Picture books are one of the most powerful tools a teacher can use. Literature has a way of reaching students. They can relate to a character or event in a picture book, and it inspires and influences their thinking and behavior. We hope this list of picture books and activities will inject a boost of self-confidence and inspire self-esteem for all the Lucky Little Learners you teach.
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By Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum! How we love this sweet mouse, created by award-winning author-illustrator Kevin Henkes. Chrysanthemum isn’t short on self-confidence in the beginning of this story. She loves everything about her name – until she is teased about it when she starts school. Chrysanthemum learns that being different is a beautiful thing in this story of self-confidence and friendship.
Try This Activity: Write an acrostic poem. Students will write an acrostic poem with their names. Each letter describes something special about themselves, something they like to do, or something that is important to them.
By Karri Theis
Jean Maxine is a bright, curious girl who likes to have lots of fun. She loves basketball, dancing, swimming, and being with her friends. She could play all day long! Then one day, her world changes, and everything seems to stop! She’s bored while staying at home for what seems like forever…until a mystical machine appears and takes her on a wondrous adventure back in time. There, a special person helps her discover something magical.
Try this Activity: There are questions at the back of the book to empower kids in believing that they have it inside themselves to create, build, learn, and find ways to show kindness to others by using their own imagination. There are also blank pages at the back of the book to use as a journal or diary to write down their ideas/goals.
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Spoon is growing up, and he is starting to feel different. He is jealous of his friends, Knife and Fork, and all the amazing things they get to do. When Spoon opens up to his mom about his feelings, she helps him see his own gifts and abilities in a new way. Readers of Spoon will also enjoy The Smart Cookie.
Try This Activity: Invite parents and caregivers to write a letter or card to their child, listing some of the many things that make them special. Save these letters to share with students as an end-of-the-year gift to boost self-confidence.
By David Shannon
Camilla Cream loves lima beans, but she doesn’t want to eat them at school. What if the other kids think she’s weird? Overnight, Camilla develops a most peculiar condition – a case of the stripes! Readers discover that the only way to cure this mysterious malady is for Camilla to be true to herself.
Try This Activity: Creative Self-Portrait
Students will create a self-portrait – with a twist! In this at-home extension activity, students will create a beautiful piece of art, all about themselves. Each self-portrait must have an item or an image that is special to the student. For example, a student loves to hike with their family. They choose to make their self-portrait with leaves, sticks, and rocks they find on a hike. Get creative with materials!
By Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Everyone has a story to tell. This book encourages students to use their voices, even if they feel different. The Day You Begin shows students that school is a place, “Where every new friend has something a little like you, and something else, so fabulously not quite like you at all.”
Try This Activity: All About Me Poster
Self-confidence is sure to soar when students design an “All About Me” poster from the Back to School Bonus Pack so students can show how fabulously different they are!
By Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow
Try This Activity: Full Body Portrait
Using a large roll of butcher paper, trace a full-body outline of each student. Students will decorate their portraits. When done, students will move around the classroom writing one kind or encouraging note to each of their fellow students on the outside of the portrait.
By Peter H. Reynolds
Vashti thinks she can’t draw, and becomes so frustrated in art class one day that she makes an angry dot on her paper. When her art teacher encourages Vashti to sign her mark, Vashti begins to see herself in a new way. Maybe she is an artist after all.
Try this activity: Make a Dot
Using any type of material they choose, students will make their own “Dot” painting inspired by the book. They will take turns sharing their painting with the class.
By Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpoys
Try this activity: Show Your Smarts!
Make a class list of all the ways you can show your “smarts” and watch self-confidence bloom! Hang it in the classroom all year as a reminder that everyone has special gifts, talents, and smarts!
By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Grube
Kora Jalimuso is discouraged after her first day of school. No one in her class, not even her teacher, can pronounce her name correctly. On their walk home from school, her mother shows her that every name is a song, meant to be sung loud and proud! Kora Jalimuso gains the confidence to share the beauty of her name with her classmates and encourages her new friends to find the music in their own names.
Try This Activity: Name meaning and origin
For an at-home extension, have students research their name meaning and origin. Write it down on a card, and have students take turns trying to match the names with their meanings. Another great story for discussing unique names and family traditions is Alma and How She Got Her Name.
By Dan Santat
This story follows Humpty Dumpty, after his “Great Fall.” Humpty Dumpty loved being up high on the wall, but after his accident, he is scared and unsure if he will ever feel happy again. Humpty learns that sitting with his fear can be a transformative experience. Will he climb his wall again?
Try This Activity: In After the Fall, author Dan Santat writes, “I didn’t look up. I didn’t look down. I just kept climbing. One step at a time…until I was no longer afraid.” Have students think about a time they faced a fear. What was it? Maybe it was learning how to ride a bike, or climb the monkey bars. What did they do to help calm their fear and try the new thing? How did that affect their self-confidence? Write and draw about it. Other great stories to discuss facing fears with love and support is Jabari Jumps and The Whatifs.
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal, and Jason Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam
This pair of complimentary books highlights all the wonderful ways to be a boy or a girl. No two people are alike – and that is something to celebrate!
Try This Activity: Dear Me
At the beginning of the school year (or anytime during the year), have students write a letter to themselves, filled with all the things they like about themselves, and any goals they have. Collect the letters and save them until the end of the school year. Then, send the letters home to the students at the end of the year. It is a great reminder of how they have grown throughout the year.
By Michael Hall
Red the crayon has a dilemma. His label says he is “red,” but he knows that he is truly a blue crayon! Readers will root for Red. It is a story about being true to yourself, no matter what your “label” says.
Try This Activity: All About Me Adjectives
Students will make a list of adjectives they would use to describe themselves. Have students reflect on their list. Which adjectives describe how you look on the outside? Which adjectives describe how you feel on the inside? Complete the writing prompt: There’s more to me than what you see: I am… Write and illustrate responses.
By Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith
Try This Activity: Emotion Analogy
Have each student choose an emotion – provide a list of emotions for reference. Then have each student choose an item or event in nature to make an analogy to their emotion. (My anger is like a tornado, I am as calm as a cloud, etc.) Write and draw about it, and share it with the class.
By Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
This book duo is filled with positive affirmations and encouragement for all children. A beautiful book to share with students at any time!
Try This Activity: Self-Confidence Building Affirmation Statements
Have each student brainstorm and write positive affirmation statements “I am…” and “I Believe I Can…” for themselves. Begin each day with a positive affirmation statement during morning meeting. Keep these positive affirmation statements on a piece of paper or small notebook that students can refer to whenever they need a reminder of how special they are. Another great book to reinforce positive affirmation statements is I Am Every Good Thing.
By Peter H. Reynolds
Try This Activity: Class performance
As a class, work together to memorize the text of the book. Then, create a unique class performance – will you do readers’ theater, create a song, act it out in your own special way? Get creative – share your performance with parents or another class at school.
By Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
Gerald the Giraffe is self-conscious about his dance moves but wants nothing more than to participate in the annual Jungle Dance. With a little encouragement from an unexpected friend, Gerald learns to move to his own rhythm.
Try This Activity: Class Dance Party
Toss on some music, and let your students show their dance moves! Get their bodies moving and their spirits lifted with this fun dance break to build confidence through movement. Students can even take turns showing off and teaching their own unique dance moves to the class.
Check out our tips on incorporating Social Emotional Learning into your classroom routine with read alouds, lessons, activities, and more.