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5 Classic Children’s Books that Build Character

We all know that reading to our children is important. Use these precious time to instill character and values with these classic children’s books.

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Reading books with your children is one of the best things you can do for their emotional, intellectual and social development.  While all children’s books are not created equal, many are rich with content that will help you reinforce and expand upon your family’s values.  Here are a few all-time favorites and some tips on how to seamlessly integrate a discussion about values into the reading of a story.

The Big Green Pocketbook

This delightful book written by Candice Ransom and with pictures by Felicia Bond (the illustrator of the popular, “If You Give a . . .” series) is a charming story of a little girl who goes to town with her mother to run some errands. The simple story line is rich with values that create a wonderful springboard for discussion. Throughout the story, the little girl demonstrates obedience, manners, patience and appreciation for an act of kindness. Even in the face of disappointment, she provides a wonderful example of self-control. Observing her behavior and choices throughout the story will help you highlight them for your children.

Apple Pie for Dinner

This story (by Susan Vanhecke) contains a unique illustrative technique called mixed media collage. The main character in the story is a grandmother who wants to make an apple pie, but has no apples with which to do so. She sets out with a basket of plums and through a series of trades (with items that meet the needs of those she encounters along the way), she ends up with a big basket of apples. The story line is a great example of the benefits of generosity and compassion and beautifully exemplifies the point that giving is simply a different form of receiving.


This classic children’s story by Don Freedman never gets old. A charming bear needs a home and a lonely little girl needs a friend. Together, they meet each other’s deepest need for companionship. This story provides parents with a wonderful way to reinforce the importance of friendship and the value of not judging others by outside appearances.


This is a fun book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal about a little spoon who wishes he was something more important like a fork or a knife. He longs to be a more useful utensil only to discover that he is, in fact, very important and there are things that he can do that no other piece of flatware can. It will give you an opportunity to have a discussion with your children about their unique gifts that make them special. It provides a perfect opportunity to point out that contentment comes when we accept who we were made to be.

The Runaway Bunny

You are probably familiar with Margaret Wise Brown’s more widely known, Goodnight Moon, but this story has a simplistic yet tender message: true love is unconditional and not dependent upon behavior or circumstances. It is a great reminder to parents as well. We need to love our children for who they are rather than what they do.

Curling up with your children and a good book can be an enjoyable experience for all. Using the time to reinforce what you value can make it even more special. Look for opportunities to do the same with the books that line your bookshelves.

More great children’s books that build character: Parker the Purple Penguin and Perfect Soup

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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