 New York Times bestseller that subsequently was made into a motion picture starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, tells the story of August Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. Inspiring the Choose Kind movement, Wonder tells the story of a boy, his family, and how the community confronts difference through empathy, compassion and ultimately acceptance. The book is aimed at fifth grade readers ages 10 and older, but the universal lesson of seeing beyond appearances will inspire readers of all ages.

Life Lesson 10: The Power of Selflessness

Originally published in 1964, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a literary classic that tells the story of a boy and his relationship with a selfless apple tree. Through few words and simple line drawings, generations of readers of all ages have taken away different lessons from this book, but mostly learned lessons about love, selflessness, and the act of giving.


—Kipp Jarecke-Cheng