Books to Build Character in Kids

Books that build strength of character and kindness toward others…We love books at our house, and we really love books that teach lessons that inspire kindness and compassion toward others or build strength of kids’ character.  Do you have a book to share with us?  Let us know about it!

 Click on the photos to find the links to buy each book on Amazon…
Fair warning – I may get paid if you buy the books through my affiliate links.  Thanks so much!


The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella

A lovely story about a beloved bicycle that was sent on an extraordinary adventure of service when Big Red’s first owner generously donated the bike to help other kids in Africa.  Little did he know that Big Red would travel to Burkina Faso and be used by a young girl to help her family earn money from their work in sorghum fields.  And then, after an accident and a refurbishment, Big Red would become even more helpful when the bike is passed along to a young woman who uses it to deliver medications to the sick people in rural African villages and to bring people to the hospital for medical care.  Not only will kids learn about world cultures, other lifestyles and the need for bicycles as transportation and not just as toys, readers will hopefully also take away lessons of compassion and empathy towards others and a thoughtful way to approach others’ needs.

61n33nvygnl-_sx376_bo1204203200_One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway

Based on a true story about Kwabena Darko, a man from Ghana’s Ashanti region of Africa who eventually developed a microfinancing organization called Sinapi Aba Trust after building up a very successful poultry farm as an adult from one hen and a tiny loan as a young boy, Kojo walks similar steps toward growing success in his very small, very poor African village.  Kojo’s determination, hard work, and desire to bring positive change and helpful business to his people is both inspirational and valuable for readers young and old alike.  It’s a great lesson for kids to see how small things and small people can do big things, if they have patience and support, and are willing to work hard.


Mimi’s Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It by Katie Smith Milway

Although a fictional tale, Mimi’s story is one that will take some of the most basic things we take for granted – water and health care – and explore what it truly means to those in other parts of the world where clean water, protection from mosquitoes, and even a traveling nurse are extremely difficult to come by and extremely vital to saving lives of those living in extreme poverty.  What I especially love is that there are sections after the end of the story where specific ways kids and families can help impoverished individuals, organizations that are affecting change, and why it is all so very important.  It is a story of how everyone, even kids, can make a difference in someone else’s life, in both meaningful and life-changing ways.  

51p4KW1t2zL._SX417_BO1,204,203,200_For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George

Gorgeously illustrated and well-written child’s version of Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, this book is perfect for elementary aged kids who are curious about current international events, while not getting too detailed about the extremely volatile portions of Malala’s young life.  My 5 and 7 year-old daughters asked really good questions about the book, wanted it read aloud several times, loved the pictures, and sparked great conversations about equality of education around the world, the right to speak up against injustice and inequality, and the rights and education of girls and women in foreign countries.  Definitely a must-read.

61E8Hp+TeUL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Honor and the Jane Addams Peace Award – This book is incredibly touching and thought-provoking for kids and adults. Follow the story of Maya, the new girl at school, who is consistently rejected by Chloe and every kid in the class, even after Maya repeatedly tries to show kindness and share her treasures with Chloe.  Unfortunately, after the girls’ teacher has a lesson on the impact of even one small act of kindness upon others and Chloe realizes the weight of her rejection upon Maya, it’s too late.  Be kind to others, as each kindness counts.

519FE8c4wyL._SY453_BO1,204,203,200_Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles
Winner of the Coretta Scott Kind Award & the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award  Originally written in 1964 when civil rights acts and freedom movements tried desperately to legally remake the culture of segregation, this book’s voice rings relevant still today.  Joe and John Henry are the best of friends, even though their skin color and the law says they shouldn’t be.  This story of friendship and fairness, in the face of challenges and wrongness, is an amazing testimony to face adversity with love and friendship, no matter what. 

other sideThe Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
The fence that divides is the same fence that causes such curiosity about what lies beyond, and eventually is the same fence that builds a beautiful friendship between unlikely  souls.  Clover and Anna aren’t supposed to go over the fence because the grown-ups think people of different skin color can’t be friends, so the girls just sit on the fence.  Hopeful that, as the line of multi-colored skinned friends grows along the top of the fence, one day someone will tear that old fence down, friendship goes beyond boundaries and differences to withstand time and adversity.

51fgCPm6FpL._SX425_BO1,204,203,200_Henry’s Freedom Box: a true story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
So honest and raw, this book was a bit hard for my littles (ages 3, 5, 7) to hear and to even think could be possible, and yet it tells the true tale of Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped slavery by successfully and terrifyingly mailing himself in a freight box to abolitionists in the North.  Having been torn from his mother as a child and from his wife and child as an adult, Henry stops at nothing to find a way to freedom.  Where there is a will, there’s a way, especially when freedom looms hopeful and bravery is big.

51a5QK4rg8L._SY471_BO1,204,203,200_Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds
Rafael’s class at school is given a box of parts, a set of instructions, and a deadline for a class competition.  Each kid sets out to build their winning race-mobile, exactly as the directions describe.  Except Maya.  Her out-of-the-box thinking and construction not only win the race, they also over Rafael as a teammate and as a future visionary and imaginative force.  Dare to think differently!


61463Mi7mFL._SX486_BO1,204,203,200_Moustronaut Goes to Mars by Astronaut Mark Kelly
Such a cute story, with beautifully entertaining illustrations, Mousetronaut Meteor teaches adults and kids about Mars and space exploration while sharing a deeper message.  Even though Meteor is very small and seems to be less important than the human astronauts on the mission, his role becomes the most important of all when only he can actually step onto and explore Mars.  No matter how small you may be, you have important roles to play!


51b9HquSlKL._SY398_BO1,204,203,200_The New Girl… and Me by Jacqui Robbins
Simply told and illustrated, this story of figuring out how to make new friends speaks to the heart of almost anyone who has been the new kid at school or who has had a new kid join their class.  It can be hard to know what to say, especially when the loudmouth in the class is less than welcoming.  Mia and Shakeeta, with the help of Igabelle the iguana, risk it all to become fast friends. Be brave, ask questions, listen well, make a friend. 


51uy-Gn+gmL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_The Great Lollipop Caper by Dan Krall
Telling the silly tale of jealous Caper (literally, an “acidic and earthy” caper) whose desire to be loved by children overwhelms him, until he becomes greedy enough to try to take over Lollipop’s popularity.  His plan backfires, and Lollipop’s thoughtfulness teaches Caper that you shouldn’t try to make yourself something you aren’t, even if you want to be popular.  You’re special just the way you are.

61M+lP8fHIL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Biblioburro: a true story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter
Simply written and vibrantly illustrated, this inspirational book is based on a true story of a man, whose love for books and desire to share them with children in the poor, isolated villages of Colombia, leads him to become a traveling library, a biblioburro.  Share in kindness and generosity with others!

Have a book suggestion for us to try?  Fill out the form below!

Fields marked with an * are required