Growth mindset is a hot topic right now, which is understandable as everyone wants their child to understand how working through struggles no matter what the setbacks can bring success and satisfaction. This list of growth mindset books for kids will help you start a conversation about the difference between fixed and growth mindsets.
I've included books that address the mindset issue head on, and others which are more subtle. I wanted to find books that demonstrate that growth mindset is not all about academics but is a way of approaching difficulties that will benefit children in many areas of their life. It was also important to me that I include books with a diverse group of protagonists, and I even found a great bilingual book, too.
Carol Dweck, the author who shined a spotlight on growth mindset wrote,
If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.
I hope these diverse growth mindset picture books will help you give your children the gift of loving challenges! (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki. Even though she is just a beginner, Hana signs up to play the violin in her school talent show, but her brothers tell her she isn't good enough. Hana won't let that discourage her, and inspired by her grandfather, she sets out to practice, practice, practice. As in most things in life, it is not all smooth sailing when she begins to doubt herself, but that's where the growth mindset comes in. Hana does not give up and her performance surprises even her!
Two Problems for Sophia by Jim Averback. In One Word for Sophia, Sophia used her stellar negotiating skills to convince her parents to get her a giraffe. Now that she has "Noodle," the animal is causing a bit of a problem. Noodle gives yucky wet kisses and he snores! Sophia's parents direct her to fix these problems and Sophia exercises her research and engineering skills. An utterly delightful book, which continues the tradition of the first book by sprinkling new vocabulary throughout the story.
When Sophie Thinks She Can't by Molly Bang. You may recognize Sophie from the bestselling book, "When Sophie Gets Angry–Really Really Angry." Sophie has been experiencing great frustration working on puzzles but her teacher shares with the class the concept of growth mindset. She encourages them to think about what it means to be "smart" and inspires Sophie to persevere and break out of her fixed mindset to solve problems and stretch her abilities. This book introduces the idea of adding "yet" to the end of the sentence, "I can't do it..."
What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada. In this book, a child has a problem and they don't know how to overcome it, so they avoid it. In fact, they go to great lengths to avoid the problem. But, as we all know, avoiding a problem never makes it go away. When the child finally faces the problem, it turns out not to be as unsolvable as they believed.
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett. Beatrice Bottomwell (what a name!) does everything perfectly. Yet, she starts to worry that one day she will do something wrong and her anxiety begins to suck the joy out of life. One day when she makes a mistake she feels so embarrassed and as a result, she breaks out of her fixed mindset and learns that making mistakes is okay!
Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams. A galimoto is simply a push toy crafted out of found material. Kondi decides he wants to make a galimoto out of wire, he's been saving up in his shoebox. Undeterred by his short supply he wanders around his village in search of more wire. I love how his determination to make a galimoto is also admired by the others he meets during his search and that despite a few obstacles he remains persistent. Even when he finally completes his toy, he looks to the future, imagining what he will make next.
Melia and Jo by Billy Aronson. This is a wonderful choice about how growth mindset is not just a solitary affair. Melia is very scientific. She like rules, measurements and inventing things. One day she meets Jo. Jo is artistic, she loves dancing, thinking out of the box and letting her imagination run wild. At first Melia is annoyed by Jo's interference but then they start to work together and realize that their styles are better together! The endnotes of the book give instructions for Melia and Jo's airplane and a discussion of turning STEM into STEAM.
The Dreamer by Il Sung Na. This pig loves to watch the birds and he dreams of flying just like them. So he sets out to build a flying machine. It's not easy and it takes many, many tries and a lot of perseverance, but he does it, and yes, when you finish this book you, too, will have seen a pig fly.
Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson. Emmanuel was born in Ghana with only one leg. Most children with disabilities didn't go to school, but Emanuel was determined and hopped two miles each way to attend school. After his mother died, he decided to honor her last words by proving "that being disabled does not mean being unable." He completed the astounding feat of bicycling 400 miles in 10 days. To say the least, Emmanuel's is an inspiring story, and Thompson and Qualls do great justice to his accomplishments. An author's note describes his continuing work and successes on behalf of disabled persons in Ghana.
Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall. Ixchel's mother is a weaver and Ixchel really wants to learn how to weave on the traditional looms and sell her wares to earn money for school. But there isn't enough thread for Ixchel to practice, and her mother is always too busy. Ixchel is left to figure out a way to get over these hurdles. When Ixchel notices the plastic bags in the environment, Ixchel comes up with her own idea! A bilingual book.
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak. If you are looking for an age appropriate picture book for elementary students that addresses how the brain works and how a growth mindset can benefit them, this is a good choice. The book is easy to understand and entertaining enough so that facts do not take on a moralizing posture. Kids will come away with the knowledge that they have the capacity to learn anything they want to.
It's Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr. You are likely familiar with Parr's trademark illustrative style and signature direct, but cheerful text. In his familiar way, Parr teaches kids it's okay to be different, to make mistakes and to try something new. A fun, easy-going book, and a perfect growth mindset book for preschoolers.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. I love young Jabari! Having a growth mindset means facing your fears, even if it takes a little extra time, and a bit of loving encouragement. Jabari thinks he is ready for the diving board, but it is such a big step! His dad lets him know that it's okay to feel scared and Jabari takes the time he needs and he finally does it! Part of breaking out a fixed mindset is accepting that some things might be scary but they are still worth doing.
Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina. Tía Isa dreams of having a shiny green car to drive to the beach! Even though Isa lacks the funds she is determined to find a way to gather together the money. The narrator (her niece) decides to help earn the money and works odd jobs to save up. Together, Tía and her niece go to the dealership and pick out a car. I like the positive relationships among extended family members and how they work together to make Tía's dream come true. It's a great book to show that a growth mindset can be a community attitude and is something that we use in many aspects of life, not just academics!
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. Having a can-do attitude like the protagonist is a must for any person wanting to make make her mark in the world of science and technology. With the help of her assistant dog, a “regular girl” decides she is going to invent a most MAGNIFICENT thing. She has a lot of false starts. Nothing seems to be turning out the way she wants and it’s so frustrating for her! However, she takes a walk, comes back and looks at her inventions afresh, and finally figures things out. I adore the “lesson” in the book, that success comes only after “failure.”
Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander. This is an excellent book to teach children that every student in a classroom has unique challenges and skills. The class is making cards for their principal but Stan has trouble forming letters and his handwriting is all mushy and unreadable. He feels discouraged but doesn’t know how to ask for help. Stan doesn't let that get him down! Add this title to your shelf of growth mindset books to teach the importance of getting help for one’s struggles and giving oneself permission to take the time necessary to learn and accomplish one’s tasks.
More books to teach growth mindset: