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10 Children’s Books about Perseverance for Elementary Students – 2023

One of my favorite teaching strategies is using picture books to teach SEL skills. Picture books are powerful tools that make social emotional learning topics fun and meaningful. They are also very accessible. Even if you don’t have a robust collection of high quality children’s literature in your classroom library, you likely have access to books through your school library, public library, or on the internet. The best part is that students love listening to and discussing stories about relatable characters and storylines. They learn so much from them! In this post, I share my favorite children’s books for teaching perseverance.

All of the books on this list of children’s books about perseverance are part of my Starts With a Story collection. Madeline Finn and the Library Dog, Whistle for Willie, Hair Love and Ruby’s Wish are part of our perseverance SEL Unit, which includes interactive read aloud lesson plans among tons of other resources for teaching perseverance. Check out the list of perseverance children’s books below!

10 Children’s Books about Perseverance

Below are 10 quality perseverance children’s books for elementary teachers. Your kids will love these read alouds! They are great for teaching perseverance, as well as many other concepts and skills.

1. Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

Madeline Finn does not like reading of any kind, as she has a hard time figuring out the words and makes mistakes. When she reads out loud in class, students giggle. Madeline’s teacher gives out stars to students that are good readers and she never gets one. Instead, Madeline gets a heart that says keep trying. Madeline eventually starts reading to a dog in the library who is patient and makes her feel more confident. She begins to read more fluently and becomes proud of all her hard work! My Perseverance SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

Madeline's Christmas book coverWhistle for Willie book cover

2. Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

A boy named Peter wants to learn how to whistle. He sees a boy whistle and his dog come running after him. Peter wants to be able to do that with his dog Willie. Peter tries to whistle but nothing comes out. Throughout the story Peter practices and practices how to whistle. At the end of the book, Peter finally learns how to whistle after all of his hard work. Peter whistles for Willie, and Willie comes running. My Perseverance SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

3. Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

Zuri loves her hair! She loves the way it makes her feel. She feels like a princess when it is in braids, and a superhero when it is in puffs. There is nothing her hair can’t do! One day she has to have a special hairstyle, and through lots of trial and error with her dad, they discover the perfect look. Students will love this story about a girl who loves her hair and does not give up until she has the perfect style. My Perseverance SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

writing paper based on the book, Hair Love

4. Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

A long time ago in China, Ruby lived in a big house with her wealthy grandfather. Unlike other girls in China, Ruby was able to take classes because her grandfather had hired a teacher to come to the house. Ruby was always an impressive student, and even continued with her classes when the other girls stopped going. It was not easy for her to keep up with the boys because she had household duties after school, while the boys were able to play. After all her hard work, she was able to become the first woman to go to university in China! My Perseverance SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

The fifth book on this list of children’s books about perseverance is The Smart Cookie. Cookie now flourishes in a beautiful bakery down by the river. However, she shares that this was not always the case. Cookie struggled to succeed in school. She was shy, not confident, and worrisome. That is- until she found her own talents! This creative, engaging story can connect with many students who are still trying to find their own talents. It teaches students to not give up and become resilient over time. Check out these The Smart Cookie activities!

The Smart Cookie book and worksheetsShark Lady book cover

6. Shark Lady by Jess Keating

Eugenie spent her childhood learning as much as she could about sharks. When she grew up, Eugenie decided to study zoology in college. Many people didn’t think women were smart or brave enough to go into science, but that didn’t stop Eugenie. She went on to make many discoveries about fish and sharks. This story of Eugenie Clark will teach students to be brave, be resilient, and to not give up on their dreams. Check out these Shark Lady activities!

7. Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills

Rocket is a dog that loves reading. Rocket is writing a story, and finds a shy owl to read it to. With each reading, the shy owl moves closer and closer. By the end, the owl loves the story and the two are happy to have one another as friends. Rocket did not give up on Owl, and was resilient with his own reading skills as well. Check out these Rocket Writes a Story activities!

Rocket Writes a Story book coverRescue and Jessica activity

8. Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

After an accident, Jessica had her leg amputated. She had to learn how to walk, get out of bed, and stand with a prosthetic leg. This was a big life change for Jessica. Thankfully, she got a service dog named Rescue to help her. Rescue was even more important when she had to have her other leg amputated as well. This story demonstrates Jessica’s positive mindset and the power of perseverance. Check out these Rescue and Jessica activities!

9. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Annebelle lives in a dark and dreary town, that is, until she begins knitting with colorful yarn. This is a modern fairy tale story that, with yarn, is brought from a black and white book to that full of color! Annebelle shows resilience by continuing to knit and make her community more beautiful. Check out these Extra Yarn activities!

Extra Yarn book cover and activityDreamers book cover

10. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

The last book on this list of children’s books about perseverance is Dreamers. This book tells the story of a mother who immigrated to a new home with her young child. They visit a library and eventually learn to speak the language. They never gave up on their dream of becoming something greater, something they haven’t imagined yet. This story shows how powerful mindset can be and students will feel empathy and compassion towards this family. Check out these Dreamers activities!

Integrated SEL and Literacy Activities

Below are some integrated SEL and literacy resources for elementary teachers.

SEL Unit

Our Perseverance Unit, which is available individually or as part of a year-long SEL bundle, includes lessons for the first four books on this list. This unit is packed with lesson plans, teaching resources, games, and activities. Learn more about it!

Perseverance SEL Unit
Social Emotional Learning Units Bundle

SEL Book Companions

As I mentioned earlier, I love teaching SEL skills using picture books. That’s why I created the Starts With a Story Collection. High quality children’s literature supports elementary teachers in delivering meaningful and accessible SEL lessons. All of the read alouds on this list are part of this book companion collection. Check out the book companions below!

Madeline Finn and the Library DogWhistle for WillieHair Love book companionRuby's Wish book companionThe Smart Cookie book companion cover
Shark LadyRocket Writes a StoryRescue and JessicaExtra YarnDreamers book companion

We hope you found this list of children’s books about perseverance helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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