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10 Captivating Kids Books That (Sneakily) Teach Life Lessons

Children’s Book Week (April 29 to May 5) is coming up, and it’s the perfect excuse to review your child’s colorful little library and stock up on all those titles you may have missed. Books provide so many wonderful avenues for our kids to stretch their imaginations and learn about the world they’re just beginning to understand — and there are plenty of amazing children’s books that teach valuable life lessons.

Stories are especially useful for educating our young ones on the big issues, and there are kids’ books about nearly every topic imaginable: how to be a good friend, how to be inclusive and accepting of those who are different, how to allow yourself to feel emotions without fear or shame, and more. The stories below will resonate with your kids for years to come — and equip them to grow into compassionate and caring adults.

Check out these titles, which are just some of the many beautiful stories that sneak in some significant lessons.

10. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

This award-winning book by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is about a little boy named CJ who learns about social class through his observations on the bus with his grandmother as they ride through town. His family doesn’t have the same material goods as other kids on the bus, CJ notices, and they don’t get off in as nice a neighborhood like some of the other people on the bus. With his grandmother’s encouragement, CJ learns that life is beautiful in so many other ways that go far beyond wealth. The book takes an elegant look at socioeconomic conditions and the way in which kids may experience those disparities.

Last Stop on Market Street, $13.49 at Amazon


9. A is For Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Lauded as The People’s History of the United States for two-year-olds, A is For Activist is a delightful romp through the alphabet, only instead of “apple” and “dog,” you learn words like “abolitionist” and “democracy.” The whole book is beautifully written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara, and it features diverse kids of many backgrounds. Parents stand to learn a few new terms as well by reading this one.

A is for Activist, $8.99 at Amazon

8. Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This lighthearted and digestible book written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jane Dyer highlights the importance of being proud, modest, patient, and respectful, all through the lens of one of the most enticing topics: cookies.

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, $7.99 at Amazon


7. The Three R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle by Nuria Roca

This book, part of a series, What Do You Know About, teaches kids about environmental consciousness and reducing waste. The Three R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, written by Nuria Roca and illustrated by Rosa M. Curto, includes simple, practical tips even young kids can appreciate, all aimed at being more environmentally friendly. There’s a bonus section at the end for parents that serves as a guide for teaching kids more about recycling and sustainable practices.

The Three R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, $6.99 at Amazon


6. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees

This beautiful and deeply important lesson about unexpected success and an underdog rising to the top is a must-read for your little one (and you). Written by Giles Andrea and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, Giraffes Can’t Dance tells the story of a giraffe who is laughed off the dance floor by the other animals for his lack of coordination. While moping on his way home, he discovers his own unique dance moves and ends up wowing the whole animal kingdom with his talents. It’s the perfect lesson in how to dance to the beat of your own drum — and find your way when you’ve been knocked down by others. Plus, it’s just a fun read with lots of animals busting out in dance.

Giraffes Can’t Dance, $4.99 at Amazon


5. Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev & Taeeun Yoo

This is a clever book about feeling left out, told from the point of view of a little boy and his pet elephant who doesn’t quite fit in. Written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo, Strictly No Elephants is one of those reads where you truly enjoy the story and don’t realize you’re being fed an important life lesson.

Strictly No Elephants, $15.17 at Amazon


4. Jack (Not Jackie), by Erica Silverman & Holly Hatam

Written by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Holly Hatam, Jack (Not Jackie) is an animated adventure of a girl’s revelation that her little sister may actually be her little brother. With colorful busy scenes and descriptive text about the siblings’ relationship sans gender, the book is a beautiful foray into teaching kids (and parents) what being transgender means — and how we can and should be accepting of those who transcend the gender binary.

Jack (Not Jackie), $12.75 at Amazon


3. Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

Based on the author and illustrator Patricia Polacco’s real life, Junkyard Wonders tells the story of a little girl who is upset to learn she is placed in a special class at school that others call “the junkyard.” Her opinion changes, though, when she meets the teacher and fellow classmates who are all geniuses in their own ways. It’s the perfect lesson for any and every child who has ever felt like they weren’t good enough; the whole family will enjoy reading this well-crafted book while getting a dose of education.

Junkyard Wonders, $17.09 at Amazon


2. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen & Kevin Hawkes

Written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, Library Lion is a titillating tale that teaches an unexpected and rarely addressed lesson about how sometimes the rules are meant to be broken. The moral of the story is hidden in the engaging plot about a lion that comes to visit a library, and although he doesn’t exactly follow the library’s rules, he ends up finding an important place there and even saving the day.

Library Lion, $6.99 on Amazon

1. The Wonderful Things You Will Be, by Emily Winfield Martin

This classic bestseller written by Emily Winfield Martin doesn’t necessarily teach a lesson so much as it reinforces the incredible well of love and faith a parent can instill in their child — to empower and inspire them to explore who they want to be and who they’re meant to be. It’s a stunning piece of writing with beautiful illustrations that are sure to engage your child and may even require some tissues for the parents. With lines like, “for all your tininess couldn’t disguise, a heart so enormous, and wild and wise,” this is one of those books that you’ll keep for years.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be, $10.73 at Amazon

Whatever your own beliefs are (and those you aim to instill in your child), these books are a great way to get started on showing your little one how to navigate this complex, difficult, and beautiful world.

Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale. 

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