Resilience is an ability that we all need to master, but raising a resilient child is important for their overall development. Whether it’s not doing well on an exam, not getting picked first for a team, or forgetting lines in the school play, childhood is filled with opportunities to learn from mistakes, adversity, or disappointments. Developing resilience early on helps prepare a child to learn how to stay positive and keep moving forward. One fool-proof way parents can support resilience in children is through reading.
Children’s books about fantasy and science fiction with characters in seemingly impossible situations feature critical life skills like determination, ingenuity, and most importantly, resilience. Children know that a little girl’s hair couldn’t really grow so long that one could climb down it, or a gingerbread man could never actually run away. However, great children’s stories take kids on imaginative journeys and help them develop similar life skills as these characters often portray.
Children’s books do not need to provide a mirror image of reality in order to offer compelling stories about serious issues. The fact that the setting or characters are extraordinary may be why they are so powerful, and where their true value lies. For example, in one of our suggested books, a little girl has a box of magic yarn, and the author uses the girl’s actions and determination to illustrate her resilience and strength against the evil archduke. Children often connect to examples of young characters in plots who are grappling with relatable and relevant issues but in unique settings or fictitious times. So grab a book to share with your child and create a teachable moment as you discover heroes and heroines who defy defeat and develop resiliency through their hardships.
Here’s our go-to list of books that will inspire resilience in young readers:
Grades Kindergarten to Second:
Extra Yarn by Jon Klassen, Illustrated by Jon Klassen. In this Caldecott Honor picture book, a drab, colorless town gets a change of tone and attitude with the help of a box of yarn and a girl named Annabelle. To her surprise, the box is filled with yarn of every color. Armed with knitting needles, Annabelle makes herself a sweater but when she finishes, she finds that she has Extra Yarn leftover. Looks like everyone and everything is getting their wool cozies including those chilly mailboxes. And still, there is yarn leftover! All this knitting does not go unnoticed by the evil, clothes-loving, mustache-wearing archduke. He wants Annabelle’s magic box of never-ending yarn for himself. Will Annabelle be able to keep her magical box of yarn from the clutches of the nefarious archduke?
Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Lionni had a career in art, and often wrote books for his grandchildren. On a long train ride, he found himself with no drawing materials. He tore out circles of yellow and blue from a magazine to help him tell the story he had in mind. Lionni became the first children’s author/illustrator to use collage as the main medium for his illustrations. Swimmy, this book’s main character, is different from the others and finds a way to use his individuality to benefit his community. If you like this one, read his other books such as Frederick, Inch by Inch, and A Color of His Own.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. Stories of real-life individuals are inspiring. The stories of others who have triumphed over adversity through problem solving and determination will teach children to have the confidence to do the same. This is a great little window into Ginsburg’s history and family life, adding some humor into the mix, making her more than just a hero, but a compassionate, unique, well-rounded person who isn’t so grand at singing and cooking.
Knights of the Kitchen Table (Time Warp Trio #1) by John Scieszka, Illustrated by Lane Smith. A loveable 16 book series about three time-traveling friends. The boys are catapulted in time when they open the magical book that was given to them. The only way the boys are able to return to present-day Brooklyn, New York is to find “The Book” again within whatever time period they are in. The team must use critical thinking to solve puzzles, escape villains, and avoid dragons. This series has great drawings, silly situations, and captivates early readers. Because each book in the Time Warp Trio series focuses on a certain period in history, this is the perfect opportunity for a family to study an era together.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang. This book is based on the author’s own teenage job of running the front desk at the hotel at which she and her Chinese immigrant family worked. This is a great novel for parents and children to read together, to discuss tough subjects like racism, poverty, and the exploitation of immigrants. My favorite line in the book is, “It’s going to be okay. I’ll make friends, and if I don’t, I’ll borrow books from the library.”
Hatchet (Brian’s Saga Series Book 1) by Gary Paulson. In this Newbery Honor book, Brian is traveling on a small plane above the thick Canadian wilderness. He and the pilot are the only passengers, on their way to visit Brian’s father who lives in Northern Canada. Things go bad when the plane crashes, killing the pilot, and leaving Brian as the only survivor. With nothing but his clothing and a hatchet his mother had given him, Brian must survive. During his ordeal, he learns about himself and his own resilience while trying to survive the horrible predicament he is in.