Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- Your son strikes out in his baseball game. Twice. Now he wants to quit.
- Your 8-year-old can’t seem to memorize her multiplication facts and says she hates math.
- Your 5-year-old throws a fit when his picture isn’t perfect.
Never fear. There’s a picture book to the rescue!
No, a picture book won’t suddenly turn your son into Babe Ruth or your daughter into Katherine Johnson, but it may help him/her develop a growth mindset and learn to view failures and setbacks as opportunities to grow.
Click Here if you would like to read more about what a growth mindset is and why it’s important.
How to Share a Growth Mindset Picture Book
Whenever my sons have a tough time with something, I try to find the right picture book to help. Picture books are powerful. I don’t pull it out right away. When a child is upset he/she is not in the right frame of mind to be receptive. The best thing to do when your child is upset is to listen, give him/her a hug, and offer support.
Instead of trying to share a growth mindset picture book right away, save it for later and read it without a lecture. When I read a growth mindset picture book, I don’t come right out and tell my son that is what I am doing. The message of a picture book is much more meaningful when children figure it out for themselves. When we finish the book, I ask the following questions.
- Did you enjoy the story?
- What did you like about it?
- Was there a problem the main character had to overcome?
- What did the main character do about it?
If my child needs more prompting, I tell them about a time I had to overcome a similar problem. My sons love to hear stories about when I was scared or failed at something. I talk about what I did in the situation. There were times I gave up and wish I didn’t or chickened out and later regretted it. Then, I see if my sons are able to make the connection to their own situation.
Here are some fantastic growth mindset picture books for kids and when to use them. The links below are affiliate links. If you purchase the book, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you, but you can also look for these at your local library. I have a couple on hand and the rest I’ve been able to request from the library or find as ‘read alouds’ on YouTube.
Growth Mindset Picture Books for Kids
Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain by Joann Deak, PhD
Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, PhD, is the perfect picture book to read when you want to introduce the concept of a growth mindset to your children. This book is a multiple award winner. It explains how the brain works in a fun, child-friendly way. The main point is: Your brain is like an elastic band that stretches when you pull it. You must stretch your brain by trying things that are hard at first, making mistakes, and finding the courage to overcome your fears. All these things will help you train your brain to grow.
Children under five may find this book boring because it does get into the anatomy of the brain and how it works, but you could read a condensed version of the story to younger children and save the scientific facts for older children or children with a keen interest in how things work.
Overall, this is great growth mindset book for the entire family. You may learn something new as well!
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Toby Yamada
This book is beautifully illustrated and depicts a chance as a golden ribbon. The first time a chance comes floating by the little boy in the story, he reaches for it, is unsure and pulls back. The chance flies away. The second time he tries to get it, he misses and falls. He feels like everyone is staring at him. He’s embarrassed at his failure to grab the chance. After that, he refuses to try. The more he ignores his chances, the less they come around. Finally, he decides he doesn’t have to brave all the time, just a little. He takes the next chance to come his way and it is glorious.
If you child is afraid to try something new, this is a great book to read. Or, if your child messes up and feels embarrassed he/she will relate to the little boy in this story. I love how the chance is golden yellow and the rest of the illustrations are in black and white.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
In this book, Jabari is afraid to jump off the diving board into the pool. He pretends he is confident, but then lets the other kids go ahead of him in line. You can tell he is afraid. After that, he comes up with ways to stall. Finally, his dad teaches him how to breathe deeply to calm his nerves and look at new experiences as if they were surprises.
If your child is afraid to try something new like going under water, trying a roller coaster for the first time, or even jumping off a diving board like Jabari, this book might help.
Max and Marla by Alexandra Boige
Max and Marla are friends and want to be sledding Olympians. Each time they go outside to practice, something goes wrong. The sled isn’t fast enough. The wind carries them into a tree. They do a nose dive into the snow and end up looking like giant snow balls. Every time they practice, they encounter an obstacle and make adjustments. If your child has a big dream and things go wrong, this may be the perfect book for you.
Bubble Gum Brain: Get Ready, Mindset..and Grow by Julia Cook
In this book, Julia Cook creates two characters: Bubble-gum Brain has a growth mindset and Brick Brain has a fixed mindset. Bubble-gum Brain likes to flex, bend and stretch his brain and expand the way he thinks. Brick Brain believes things are the way they are and he is the way he is and nothing is going to change.
It’s funny to see how they approach the same activities and challenges with completely different attitudes. In the end, Bubble-gum Brain shows Brick Brain how he can change his mindset by removing his wrapper and exposing his Bubble-gum Brain.
You may want to use this book to introduce the concept of a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset. Young children will be able to understand this complex theory through the funny illustrations of things they are already familiar with. The book does get a little long for young children, but they’ll enjoy watching Bubble-gum Brain excitedly try new things and make mistakes while Brick Brain stubbornly sets himself against new learning opportunities.
Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
This is a classic with beautiful, bold illustrations. Peter wishes he could whistle. He watches as an older boy whistles and his dog runs straight to him. Willie tries and tries, but still can’t whistle. He hides in a box and imagines how funny it would be if he could whistle to his dog and his dog would look around for him and not see him. He tries and is disappointed when he doesn’t succeed. This book is great for teaching persistence. Sometimes, we may need to take a break and try again later. Peter does, but he doesn’t give up. Eventually, he succeeds.
