Back-to-School Books That Encourage Children to Work Hard and Try Their Best

“I can’t” is a word I never want to hear my children say. The below books help build children’s confidence so that when challenged with an obstacle, they see it as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of a time to give up. 

I hope the below books will help inspire children to pursue their passions and do their best work.

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    Be A Maker by Katey Howes; illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic, 2019

(Ages 4 and up)

 “Ask yourself this question in the morning when you wake: in a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?” So begins the rousing book, Be a Maker, that inspires children to create something amazing each and every day. Whether it be artwork, music, an invention, or even making a friend, this story inspires children to make a difference in the world. The rhythmic text and charming illustrations culminate in a sweet scene where a diverse group of people come together to celebrate one way they have made their community a better place.

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The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Lorena Alvarez, 2020

(Ages 4 and up)

This story is perfect for empowering children to take risks, work hard, and embrace mistakes. Rhyming text and colorful illustrations follow a young girl who struggles to learn to ride a bike. Just as she is determined to walk forever, she meets the Magical Yet. Presented as a glowing pink flower-like object, the Magical Yet teaches the girl that with determination, practice, and grit, she can tackle any problem.

The engaging illustrations feature a diverse group of children learning to accomplish a variety of tasks giving this charming book wide appeal.

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The Dot by Peter Reynolds, 2003

(Ages 4 and up)

This is one of my all-time favorite children’s books. When a discouraged girl named Vashti believes she cannot draw, her art teacher encourages her to make a simple dot. When the teacher then frames her dot, Vashti is inspired to make more artwork and creates her own gallery full of work. This deceptively simple story inspires readers to believe in themselves and gives them the confidence to make their own mark.

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I’m Gonna Push Through by Jasmyn Wright; illustrated by Shannon Wright, 2020

(Ages 4 and up)

What started as a mantra for inner-city third graders has become a global empowerment initiative. With the goal of teaching children to be their best selves and find their inner strength to overcome life’s adversities, I’m Gonna Push Through is sure to reassure and lift up readers.

I think many of us could use a lesson in emotional resiliency at the moment and with its diverse characters and universal message of hope, this is a book that will resonate and encourage many.

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The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino, 2016

(Ages 4 and up)

Tina is an imaginative cow who believes the sky is the limit. Her three sisters, however, think her ideas are impossible and not worth pursuing. When Tina leaves a note stating that she is going on an adventure with a dragon, her closed-minded sisters follow her to bring her home. Instead, they discover a world of opportunities and learn to think more freely. This quirky story is such an entertaining tale and leaves children feeling inspired to follow their own passions.

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What Do You Do With an Idea by Kobi Yamada, 2014

(Ages 5 and up)

This New York Times best-selling book teaches children that if they nurture their ideas, they can grow into amazing things and change the world. To make this lesson more tangible, an idea is personified as an egg that a little boy cares for until it grows and blossoms. Beautiful illustrations fill the pages and the text brings home the notion that hard work and perseverance can lead to great things.

I also highly recommend the other books in this series What Do you Do With a Problem (2016) and What Do You Do With a Chance (2018).

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Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts, 2016

(Ages 4 and up)

The rhyming text tells the story of Ada Twist, a curious little girl who asks questions and creates science experiments to better understand how the world around her works. This is a great story of perseverance and will serve as inspiration to other budding scientists. We love this entire series and also highly recommend Rosie Revere Engineer, Iggy Peck Architect, and Sophia Valdez Future Prez.

 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, 2014

(Ages 5 and up)

With the help of her pet dog, a girl embarks on a special mission to create something truly spectacular. After several attempts, however, she grows frustrated by her failures and quits. Taking a break by playing with her dog, however, gives her clarity and inspiration. She perseveres and her hard work pays off when she invents something remarkable. This engaging tale entertains while teaching children to never give up!

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Flight School by Lita Judge, 2014

(Ages 4 – 8)

Many back to school books concentrate on the anxiety of starting school, but I love this book because it focuses on what school is all about: learning to soar.

The story opens with a penguin entering flight school. When the teacher points out that penguins cannot fly, the penguin replies, “but I have the soul of an eagle”. Despite his many attempts, the penguin cannot in fact fly and prepares to depart brokenhearted. The teachers, however, refuse to give up. As all teachers do, they find a way to support their student, so that he does soar.  Many children may fail from time to time, but I hope that this tale of perseverance will reassure them that their caring teachers will not give up on them and will help them fulfill their own hopes and dreams.

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Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, 2015

(Ages 5 and up)

This incredible true story shares the life of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah who was born in Ghanna with a severely deformed leg. Though discriminated against because of his disability, Emmanuel was determined to teach the world that “being disabled does not mean being unable.” His mother carried him to school and when he became too heavy, he hopped. He learned to play soccer on crutches and rode a bike 400 miles throughout Ghana to spread awareness of the capabilities of the disabled. He is now a national hero and activist whose powerful story teaches readers to persevere and through hard work, they too can change the world.

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