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100 Books That Build Character

By Genia Connell on February 12, 2014
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

Every now and then a situation presents itself where I find myself looking for that just-right book to read to my class — one that will serve as an example of good character or act as a literary pep talk for my students. It might be a book on caring after we’ve had an incident of unkindness, a book on fairness after an especially tough recess, a book on honesty after someone’s eraser collection goes missing, or maybe a book on perseverance to let a student who may be finding something particularly challenging know that it will all work out.

I am fortunate to suffer from a first-world problem of having many, many books in my personal library, which means I often can’t remember which book may be the best for the situation at hand. (Okay, maybe that's just old age kicking in!) To solve my problem, I recently decided to go through my collection of books and organize them into categories using Scholastic’s Book Wizard. Now when I need a book to deal with bullying, instead of relying on the same titles over and over, I simply look through my book list for one my students haven’t heard before. (For an in-depth look at how to use Book Wizard on your smart phone, watch Top Teaching blogger, Lindsey Petlak’s wonderful tutorial, "Scholastic Book Wizard Goes Mobile.")

This week I would like to share with you some of the titles from my character values collection. If you have read some of these books, you'll understand that many of the titles fit equally well in more than one category and it was tough for me to choose just one. I hope you will find my list useful in your classroom, or even in your homes. I know many of these titles were read to my children when they were small for the same reasons I read them to my students. 

When looking through the list below, click on the title of the book for a full description. If there were any extension activities available, I linked to those, and if the book is currently available in Scholastic's Teacher Store, I noted that as well with an * asterisk following the title.  

Below you will find books about: 

Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni*

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams*

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco*

Corduroy by Don Freeman*


Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud


Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr.*

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney*

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe*

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco*

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts*

Three Questions by Jon J. Muth*


Tough Boris by Mem Fox*

Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine


The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox*

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride: Based on a True Story by Pam Munoz Ryan*


Brave Harriet by Marissa Moss

The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco

Courage by Bernard Waber

The Dandelion Seed by Joseph A. Anthony

Hey Al by Arthur Yorinks

Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again by Dave Horowitz

Mirette on the Highwire by Emily Arnold McCully

Sheila Rae, the Brave by Kevin Henkes* 

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles*

Stuart's Cape by Sara Pennypacker*

Summer Wheels by Eve Bunting

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco*

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan*

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman*

The Cow that Went Oink by Bernard Most*

The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf*

If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith*

Little Blue, Little Yellow by Leo Lionni*

The Okay Book by Todd Parr

Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell*

Swimmy by Leo Lionni*

Teammates by Peter Golenbock

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox*

Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski*

Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson* 


Brave Irene by William Steig

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss* 


Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine*


The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper*

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges*

Unstoppable Me!: 10 Ways to Soar Through Life by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer*

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle*

Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull*

David Goes to School by David Shannon*

The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle*

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose*

Lily's Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes*

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard*

Piggybook by Anthony Browne

The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill*

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Are You Quite Polite? by Alan Katz*

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak*

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes*

Don't Sit on My Lunch by Abby Klein*

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

The Juice Box Bully by Maria Dismondy

King of the Playground by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco*

Words are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick*

Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst*

I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayer*

The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey*

Pigsty by Mark Teague*

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola*

A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon*

Dandelion by Don Freeman*

Exclamation Mark by Tom Lichtenheld & Amy Krouse Rosenthal* 

The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns and Sydney Hoff*

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle

Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el

Olivia by Ian Falconer*

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

Purplicious by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann*

Ruby the Copycat by Peggy Rathmann*

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal*

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy

Stellaluna by Janelle Cannon*

The Boy Who Cried Wolf by B.G.Hennessy

A Day's Work by Eve Bunting

The Empty Pot by Demi

Martha Blah Blah by Susan Meddaugh*

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto*

A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban

Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell

One Grain of Rice by Demi*

The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) by Philemon Sturges*

Stone Soup by Ann McGovern* 











































Printables You May Like

Free printable classmate award free printable building character

Free printable Character CapsThey could do better printable

Click on each image above to download and print


Little did I realize when I started this task, I'd have trouble narrowing my list down to only 100 books! There are many wonderful books out there that illustrate valuable lessons. What are some of your favorite picture books for teaching about character in the classroom? I'd love to read about them in the comment section below!





Comments (3)

Great list! One of my personal favorites (and it's an oldie!) that would fall into the "honesty" category is Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine. It's a wonderful story that explores the difference between make believe and lies.

how can i tell which grades each book is? are they all 3rd grade books. i have a preschooler, 4th and 6th grader. it would take a long time to figure out each book. thank you.

Please do not use my email for any other purposes. thank you

These are all picture books and I use them as read alouds with my class so we can discuss and share the message each book holds. If you click on the book link on the right, you will be taken to Scholastic's Book Wizard where book level information is available.

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