25 Children’s Books to Teach Your Kids Meaningful Values

As Confucius said, “you cannot open a book without learning something.”

Sep 7, 2015
The Mine-O-Saur children's book that teaches values, such as generosity.

The Mine-O-Saur is one example of a children's book that teaches values - in this case, generosity (Amazon

Books are awesome, aren’t they? They open a whole new world of imagination, letting the reader travel to a distant land or accomplish otherworldly feats without leaving the comfort of their home. They stimulate the mind, increase knowledge, expand the vocabulary – and also teach important life lessons. In honor of International Literacy Day on September 8, here are 25 quirky, colorful children’s books that are ingrained with fundamental values - for every child to discover and enjoy.

1. GRATITUDE

DID I EVER TELL YOU HOW LUCKY YOU ARE
BY: Dr. Seuss
Who better than Dr. Seuss to remind us how lucky we truly are, even when we’re down in the dumps?
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Focus on what you have and don’t dwell on the bad.

IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE
BY: Margot Zemach
This Yiddish folktale depicts gratitude in an uproarious light. When an unfortunate man follows the advice from his Rabbi, his life seems to go from bad to worse – or does it?
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Things are not always as bad as they seem.

SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE
BY: William Steig
Sylvester the donkey is thrilled to have found a magic pebble! But when he encounters a lion on his way home, he must make a decision that separates him from his family.  When he’s finally reunited with them, he learns a valuable lesson.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Always be grateful for family.

THE BLANKFUL HEART
BY: Mr. Meus
Billy Babble is the richest Babble in Babbleland. He begins to feel like something is missing and sets out on a quest to fill his empty heart.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: A grateful heart is a happy heart.

AN AWESOME BOOK OF THANKS
BY: Dallas Clayton
Filled with whimsical illustrations and quirky characters, this book notes all the things in life to be grateful for. The list spans from simple joys - tree, trains, a nice breeze and rain -  to the extraordinary - skipping jungle cats and alligator acrobats.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: We have so many reasons to give thanks. 

An Awesome Book of Thanks is a children's book that teaches values

2. GENEROSITY

THE GIVING TREE
BY: Shel Silverstein
A classic by Shel Silverstein, this tender story is that of a boy who learns a lesson about the gift of giving - but only after it’s too late.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Generosity should be appreciated and returned.

THE MINE-O-SAUR
BY: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
The Mine-O-Saur is always snatching up all the toys, grabbing all the snacks and hoarding all the blocks, yelling “mine, mine, mine!”  When will he learn the secret to making friends?
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Sharing is caring.

THE QUILTMAKER'S GIFT
BY: Jeff Brumbeau
The generous Quiltmaker spends all of her time making quilts only to give them away. When she’s approached by the greedy king to make him a quilt, she agrees, but only under certain conditions.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Giving is the true secret to happiness.

ONE HEN: HOW ONE SMALL LOAN MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE
BY
: Katie Smith Milway
This is the true story of a mother who gives a little money to her son, Kojo, after receiving a loan from some village families. With this tiny loan, Kojo buys a hen that grows to a large flock and then an entire farm.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Giving even a little can make a big difference.

A CHAIR FOR MY MOTHER
BY: Vera B. Williams
After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins in hopes of buying a comfortable chair that her hard-working mother deserves.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Generosity is important in hard times. 

A Chair For My Mother is a children's book that teaches values

3. HONESTY 

THE EMPTY POT
BY: Demi
A Chinese emperor holds a contest where the child who grows the most beautiful flowers from his seeds will be his successor. On the final day, it appears many children have won the contest, but there is only one true winner.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Honesty is the best policy.

DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE
BY: David Shannon
David always has a good excuse ready whenever he gets in trouble for his mischievous antics. Slowly, David realizes that making excuses makes him feel bad, and saying he's sorry makes him feel better.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: It’s better to own up to your mistakes.

