10 Picture Books To Build Resilience

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As much as we moms may want to shelter our kids as much as possible from any harm or tragedy, the truth is that it’s just something largely out of our control. As our kids grow up they will get hurt, both physically and emotionally, and there’s nothing we can do to stop that.

What we can do however, is instill in them a resilient spirit that helps them conquer the struggles they’ll face. To help them learn to bounce back from disappointments, to not be brought down by the negative opinions or harsh words of others. Ultimately, we can help them learn to overcome the obstacles that will always be part of their lives.

There are actually quite a few books on the market currently with the theme of resiliency and perseverance. A lot of them, I’ve noticed though, are filled with pretty harsh circumstances and cruel villains. I know as my kids get older, they’ll start learning and reading about heavier topics.

But at this point, my oldest just 4 and a half years old. I don’t want to read anything to him (and little brothers) that will scare him or introduce ways of bullying he’s never even thought of or encountered before. Also, being a homeschool family, I don’t feel a strong urge at this point to be preparing my kids for interaction with bullying, or any other poor behavior that would likely be present in the school setting.

So here are my top ten book suggestions with strong themes of overcoming difficulties and having a resilient spirit, but with mild enough plot lines for even your youngest readers.

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The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. This is an incredibly uncomplicated story with simple illustrations and text, ideal for young toddlers. A little boy plants a carrot seed, but no one believes it will grow. He continues to water and weed and nurture it, anyways. He doesn’t give up, and eventually he has a carrot he grew all by himself, just like he knew he would.


The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. This story is actually twofold in how it teaches resiliency. First, there’s the toys on the broken down train that don’t give up even as trains come and go, refusing to help. Then there’s the little blue engine who’s never been over the mountain before, but is willing to try… “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” and through determination does indeed make it over the mountain to get the toys (and good food) to the good little girls and boys on the other side.


Whistle For Willie by Ezra Jack Keats. Join little Peter as he learns to whistle for his dog Willie. As he goes about his day, he tries many different ways to whistle (including putting on his fathers hat to be like a grown up!), but keeps failing. He doesn’t give up though, and he finally gets it, illustrating how hard work and perseverance bring reward.


A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams. This is such a good book! It does have a little bit of a heavier storyline, but my 2 and 4 year old boys both love it. It’s the story of how a girl, her mom, and grandmother save all their spare money in a jar together in order to buy a new chair. Their old apartment caught fire recently (there’s one really non-scary picture of it, and nobody was hurt), and they lost all their old furniture. As they work together to buy a new chair (with roses on it!), they also portray how the most important thing is having each other.


A Chip Off the Old Block by Jody Jensen Shaffer. In this gorgeously illustrated and heartwarming (and super witty) story, little Rocky sets out to be something important. He gets tossed and tumbled, but he doesn’t give up! By the end, he finds he purpose, and we see that even the littlest pebble can make a big difference if he doesn’t give up.


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. When all the old steam shovels start getting replaced by new electric and diesel-engine shovels, Mike Mulligan determines to not let his steam shovel Mary Anne be sold for junk! He goes out to a little town in the country, to build a cellar for a their new town hall. He gets the job by promising to do it in one day. This is just about impossible, but by working harder and faster than they’ve ever worked before, Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne finish what they set out to do!


The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. The little house is built in the country, and enjoys watching the seasons change and the children grow. As years go on, the far-away city grows bigger and closer, and the little house ends up being in the city and becoming run down. Eventually, descendants of the man who built the house come to find it, and take the little house back to the country where she’s happy again.


Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Okay, so obviously I love Virginia Lee Burton! Her stories are just so good, and I love her illustrations too! In this story, Katy the tractor works tirelessly all night long after a big snow storm, clearing the roads. The doctor, the postmaster, the mailmen, and others all need their routes cleared, and Katy doesn’t rest until all the roads are cleared for the people to get through.


Three Cheers for Kid McGear! by Sherri Duskey Rinker. Kid McGear is the new truck on the construction site, but the rest of the crew thinks she’s too small to be of any help. With a good attitude, she decides to wait for next time, but then the crew calls for help as two of the trucks are in trouble. Despite being small, Kid is just who the trucks need to rescue them! This story also does a great job of illustrating the importance of teamwork.


Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick. When the other plows don’t believe in him, Small Walt rises above their criticism and sets out to prove them wrong. He may be small, but he proves that even the littlest ones can work hard and get the job done!


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