Having courage is an important part of everyone's life. This is why it is so important to teach to kids. I use children’s books about courage 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.
I often cover being brave in my lessons, I use this Character Education: Courage lessons and activities that include a variety of ways to reinforce courage in the classroom. I also like to include Self-esteem lessons to encourage believing in yourself and that increases courage as well. This Self-Esteem Sunglasses activity is a student fave, they practice changing negative self-statements to positive ones. Here is a list of some of the awesome children’s books about courage out there that I use to help teach this topic to students.
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I CAN SAY NO
Title of Book and Author: I can say NO by Jenny Simmons
A short summary of the book: The story is about a girl who learns to say NO. She learns to say no to things that she is uncomfortable with, things she is not interested in or does not have time for. She says no to her own negative thoughts, and to herself when she feels like quitting. She learns to say no to keep herself safe, to those who invade her personal space, and no to peer pressure. She can say no to hate: "I can use my words if someone looks down on me for the color of my skin or the makeup of my family. I can say, NO! There is no room here for hate, injustice, unkindness, or fear."
Why I like the book: This book is EXACTLY what I needed right now because it covers ALL the relevant topics. So many lessons can be taught using this book: respecting yourself and others, setting boundaries, peer pressure, and making safe choices. As someone who has trouble saying NO as an adult, the book really has a special place in my heart. I plan on using this book with students for years to come!
Moral of the story: Saying no means you know your own limits.
Topics covered: Courage; Bravery; Acceptance; Personal Safety; Self-esteem
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): I can say NO on Amazon
DON'T BE AFRAID TO DROP
Title of Book and Author: Don’t be Afraid to Drop by Julia Cook
A short summary of the book: The story centers around a raindrop, Hopp, who is afraid to drop to earth from his safe and comfortable cloud. His dad encourages him to take a risk, and be brave. He gets nervous and asks his dad "What if" questions and asks if his dad will go with him. His dad explains that this is something he has to do on his own, he tells him: "Don't be afraid to drop to the ground. Be brave and trust what I say. If you don’t take a risk, you'll never find out what great things might happen today." Hopp takes a deep breath and decides to drop, feeling proud. He drops on a carrot and helps nourish it. Then he rises back to the cloud (back home) and his dad is waiting to tell him how proud he is of him.
Why I like the book: Learning to cope and accept change is an important life skill since change is a part of life. This book is such a great way to discuss change and taking a risk even when you are nervous. I especially think it will be great for incoming Kindergarten kiddos who are nervous about going to school for the first time and being away from their parents.
The moral of the story: If you never take any risks, you’ll never find out what great things could happen.
Topics covered: Courage; Bravery
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Don't be afraid to drop on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
A short summary of the book: Jabari is an African American little boy who has finished swimming lessons and passed his swim test. He is a great jumper and is ready to jump off of the diving board. There’s no reason for him to be scared.
Jabari watches the other kids as they take turns jumping off of the diving board. Jabari’s dad patiently stands with him as he decides what kind of jump he wants to do. His dad squeezes his hand, and Jabari returns the squeeze. His dad continues to wait with him as he overcomes his hesitations and finally has enough courage to make his big jump.
Why I like the book: So many books are beautifully written about being courageous but Jabari Jumps stands out as it also highlights the importance of relying on a supportive adult while overcoming fears. The illustrations in this story are also so inviting to the reader’s eye.
The moral of the story: Bravery is important when you’re faced with scary situations, and support from the ones you love is helpful along the way.
Topics covered: Worry; Courage; Bravery; Fears; Support
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Jabari Jumps on Amazon
I WILL BE FIERCE!
Title of Book and Author: I will be Fierce! by Bea Birdsong
A short summary of the book: A young girl stars in this book as a knight in an epic battle to face her day. She starts her day by putting on her rainbow sweater (her armor) and filling her backpack (treasure chest). She uses her imagination to continue to make the day exciting while also standing up for her beliefs, such as sitting with a peer who was alone in the cafeteria. At the end of the school day, the girl goes back home and rests to prepare to be fierce again the next day.
Why I like the book: Throughout the day, the girl states “I will be fierce!” to highlight the book’s message of courage and confidence. I Will Be Fierce also showcases a multiracial environment with different characters seen throughout the story and shows students how to find the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of the day.
The moral of the story: You can do anything you set your mind to!
Topics covered: Courage; Confidence; Kindness; Friendship
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): I will be Fierce on Amazon
RILEY THE BRAVE
Title of Book and Author: Riley the Brave by Jessica Sinarski
A short summary of the book: Riley is a little bear with big feelings. He often feels happy-go-lucky and loves playing with his friends by racing on his scooter, painting, and eating honey. Sometimes though he feels angry and confused when he thinks about memories from his past; when he was younger he had to act like a porcupine so that bigger bears wouldn’t take his food or hurt him. Riley begins to learn that he is brave and can talk to safe big-critters about things that frighten him. Riley doesn’t have to hide or be afraid anymore because he can trust his safe critters.