EDWURD FUDWUPPER FIBBED BIG
BY: Berkeley Breathed
Fannie Fudwupper's big brother, Edwurd, spends his time cooking up giant lies. But one day, Edwurd tells such a whopping lie that the army, the air force, and the dogcatcher are called to reverse the damage.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Stick with the truth.

SAM TELLS STORIES
BY: Thierry Robberecht
Sam is so eager to make friends at his new school that he tells them a story that isn’t true. But when the truth comes out, Sam realizes the difference between telling a story and spinning a tale.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Your true self is your best self.

THE BERENSTAIN BEARS AND THE TRUTH
BY: Stan and Jan Berenstain
When Brother and Sister Bear accidentally break Mama's favorite lamp, their little lie about how it happened grows bigger and bigger. Thankfully, Papa Bear helps them find the words that set everything right again.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: You’ll always feel proud about telling the truth when the  time comes. 

The Berenstain Bears and the Truth is a children's book that teaches values

4. KINDNESS

GOOD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE
By: Lynea Gillen
This colorful picture book contains endearing examples and vibrant illustrations of people doing good to inspire children to be grateful, caring, and kind. Be it the people that build houses, deliver babies, or take care of others, the message is that people are good.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Kindness is always appreciated.

HEY LITTLE ANT
BY: Phillip M. Hoose
This fun book explores life from an ant’s perspective, when an ant strikes up a conversation with the boy who’s about to step on him.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Kindness should extend to all living creatures.

EACH KINDNESS
BY: Jacqueline Woodson
New girl, Maya, comes to school and tries to befriend Chloe, but Chloe continually rejects Maya’s attempts at friendship. After Ms. Albert teaches a lesson about kindness, Chloe realizes she has been cruel to Maya. But Maya’s family has moved away, and Chloe is left feeling that she will never have a chance to show Maya kindness.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: You never know how far even a little bit of kindness can go.

A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE
BY: Philip C. Stead
Amos McGee, the zookeeper, makes sure to spend a little bit of time with each of his animal friends each day at the zoo. When Amos is too sick to go to work, his animal friends come to him to return the favor.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Be kind to others and they will be kind to you.  

HAVE YOU FILLED A BUCKET TODAY?
BY: Carol McCloud
This award-winning book is based on a beautiful metaphor - that everyone has an invisible bucket that be either be filled or dipped into. Helping others and being kind feels the bucket, while the opposite empties it out.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Helping others and being kind brings happiness to yourself and others. 

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is a children's book that teaches values

5. INDIVIDUALITY

A BAD CASE OF STRIPES
BY: David Shannon
Camilla Cream is very, very worried about what other people think of her. In fact, she's so worried that she refuses to eat her favorite food, lima beans, simply because the other kids don’t like them. But things change when she breaks out in a bad case of the stripes.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Being different is nothing to be ashamed of.

TACKY THE PENGUIN
BY: Helen Lester
Tacky is an odd bird and his friends make fun of him for it all the time. But when hunters come, his odd behavior saves the day.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Being different has its perks.

THE STORY OF FERDINAND
BY
: Munro Leaf
Ferdinand isn’t like all the other bulls. While they snort, leap, and butt their heads, Ferdinand is content to just sit and smell the flowers under his favorite cork tree.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Always march to the beat of your own drum.

STEPHANIE’S PONYTAIL
BY: Robert Munsch
Stephanie’s friends, and even her teacher, start copying how she wears her ponytail. She moves it to the side, to the top of her head, even right in front of her face, but they still keep copying her. Until one day she outsmarts them all.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Strive for non-conformity.

ELMER
BY: David McKee
Elmer is the multi-colored elephant, while all the other elephants are grey. He’s different and not so sure he likes that. It takes some time for Elmer to accept who he is, but, when he does, he couldn’t be happier.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Self-acceptance takes time, but comes with a big reward. 

Elmer is a children's book that teaches values
Mirele writes about everything related to doing good, with a particular interest in volunteering and social entrepreneurship, informed by her background in eco tourism.

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