The Book of Mistakes by Corrina Luyken
I love this book. It shows how a child can make mistakes and transform them into something amazing. The first page shows a simple drawing of a face with too big eyes. It says, “It started with a mistake.” On the second page, the artist adds glasses to the face and says, “They were a good idea.” The book goes on and on following this pattern. Each time the narrator makes a mistake, she also comes up with a good way to transform it into something else or improve her picture. By the end, she creates an amazing picture. I love how this book starts with a simple drawing your child will feel like he/she can do and shows how it develops more and more with each mistake.
If your child is easily frustrated when drawing or tries something new and makes mistakes, share this beautiful book with him/her.
Flight School by Lita Judge
This funny book is perfect for helping kids cope with disappointment and teaching them to feel good about trying.
Penguin wants to fly. He has the soul of an eagle. So, he signs up for flight school even though his instructors tell him penguins aren’t built to fly. Penguin practices. When all the other birds are cleared to fly, they soar up among the clouds, but penguin crashes into the water. He is heart-broken. Then, Flamingo has an idea. He attaches feathers and a string to penguin and tows penguin through the air. Penguin is exhilarated. He leaves flight school a happy bird. He got to experience soaring on the wind like an eagle and that was enough.
If your child tries something and fails or loses a competition, try reaching for Flight School. Help children appreciate what they learned by trying. Did they enjoy the experience? Then the winning is not what matters.
Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka
This is a challenge every child must face. If your child is afraid to ride a bike or worried about falling down, share this book. The character in this story has to find the courage to try again, and again, and again, and again. Finally, at the end of the story, the child is successful. Your child may feel better about his/her own riding when they see just how hard the character in this story has to work to ride his bike.
Sofia Valdez Future Prez by Andrea Beaty
When Sofia’s grandfather hurts his leg on a trash heap in town, Sofia decides the trash heap must go. She wants to replace it with a park. All her neighbors think it is a great idea, but they expect her to do it. She feels helpless and doesn’t know what to do until she gets a little help from the city clerk and becomes a leader. If your child feels like a task of project is too big and he/she is too small, read him/her this inspirational rhyming book. With determination, even children can change and improve a community.
I Can’t Do That YET by Esther Cordova
Enna’s Dad asks her to read him a page of her book and bedtime, but she says, “I can’t do it.” She falls asleep during the story. In her dream she meets future Enna who is a computer scientist and knows all about servers and codes. She even shows Enna a game she created, but Enna thinks, “I can’t do that.”
Future Enna replies, “No, you just can’t do it yet.” She tells Enna this could be her future if she wants it. She also gives her a glimpse into a room full of other future Enna’s doing all kinds of interesting jobs. When Enna wakes up she asks to read the first page of her book. She tells her dad, she’ll get it right with a little time. She just can’t do it yet.
If your child is frustrated because he/she can’t do something, this is a great book to read. My youngest son often wishes he could do what his older brother can do. Sometimes, he can’t because he is not tall enough or hasn’t had enough practice. I want him to know he just can’t do it Yet!
The dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Vashti doesn’t think she can draw. She sits staring at an empty page when art class is over. Her teacher encourages her to make a mark and see where it takes her.
Vashti makes a dot on her paper and scowls. Her teacher tells her to sign the paper. The next day, when she enters class, her dot is framed in swirly gold and hanging up in the class for everyone to see. Vashti says she can make a better dot. She spends the week experimenting with dots. She paints colorful dots, big dots, and little dots. At the school art show, her dots are a hit. When a little boy tells her he can’t draw, she knows just want to do.
This is a great book to read to children who feel like they aren’t good at something. I use it with my youngest. He gets frustrated when he can’t draw things as well as his brother. This book also shows how experimenting can help you get over creative blocks and that art isn’t always precise.
The Bad Seed by Jory John
“I am a bad seed. A very baaaaaaad seed.” The bad seed seems proud of being bad. He knows everyone talks about just how bad he is. Then, we find out he’s survived a childhood trauma. He was separated from his family, almost eaten by a giant, and became homeless. After that experience, he closed himself off to everyone. In the end, he tries to change and wants to be happy again. He realizes that maybe he is not such a bad seed after all.
This book can teach kids positive change is possible. Maybe your child gets in trouble at school and feels like a bad kid. If so, this book might show him/her that this label is not permanent. If the bad seed can change, so can a child. It will be hard and sometimes they’ll still misbehave, but as long as they are trying, things will get better.
This is also a great book for helping your child develop empathy. Maybe he/she will realize that sometimes children are bad or mean because they’ve been hurt and are trying to protect themselves from being hurt again.
Picture books are powerful. Keep a few good ones in your home library and you’ll know just what to do the next time your child comes home from basketball practice and wants to quit or tells you riding a bicycle is too hard. I hope this list helps. I would love to hear about any growth mindset books I may have missed. Please tell me about your favorites in the comments section, and I’ll check them out!
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