Children's books about perseverance will share with children the value of following through, determination and the rewards of working hard on a task, even when things are difficult. Buzz words like "grit" and "growth mindset" are the companions of good old fashioned perseverance!
Teach kids about perseverance with this wide range of picture books, both fiction and non-fiction, featuring different interests and styles, from science to theater, history, families and even labor disputes. When reading aloud these texts, ask kids about their own challenges. Was there a time that they met with success after hard word, reached a long-sought after goal, or learned a new skill?
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Children's Books about Perseverance
TOGETHER WE RIDE by Valerie Bolling, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
When one thinks of classic childhood determination to master a skill, learning how to ride a bike is most likely one of the first thing that comes to mind! Bolling's judicious and spare use of text focuses our attention of the illustrations and the partnership of parent and child as the two work together, persevering until the skill is learned. Joyous! Ages 3 and up.
SKATER CIELO by Rachel Katstaller
Fearless Cielo loves to zip around town on her skateboard and now a new skate park has opened up! The park offers a new trick to perform and new pools to try. The biggest pool, "The Whale," is tricky and Cielo is having trouble mastering it. When she falls off her board, she wants to give up. However, her skater friends won't let her quit so easily and their friendly encouragement has her back on the board. Your young listeners will be charmed by the dynamic flow of the words and illustrations of this wonderful story. Ages 4 and up.
THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING (series) by Ashley Spires
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” (something my kids learned about failure and how it makes you think like a scientist during our diy science camp). You know: trial and error. Ages 4 and up.
THE UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Alexander's tribute to Black American is a stunning poem. This moving and lyrical journey through the ways African-Americans have shaped, persevered and responded to events in history will inspire meaningful conversations with your children. A treasure trove of historical information about the figures depicted in the illustrations can be found in an extensive endnote. Ages 6 and up.
KEEP YOUR HEAD UP by Aliya King Neil, illustrated by Charly Palmer
I was blown away by this book. The narrative teaches kids that even when we have extra lousy days and our moods seem to control us we can show ourselves the grace to forgive ourselves. D is having a bad day. Everything seems to be going wrong and his frustrations eventually leads to a meltdown at school. But D is reminds himself to "keep his head up" because everyone can have a bad day. A fantastic book for social emotional learning. Truly wonderful and a must for every child’s bookshelf. Ages 4 and up.
EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
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. 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. Ages 5 and up.
FLIGHT SCHOOL by Lita Judge
A young penguin may not have exactly the right body for flight, but he has the "soul of an eagle." Eager to enroll in flight school and learn what it takes to soar, he is not discouraged. Fortunately, the other birds are so taken with his determination and perseverance that they do what it takes to make his dreams come true. Utterly delightful. Ages 3 and up.
ME AND THE BOSS: A STORY ABOUT MENDING AND LOVE by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by April Harrison
When I saw the author and illustrator's names attached to this book, I ran to pick up a copy. I was not disappointed. Lee accompanies his older sister, Zora (aka "the boss") to a library program where the children learn to sew. Lee watches his sister sew a flower, but he struggles to make a stitch. He takes his materials home and practices and practices until he gets it right. I absolutely adored this book and it's pitch perfect representation of sibling love and relationships. Ages 5 and up.
A CHAIR FOR MY MOTHER by Vera B. Williams
Familial love is a great motivator. The narrator, a young girl, describes how her family lost everything in a fire. They found a new home and their neighbors donated furniture but what they lacked was a comfortable chair for her mother to rest in after her days of work as a waitress. The family saves their change in a jar and when the coins finally reach the top, they set off to buy the perfect chair. The story is quietly appealing and shares a valuable lesson not just about perseverance and love, but about recognizing that for many families, having a good chair is a luxury. ages 4 and up.
BRAVE IRENE by William Steig
Irene's mother is a dressmaker and is unable to deliver an important gown to the duchess. In typical Steig style, Irene braves the winter storm, facing her foes, the whipping wind and swirling snow to get the gown to the grateful lady in time. Ages 4 and up.
MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Danny Popovici
Dashrath Manjhi lives in a poor village in India, but just on the other side of the mountain is another village where crops flourish, schools educate children and hospitals heal the sick. But the road between villages is 34 miles. Manjhi wants to connect the two villages so they can prosper together. He takes up a chisel and hammer and begins to carve a path through the mountain. It takes him 22 years, but finally the road–all 360 feet of it is finished. Based on a true story. Ages 5 and up.
A SKY-BLUE BENCH by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Peggy Collins
Aria, who lives in Afghanistan, has a prosthetic leg which prohibits her from sitting in the same manner as the rest of her classmates. But she is determined not to let that stop her from joining school lessons. A bench would allow her to sit comfortably, but since there is no money to purchase a bench, Aria must come up with a creative solution. A wonderful book about working within the constraints of hardships, community support and perseverance. Ages 4 and up.
ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali
In this picture book biography, 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, born with cerebral palsy, fights to secure passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. All her life, Keelan has persevered to join in activities, even when others told her she couldn't do it. When politicians ignore Keelan and her fellow activists, she climbs the steps of the Capitol, even though it means crawling the entire way. Although the ADA is a big step forward for inclusion for people with disabilities, the text acknowledges that more work is needed. Ages 4 and up.
AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO (series) by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua
This darling story about a girl hoping to figure out how to make the perfect bao is a testament to creative problem solving! Amy's parents and grandma all seem to be adept at making the delicious treats but Amy struggles and is determined not to give up. I love that Zhang included Amy's dad as part of the bao-making, intergenerational kitchen brigade. So often "cooking with family" books only include the women. Ages 4 and up.
YOU CAN DO IT, BERT! by Ole Könnecke
Find it: Your Library
Könnecke's book made us laugh out loud with its surprising twist. I will absolutely not give it away, so don't even ask. This is a lighthearted and gently humorous tale about a bird who is about to have a first time experience. Will he go for it? How will his friends react? My son was so delighted with this story that when his dad came home, he had to read it to him, just so he could recreate the magic of the moment when the reader finds out what Bert is really up to! Ages 3 and up.
CLICK CLACK MOO, COWS THAT TYPE (series) by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
If you want to raise kids who won't let their future employers walk all over them, read them this modern classic about a group of determined barnyard animals who persevere to get what they want, despite a grumpy farmer. Ages 4 and up.
ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER (series) by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Imaginative Rosie loves to tinker, build and invent. She gets discouraged when her inventions flop on the first try. Her wonderfully eccentric great-great-great aunt, however, explains to her that a flop is a successes because it paves the way for the next step in the inventive process. I love this message because it encourages kids to keep trying and trying - that genius talent is not necessary for success. It's perseverance that helps us improve. The rhyming, winsome text is infectious and the illustrations are full of imaginative inventions that will get kids chatting. Ages 5 and up.
AMAZING GRACE (series) by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch
An interesting fact is that Laura Bush named this title one of her 5 favorite books of all time. Grace's favorite thing to do is act out her favorite stories (and aren't all children natural actors during pretend play?). She wants to play the role of Peter Pan in the school production, but her friends tell her she can't because Peter is a boy, and not black. Her grandmother, however, shows Grace that she can be anything she wants, if she puts her mind to it. It so happens that Grace makes a delightful Peter Pan. Ages 5 and up.
HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This is the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who, when separated from his family was determined to reach freedom. Using his limited resources in an environment of great adversity and danger, and with the help of an abolitionist, he packs himself inside a crate and mails himself to freedom. Ages 5 and up.
THANK YOU, MR. FALKER by Patricia Polacco
Tricia wants to learn to read so much, but the lines of text just don't seem like anything but wiggly scribbles. Finally, in fifth grade she meets a compassionate teacher who helps her fulfill her wish. My son's teachers started out the school year with this book as a teaching tool to address the importance of perseverance in education. Even when things seem impossible, you are never dumb, you just haven't found the right method. Ages 5 and up.
ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA (series) by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Sophia’s one true desire is to get a giraffe for her birthday. She prepares elaborate, individualized presentations to argue her case before each family member: a judge, businessperson, lawyer and disciplinarian (grandma!). Can she win her case, and will she find just the right word to convince the jury? This book made us smile, especially since Sophia just would not give up! Ages 4 and up.
LA LA LA: A STORY OF HOPE by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jamie Kim
A girl starts to sing. "La!" When she acknowledges that she is alone she goes out, singing her La La La's, hoping for a response. Never getting a return "La," she doesn't want to give up. She climbs on a ladder and sings to the moon. Finally, she stops and lies down. But then! A surprise in the middle of the night! I don't want to give away the ending. This is a beautiful book, the story is told in the nearly wordless text (only "La" is used) and gorgeous illustrations. Ages 4 and up.
NYA'S LONG WALK by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
This story of Nya and her sister's two hour walk to fetch water is a companion picture book to Park's marvelous middle grade novel, A Long Walk to Water. In South Sudan, on their daily walk to water, Nya's sister, Akeer, becomes weak and cannot complete the walk home. Nya must figure out how to get her heavy vessel and her sister back to their mother. Through sheer determination, she does. Once home, it is clear that Akeer must get to a clinic, several days walk away. Ages 5 and up.
WHEN LANGSTON DANCES by Kaija Langley, illustrated by Keith Mallet
This is a delightful book about a boy who, after seeing the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform, longs to dance. He twirls through the streets and joins a dance class as the only boy in the room. Even though some people tell him that boys don't dance that way, Langston stays true to himself and finds joy in dancing however he wants to. Ages 4 and up.
JOHN'S TURN by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kate Berube
On Fridays, students meet for a school assembly in which students share and perform their talents. John's turn is coming up and he's feeling nervous, even though he loves dancing. After several of his classmates perform, John gets ready, donning his dance outfit and starting his music. A few kids comment that his orchestral tunes are not dancing music, but when John performs, the other kids enthusiastically laud his performance. Lovely. Ages 4 and up.