Growth Mindset is such an important topic to use with students to change the way they think, and build motivation and resilience. I use children’s books about growth mindset as a gateway for opening up discussions in the learning environment. Whether you are a teacher, counselor, or parent, using books to help illustrate a topic is a great way for kids to learn. As you are reading, ask questions and engage the reader.
When teaching this topic I like to pair a book with an activity. I use this Executive Functioning Passport activity that covers self-control and perseverance, and this SEL Curriculum on Self-management which covers Growth vs. Fixed Mindset. Here is a list of some of the awesome children’s books about growth mindset out there that I use to help teach this topic to students.
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MY FANTABULOUS BRAIN
Title of Book and Author: My Fantabulous Brain by Julia Cook
A short summary of the book: Meet Wade, a kiddo who is struggling with learning. He is having trouble focusing and processing information, this leads him to question his own abilities. In comes his Fantabulous Brain to the rescue to teach him all about the tools he can use in his Brain Toolbox to make his brain work smarter not harder. “Think of your brain as an engine, with seven mechanical parts. Of one part isn’t working well, you’ll go slow from the start.” The Core brain skills mentioned are: Auditory processing, processing speed, visual processing, working memory, attention, long-term memory, and logic & reasoning.
Why I like the book: The book discusses brain training and provides colored arrows exercises and wordplay activity to train your brain to handle new challenges. These are awesome to use to follow up after a class lesson reading of the book or within small groups. This is definitely a must-have for your success skills groups and for children with learning disabilities and/or kids struggling with sustaining attention and focus.
The moral of the story: You can teach your brain to handle new challenges.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Learning Challenges, Overcoming adversity
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): My Fantabulous Brain on Amazon
THE MAGICAL YET
Title of Book and Author: The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi
A short summary of the book: The Magical Yet is a magical little creature and is an amazing thought re-arranger. With the Yet’s magic, you can see there are so many things that you’ve learned to do that were once hard for you and now they are easy. “Yet finds a way even when you don’t, and Yet knows you will when you think you won’t”. Yet knows there are mistakes that are going to be made, practicing and more practicing to learn a skill, yet says “keep trying and practice a lot”. Yet talks about waiting because some things take a long time to learn. Once you get there, you will see a bolder braver you. “So, no matter how big or old you get, you’ll never forget, you can always believe in the magic of Yet.”
Why I like the book: This book is pure magic! The idea of making the concept of yet a little magical creature called “Yet” is so creative and makes it easier to understand. The illustrations are beautiful, colorful, and engaging. I love that the character grows up and still uses the magical yet. It also has great examples about learning to talk, that we babbled first, and then talked and learning to crawl before we could walk. It really paints the picture for kids to understand that it takes time to achieve certain goals.
The moral of the story: Believe in yourself and keep going.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Determination, Perseverance, Self-confidence, Motivation.
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Magical Yet on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
A short summary of the book: This book opens with a phrase we’re all familiar with: “Oops!” Salzberg crafts a short but engaging narrative about how mistakes are something to celebrate. “A smudge and a smear,” for example, “can make magic appear!” Beautiful Oops! is perfect for early readers, but the timeless messages can be shared with all ages.
Why I like the book: Saltzberg uses creative examples that little learners can relate to – like a spill or a tear in a piece of paper – to teach that mistakes are nothing to fear. I love that this book is interactive. Many pages fold down to reveal part of the story for a surprise around every corner.
The moral of the story: Mistakes are something to celebrate. When we make mistakes, our perspective matters. We can see a mistake as terrible or as something wonderful.
Topics covered: Overcoming Mistakes; Perspective; Creativity
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Beautiful Oops! on Amazon
I CAN’T DO THAT, YET
Title of Book and Author: I can’t do that, YET: Growth Mindset by Esther P Cordova
A short summary of the book: Enna and her father sit down to read a book, her father asks her to read the first page and she says she can’t do it. Enna then has a dream and she is visited by her future self. Her future self is a computer programmer and Enna can hardly believe it because she can’t do any programming now, but her future self tells her “You can’t do that YET.” She then meets other potential future selves, and realizes that all she needs to be able to read that book is a little time to get it right.
Why I like the book: I love that Enna meets your future self and she is a programmer that created a game, kids will really find that interesting. I also love the idea that she has many different possible futures selves showing she is capable of a lot. The concept of teaching kids “you can’t do something…yet” is very important to learn to persevere and not give up.
The moral of the story: Don’t give up and believe in yourself.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Self-esteem, Determination, Perseverance.
I CAN DO HARD THINGS
Title of Book and Author: I Can Do Hard Things by Gabi Garcia
A short summary of the book: Kids get so many messages about how they should be, it can be overwhelming. When this happens, it’s important to listen to that quiet voice inside and use it as a guide. Some of the voices the book goes through are: I can do hard things, I can be a friend to myself, I can ask for help, I can feel all my feelings, I can believe in myself, I can try again, I can understand different points of view, I can practice peace, and more. It reiterates “I’m ready for the hard things I have to do, and please remember, so are you!”
Why I like the book: The illustrations are so diverse, I am completely in love with them. There are many different skin colors, ethnicities, cultures, and disabilities shown. Representation is so important and this book truly has that. I also love the affirmations for kids focusing not only on having a growth mindset but also kindness and acceptance of others. This book is a total gem!