Why I like the book: Jessica Sinarski writes about important issues for everyone, both children who have and have not experienced trauma. Her book helps children who have not dealt with trauma learn to have empathy towards others and helps those who have experienced these hard things be able to begin to process through them. The colorful and contrasting illustrations help keep the book engaging for children.
The moral of the story: Being brave is not always about being tough; it is more courageous at times to ask for help from others.
Topics covered: Bravery; Trauma; Feelings; Empathy
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Riley the Brave on Amazon
WHEN YOU ARE BRAVE
Title of Book and Author: When You are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller
A short summary of the book: When You are Brave is about a young girl who feels lonely and small in many hard moments like saying goodbye to neighbors, seeing dark roads, and worrying about meeting new friends. When the girl breathes deeply and reflects within herself, she finds a spark within herself. The spark is courage, and the girl realizes she can grow the spark so that she can shine both inside and out.
Why I like the book: This story is relatable to children as examples of real-life hard times are displayed. The simplicity of the words and pictures makes the concepts relate even more.
The moral of the story: Despite your circumstances, take hold of your inner light and be brave!
Topics covered: Bravery; Challenges; Opportunities; Transformation
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): When you are Brave on Amazon
THE DAY YOU BEGIN
Title of Book and Author: The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
A short summary of the book: The main character of this book is an African-American girl named Angelina. Angelina feels like she does not fit in with her peers because her skin, clothes, and hair look different than her classmates’. There are several other characters in the book who also feel singled out because of their differences. Angelina discovers that sharing her story with her classmates helps her celebrate her uniqueness while also making friends as they connect over similarities and differences.
Why I like the book: Jaqueline Woodson writes this book directly to children and describes moments when a child might feel like an outsider for various reasons such as speaking a different language, the color of one’s skin, or even the foods they bring to lunch at school. The illustrations in Woodson’s book help children see and understand that experiences and unique identities can help people connect. This book is also available in Spanish.
Moral of the story: Everyone feels like an outsider at times. Our bravery grows when we take steps forward despite these feelings.
Topics covered: Courage; Bravery; Friendships; Community
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Day you Begin on Amazon
THE LION INSIDE
Title of Book and Author: The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright
A short summary of the book: In The Lion Inside, a mouse feels insecure and small. He decides that he must figure out how to roar like a lion. He must choose to act brave by approaching a lion to learn how to roar boldly. The mouse soon discovers that the lion is actually afraid of mice, and the mouse is able to comfort the lion. The lion and the mouse become friends and learn that everyone has fears and the ability to be brave inside of them.
Why I like the book: Students can learn from this book that they can all live out their dreams no matter how big or mighty their dreams seem.
The moral of the story: We all have a lion inside of us!
Topics covered: Bravery; Friendship; Insecurities
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Lion Inside on Amazon
BRAVE AS CAN BE
Title of Book and Author: Brave as Can Be by Jo Witek
A short summary of the book: In Brave as Can Be, an older sister helps her younger sister learn how to not be afraid. She talks to her younger sister about all of the things that used to make her afraid and tricks that helped her overcome the scary things. She assures her sister that fears that once felt huge can actually become tiny as she gains confidence and courage to face them.
Why I like the book: The creative layout of each page with peek-a-boo pictures and bright colors helps keep the reader engaged. Jo Witek’s story is also great to open discussions with small children about their fears.
The moral of the story: You can overcome your fears!
Topics covered: Bravery; Worry; Fears; Facing Challenges; Confidence
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Brave as can be on Amazon
I AM COURAGE
Title of Book and Author: I Am Courage by Susan Verde
A short summary of the book: I Am Courage is about a young girl who faces hardships and worries such as being afraid of falling off of her bicycle. She learns to use positive affirmations to help her take one step forward at a time. The girl finds strength within herself to get back up when she falls down and becomes more courageous each time this happens. The importance of leaning on others in times of need, sharing difficulties, and helping others who are afraid is highlighted as the story progresses.
Why I like the book: At the end of the story, the reader can find practical strategies to aid in developing courage such as yoga poses and mindfulness techniques. Students are also reminded throughout the story that friends are important in the process of facing fears and that courage is not the lack of fear but instead, the action that one takes in the face of fear.
The moral of the story: You can conquer anything you set your mind to!
Topics covered: Resilience; Courage; Diversity; Fears; Mindfulness; Inner Strength; Friendship
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): I am Courage on Amazon
Pair your favorite children’s books about courage with these engaging activities to make the perfect classroom lesson.