Picture Books that Teach Optimism

Throughout the first six weeks of school it is essential that we build a community in our classrooms that is based on kindness, respect and responsibility. However, what do those three traits look like to children? How does kindness in the classroom differ from kindness in the hallway? While working to build these routines it’s important to begin slowly diving into your vocabulary teaching. This is a great time to gather lots of read aloud books and use these to support your teaching each day. There is not doubt about the fact that kids LOVE to be read aloud to.

The first vocabulary word we will be focusing on in my 4th grade classroom this year is optimism. Students in the upper elementary grades have often outgrown the self-assurance they felt in years past. They are very self conscious of what others are doing and often doubting their own abilities. It is so important to show children that everyone is unique and special in their own way. It is important to always believe in yourself and stay optimistic when something doesn’t come as easily for you as it does for someone else.

Every morning this week I plan to read aloud a picture book that helps promote positive thinking. Here are some picture books I recommend for teaching kids what an optimistic attitude looks like and feels like:

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds


In this adorable book Ramon loves to draw, it’s what makes him happy. However, that quickly changes when Ramon’s older brother makes a rude remark about his art. Nevertheless, his little sister sees the world differently. She is able to show him that sometimes life isn’t all about “getting things right.” This is a great book to teach optimism because it is all about believing in yourself and staying positive. It teaches kids that it’s important to notice the beauty in your creative mind and not focus on your mistakes.

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson


In this funny story Jeremy’s dad teaches him how to turn your worst enemy into your best friend. Of course, all one has to do is share some Enemy Pie. The first secret to the recipe is spending a whole day with your enemy! This is the perfect book for teaching kids how to stay hopeful even when they are having issues with their friends. Sometimes by showing kindness and empathy towards someone you don’t get along with, can change everything!

Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud


This book makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. This is my favorite! Not only does it teach kids (and teachers!) how important it is to be kind to others, it even gives us examples for ways we can do so.  The idea of ones “imaginary bucket” helps kids to realize how rewarding it is to express appreciation for those around them. There is also a whole website of bucket filling ideas and resources!

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds


Vashti doesn’t consider herself an artist, so when her art teacher asks her to “make a mark and see where it takes you” she stares blankly at her paper. Her teacher is trying to guide her to express her creative self. With hesitation she makes a mark on her paper. This one little dot becomes the beginning of Vashti’s optimistic thoughts and emotions about herself. This book is perfect for teaching positive self talk. It shows how important it is to just try, you never know what will happen!

After teaching students what it means to be optimistic, offer them opportunities to process this new word learning through practice and conversation. To support you in doing so I created a set of digital vocabulary activities all themed around this character trait word!

Download for FREE from my Teachers Pay Teachers Shop!

I hope that you found a book in this list that you can use to teach optimism! Please comment below with other book ideas! This is a perfect place for us to share ideas for read aloud books and activities.

Published by Liz Siracusa (Vocabulicious)

* Elementary Educator * Instructional Literacy Coach * Vocabulary Lover * The history behind Vocabulicious is simple - I love to help students growth their vocabulary, and I want to help YOU make your classroom a word conscious environment. I’m excited to share all of the vocabulary activities I have had success with throughout the years, plus great mentor texts to use for interactive read alouds. I live in Burlington, Vermont and enjoy hiking, biking and running!

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