The moral of the story: I can use Mindful affirmations to motivate myself when things get difficult.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Determination, Perseverance, Mindfulness
YOUR FANTASTIC ELASTIC BRAIN
Title of Book and Author: Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak
A short summary of the book: This book teaches kids all about the brain, going into detail about the Cerebellum, Hippocampus, and more. It explains how the brain functions and how to grow your brain or get it to “stretch”. Your brain stretches (and grows) when you learn something new, practice, make mistakes and overcome fears. You can help shape your brain by becoming a Neurosculptor and adding new things you can do.
Why I like the book: The author does a fantastic job explaining how the brain works, I think kids would appreciate the anatomy and functions of their brain. I also think it gives a sense of power and control to the child, understanding how they can grow their brain with new skills. She also shows how making mistakes and practicing until you improve help your brain grow and that is a very important concept for kids to understand. Important to note, it is written more informative than a storytelling-type book.
The moral of the story: Learning how your brain works, helps you to understand how to grow it with new knowledge and skills.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Self-esteem, Determination, Perseverance.
MAKING A SPLASH
Title of Book and Author: Making a Splash by Carol E Reiley
A short summary of the book: Lisa and her brother Johnny go to swim class. Johnny jumps in the water and is naturally a fast and awesome swimmer. Lisa is not, and she feels upset and that swimming is too hard. Her coach tells her, she can’t do it YET. The next day, the coach challenges Johnny to swim without the kickboard which will be harder and he prefers the easy way (fixed mindset). Lisa decides to swim without the kickboard (growth mindset). Each time Lisa tried different ways to swim, it was hard, but she kept going and she became a stronger and better swimmer. Her brain was also getting stronger. When Lisa and Johnny’s family take a trip to the beach, Johnny does not want to go swimming because he does not want to take the risk, while all of Lisa’s hard work pays off with her swimming skills. Johnny changes his non-risk taking ways and starts to challenge himself more in the future.
Why I like the book: I love that this book focuses on two different perspectives, one with a fixed mindset and one with a growth mindset. I also find it unique that it shows the kids struggling to learn a new skill like swimming instead of doing something academic. The most important part is showing that although Lisa chose the harder route, she ended up benefiting from it the most in the long run.
The moral of the story: Taking the harder road can pay off in the long run.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Determination, Perseverance, Goal Setting.
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Making a Splash on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
A short summary of the book: Vashti’s art teacher asks her why her paper is blank, she says “I just can’t draw!”. Her teacher tells her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” So she puts a dot on the paper in frustration. Her teacher asks her to sign her artwork, she does so, and her teacher frames and hangs her dot on the wall. Vashti thinks “I can make a better dot than that!”, and paints lots and lots of dots. Vashti’s dot paintings end up at the school’s art show, a little boy sees her art and tells Vashti, “I wish I could draw too”, she then asks him to draw a line and sign it.
Why I like the book: I basically love everything about this book, but the way that the teacher inspires the student to try is truly touching. It shows that when you believe in someone, they are capable of more than you or they even realized. One success gave the child the confidence to try harder and create more art. Which then leads to that same child, inspiring someone else to do the same. So many great lessons in this book!
The moral of the story: Have confidence in your own capabilities and encourage others to do the same.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Self-esteem, Motivation
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Dot on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Smart Ninja by Mary Nhin
A short summary of the book: Smart Ninja used to have a fixed mindset, this means he thought that intelligence and talent were the determining factors of success. He would often avoid activities he was not typically good at and would get discouraged if he did not pick up new skills quickly. Now he has a growth mindset and believes that effort and hard work determine success. He uses the E.O.I strategy, which stands for effort over intelligence.
Why I like the book: I like that the book talks about learning to focus on effort instead of intelligence and that the ninja may come across things that are hard, but to keep trying and not to give up. I love the Ninja character, it’s adorable and kids will get a kick out of it.
The moral of the story: Focus on the effort you put forth.
Topics covered: Growth Mindset, Determination, Perseverance.
THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING
Title of Book and Author: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.
A short summary of the book: One day, a young girl decides that she is going to make the most magnificent thing with the help of her assistant and “best friend in the entire world”, her adorable dog. She knows exactly what the most magnificent thing will look like and what it will do. As she begins to make her most magnificent thing, the process proves to be more difficult than she anticipated. In fact, she decides that everything is wrong. She tries to make it better, but ultimately gets frustrated and decides to quit.
Her assistant suggests taking a walk to clear her head and calm down. When she comes back, she realizes that there are parts of her creation that are wonderful. In the end, she creates something that isn’t perfect, but is just what she wanted.
Why I like the book: Spires’ whimsical illustrations and kid-friendly language are sure to make this book a class favorite. This is an excellent story for Back to School and character education lessons. The best part of this book is that everyone can relate to having a great idea – and getting frustrated when it doesn’t go your way. Your students will see that turning an idea into reality takes many trials and failures before it’s just right.
The moral of the story: The Most Magnificent Thing assures children that there is value in making mistakes. When you make a mistake, you can turn it into a success story by reviewing what went wrong, rethinking, taking a break, and trying again.
Topics covered: Overcoming Mistakes; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM); Determination; Perseverance
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Most Magnificent Thing on Amazon
Growth Mindset Resources
Pair your favorite children’s books about growth mindset with these engaging activities to make the perfect classroom lesson.