10 Picture Books for Teaching Theme, Message, and Moral

A highly effective way to teach theme, message and moral of a story to elementary students is to read aloud a picture book that lends itself to teaching this reading strategy. Reading aloud a picture book facilitates a learning experience where you can model how to use theme, message and moral to better understand the text and engage students in their learning by asking related questions. Below is a list of 10 picture books for teaching the theme, message and moral. Check out the full list, as well as the teaching resources that go with them!

10 Picture Books for Teaching Theme, Message, and Moral

Below are 10 picture books for teaching theme, message, and moral to elementary students.

1. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

The main character in this story has an enemy, and his name is Jeremy Ross. The boy goes to his dad about having an enemy, and his dad says that he has the perfect way to get rid of enemies: enemy pie. The boys spend time together while dad baked the pie and they discover they have a lot in common! When it is time for pie, the boy panics and tells Jeremy to not eat it. The boys are officially no longer enemies, and have developed a great friendship. This story teaches students that making new friends can be hard, but it also can be very rewarding! Check out these Enemy Pie activities!

Enemy Pie book and activityBe Kind book cover

2. Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller 

One day at snack time, the main character’s classmate, Tanisha, spilled grape juice all over herself. Everyone laughed except the main character. She was about to but remembered her mother always tells her to be kind. The character goes on to list all different examples of kindness, things that are easy to do. This beautiful message will teach students about the importance of kindness and how small acts of kindness can encourage others to do them too! Check out these Be Kind activities!

3. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy

Lucy is a kind girl whose favorite food is spaghetti in a hot dog bun. Lucy’s grandpa Papa Gino teaches her that even though people are different, everyone has a heart with feelings. Lucy has to put her grandpa’s lesson to the test when Ralph, a boy at school, starts to tease her. This story teaches students to choose kindness, even with others who may tease you. This moral is proven in the story when Ralph and Lucy become friends because Lucy chose to be true to herself and be kind. Check out these Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun activities!

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun book cover and writing paperWhere Are You From? book cover

4. Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez

The main character in this book is always asked where she is from. She tries to explain that she is from here, just like everyone else. However, that answer doesn’t seem to satisfy the people asking. She decides to ask Abuelo where she is from because he knows everything. As you read, students will learn about themes of identity, self-acceptance, and the meaning behind home. Check out these Where Are You From? activities!

5. When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan and Lorraine Rocha

The narrator of this book is a young girl whose birthday is coming up. She has a list of things she hopes to receive for her birthday: a robot dog, drone, computer, phone, remote control car, headphones. However, when she gets a gift from her grandmother, it is not what she expected. Instead, her grandma gives her a lemon tree. The message in this story is all about making the best out of an unexpected situation and working hard to earn the things you enjoy. Check out these When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree activities!

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree book coverWe are Water Protectors book cover

6. We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

The narrator of this book grew up learning the importance of water. The people in her village consider themselves Water Protectors and Stewards of the Earth. It is their job to protect nature because everything on Earth is interconnected. Her people had always talked about a black snake that would come someday and make the water unsafe to drink. In this book, the black snake is coming to the narrator’s village, and she must help to protect their water. The message of the book is to inspire readers to protect the Earth’s water from things like oil pipelines. Filled with figurative language, this book will teach students the importance of taking care of our planet and standing up for Earth. Check out these We are Water Protectors activities!

7. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Everyone in Jeremy’s class is getting new high-top sneakers, and he really wants a pair. His grandma says the new shoes are a want, not a need. Even though Jeremy is disappointed, he quickly changes his mindset when he gives a pair of shoes he loves to a friend in need. This story teaches readers about the difference between wants and needs, along with being grateful for what we do have. Check out these Those Shoes activities!

Those Shoes activityThe World Needs More Purple People writing activity

8. The World Needs More Purple People by Kristen Bell & Benjamin Hart 

Throughout the book, Penny is teaching readers how to become a purple person. She explains that purple people ask a lot of questions, laugh a lot, use their voice, work hard, and be themselves. Readers will learn that anyone can be a purple person, no matter what they look like. The book will inspire students to be the person that speaks up to help others and work hard to get things done. Check out these The World Needs More Purple People activities!

9. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Ferdinand was a small bull who was different than all the other bulls. He preferred to sit quietly under a tree and smell the flowers. Bull fighters mistook him for a fierce and strong bull, as he was stung by a bee and butting around. After bringing him to Madrid to fight, they realized he would not fight. Ferdinand was able to return to his happy place by the trees and flowers. This story teaches the message of accepting who you are, even if you are different. Ferdinand was true to himself, and this story shows readers that they can be, too! Check out these The Story of Ferdinand activities!

The Story of Ferdinand book and activityBird Hugs book cover

10. Bird Hugs by Ged Adamson

Bernard the bird was different than his friends that were birds. Soon, all of his friends had left in search of new places and Bernard still could not fly. Through comforting others, Bernard found his place in the forest. The animals started sharing their problems with Bernard and he listened to them and gave hugs. It made Bernard feel good to help the animals and he made many new friends.  Bernard learned that although he could not fly, he still had a purpose. By helping others he could make friends, and when he had friends, he could do anything. This message will help students to know that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and we can all find a purpose! Check out these Bird Hugs activities!

In closing, we hope you found this list of picture books for teaching theme, message, and moral helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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