Teaching Good Character with Books

reading into character

Stories can help children to develop into responsible, caring and contributing citizens.

Use the activities for each book below to teach good character traits like kindness, self-control and perseverance to your students.

To view all the books chosen and to see all the tips and activities suggested for each book, visit the Reading Into Character Section on the First Book Marketplace.



Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

This story models self-control: being able to deny your short-term impulses in order to stay focused and pursue what is really important


Lilly loved school, until her teacher took away her fabulous movie star sunglasses, her three shiny quarters and her brand new purple plastic purse.

Ask these questions after reading the story:

  • Lilly wants to show off her new things, even though she knows it’s not the right time. Why do you think is it so hard to wait when you’re excited?
  • Even though Lilly loves Mr. Slinger, she is furious with him for taking away her things. Why is she so angry? Should she be angry?





wilmaWilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz

This story models resilience and perseverance: honoring your word and your intentions by working hard toward an important goal, despite setbacks and challenges

A small and sickly child, Wilma Rudolph wore a heavy brace on her leg when she was a little girl, but she grew up to win three Olympic gold medals for running.

Try this activity to learn more about resilient athletes:

Who are today’s women’s sports stars? Ask your students to choose their favorite female champions in track, basketball, tennis, soccer, and more. Research their lives. Create a Women’s Sports Hall of Fame for your classroom.



those shoesThose Shoes written by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

This story models kindness and compassion: valuing others so much that you show them respect and offer help to them as a way of honoring their value.

Like all the other boys in school, Jeremy wants black high tops with two white stripes. But when he finally gets a pair, he realizes that he needs to give them away.

Try this activity to practice kindness and compassion:

Investigate local charities that welcome donations of good-as-new clothing, toys, books, or other useful items. Be sure to play close attention to their donation guidelines. If feasible, organize a class- or school-wide donation drive.


Developed as a joint project with Character.org and with generous support from Disney, each hand-picked book in the Reading Into Character section is paired with a FREE downloadable tip sheet.