Finding the right books to reinforce or build key personal qualities and behaviors can have a positive impact on the learning environment and beyond.
By Lani Aquino
As students come together in different learning environments, they bring a diverse set of prior educational experiences and personal backgrounds. They also enter the classroom with a diverse set of character qualities and behavioral histories. Sometimes the combination of students and/or the current tone of the learning zone can be a bit distracting or require a little tweaking. By no means does this translate to squashing individuality, but it can mean that a little introduction or reinforcement of some positive character qualities can be in order.
Literature is an excellent way to spur discussion and thoughtful reflection on key qualities and skills that are beneficial to possess in learning environments and any other group settings inside or outside of school. Through books and stories that speak to character qualities and behavior, teachers are able to share relatable examples with students. Whether teachers are looking for titles to incorporate into a unit centered around a single quality, suggest books to a student expressing an interest, or identify options that will bring awareness to a specific classroom need, these collections are a perfect starting point. Keep in mind that a picture speaks a thousand words, so don’t discount picture books for students in older grades. The simple stories and images can often create more of an impact than a lengthy narrative.
Mindfulness- This collection from What Do We Do All Day? offers 20 great titles for sharing the importance of mindfulness with students. By showcasing examples of books where the characters take the time to focus on their surroundings and absorb the moment, students can hopefully see the value in practicing mindfulness in their own lives.
Kindness- The world could definitely use a little more kindness, and the classroom is a great place to start fostering it. These 13 selections from Buzzfeed are coupled with brief plot descriptions and the important takeaway(s) that can come from sharing them. Some familiar tales and unique reads make this list.
Tolerance & Diversity- The Best Children’s Books has put together some great titles for a variety of age levels. The importance of tolerance and acceptance of diversity know no age limit. These reads can go far toward impacting students’ thinking and igniting discussion. Common Sense Media also offers a hearty list with options for all ages on these timely topics.
Bullying- Delivering the anti-bullying message and the effects of bullying is always time well spent in the classroom. The 14 must-reads from We Are Teachers definitely fit the bill for highlighting the seriousness of this issue. Additional impactful collections include teachers.org’s 20 of the Best Bullying Picture Books for Teachers and Reader’s Digest’s 8 Kids’ Books About Bullying Every Parent Should Own.
Self-Esteem- Good self-esteem can be life changing. Sharing books with a whole group or steering students in need toward a few good titles can make a huge difference in children’s lives. This collection from Mommy Edition has a wide variety of stories and resources to help kids build and see the value in possessing good self-esteem. With reads for a wide variety of ages, this one is worthy of a bookmark from all teachers.
Cooperation- The ability to be cooperative and find importance in cooperation is a trait that should be reinforced at every grade level and practiced well beyond the walls of the classroom. The way a learning community works together speaks volumes on the levels of success that each of its members will achieve. This collection of picture books from The Kindergarten Connection could be useful throughout the entire K-12 experience.
Empathy- Helping students find ways to empathize with others can do wonders for changing the overall tone within the learning environment. This collection of 30 titles from Teach Thought may have reads that fall into the K-8 grade levels, but the messages and lessons can easily be utilized in upper level classrooms as well. Through empathy, students gain an understanding of others that can lead to a host of beneficial implications.
Perseverance- The positive correlations that come from possessing perseverance are ageless. Building this internal drive at a young age can only offer increased opportunities for students to grow personally and academically. What Do We Do All Day? has collected a variety of titles that will appeal to a wide range of ages and spur or reinforce this invaluable quality.
As with any lesson idea or resource, the true impact comes from how it is utilized. A book in isolation may be all it takes for some students, but a thoughtful discussion and building text-to-self connections go a long way toward making a lasting impression. These book collections offer engaging and relevant stories and messages to shape and strengthen a positive learning environment.
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