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Building resilience: 8 books to help kids face challenges

By Understood Team

Want to help kids build resilience? This trait helps kids learn from setbacks and move forward. One way you can teach resilience is by using books. When kids read or hear stories of how others face challenges, they learn from seeing resilience in action.

To help you get started, we asked our Understood Teacher Fellows to share their favorite books about building resilience in children and teens. The teachers also included questions to help kids talk, write, or make drawings about the books.

Picture books about resilience

What it’s about: This picture book tells the story of how Humpty Dumpty faces his fear of heights after he falls off the wall. 

What it teaches about resilience: This book encourages readers to work step by step to overcome a fear. 

What you can talk about with kids: After Humpty fell off the wall, why did he decide not to climb it again? What made him change his mind? Have you ever been afraid to try something? Why? How did you face your fear? 

Recommended by Ashlee Upp, first-grade teacher


What it’s about: In this picture book, a little girl named Lubna lives in a refugee camp with her father. While they wait for their chance to move to a new home, Lubna finds comfort in a pebble. She gives it to a boy to help him feel less alone.

What it teaches about resilience: This book celebrates the power of care and resilience during difficult circumstances. 

What you can talk about with kids: How did the pebble help Lubna feel safe? Why did Lubna give away the pebble even though she loved it so much? What helps you when you’re scared or worried?

Recommended by Jessica Cisneros, instructional coach 


What it’s about: In this picture book, a young man wants to try sculpting but is afraid to fail. An older sculptor shares his own failures — and how much he loves them. This inspires the young man to keep trying. 

What it teaches about resilience: Kids can see that it’s OK for things not to be perfect. Failure is not failure when you learn from it. 

What you can talk about with kids: What is something you tried to do but failed? Did you keep trying or give up? What can we do to help each other keep trying?

Recommended by Brian Smith, kindergarten teacher


What it’s about: This classic picture book tells the story of a little boy who wants to be able to whistle for his dog. He keeps trying — at times getting frustrated — but he eventually learns to whistle.  

What it teaches about resilience: The story inspires kids to not give up, even when things get hard.

What you can talk about with kids: What did the boy do when he couldn’t whistle? Have you ever had a frustrating experience like Willie? What kinds of things help you keep trying?

Recommended by Melissa Sandler, staff development teacher

Available in Spanish and as an audiobook


Graphic novel about resilience 

What it’s about: Based on a true story, this graphic novel tells the story of two brothers living in a refugee camp in Kenya. 

What it teaches about resilience: This novel highlights the human spirit and its ability to persevere through challenges, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. 

What you can talk about with kids: How is school both an opportunity and a challenge for Omar? How is school both an opportunity and a challenge for you?

Recommended by Jessica Cisneros, instructional coach 

Available as an audiobook


Chapter books about resilience

What it’s about: Sixth grader Ally is bullied by her classmates and tries to hide that she has dyslexia. When her new teacher helps her see her strengths as a learner, her confidence improves in many ways. 

What it teaches about resilience: Kids can learn that even though it may be challenging to see their differences as strengths, differences are what make them shine.

What you can talk about with kids: What ways did the teacher encourage Ally to see her strengths? In what ways do people in your life inspire and motivate you? If Ally was your friend, how might you support or advise her?

Recommended by Lauren Jewett, special education teacher

Available in Spanish and as an audiobook


What it’s about: This young adult novel tells the story of Meg Murry, who feels like she doesn’t fit in. The book follows the 13-year-old on a difficult adventure through space and time to search for her missing father. (Younger readers may not be ready for the book’s themes of mind control and abandonment.)

What it teaches about resilience: Kids will see that you can draw on your strengths and experiences when faced with challenges. 

What you can talk about with kids: Meg doesn’t see herself as particularly resilient. In what ways is she more resilient than she thinks? In what ways are you resilient?

Recommended by TJ Thornton, fourth-grade teacher

Available in Spanish and as an audiobook


Memoir about resilience

What it’s about: In this memoir, Malala Yousafzai tells the story of her experience growing up in Pakistan. She writes about advocating for girls’ education and the dangers she faces because of it. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17.

What it teaches about resilience: Malala’s story demonstrates the power of perseverance and grit. Kids will see how Malala uses challenges in her life to fuel her desire to impact the world. 

What you can talk about with kids: How did Malala persevere when faced with adversity? What has helped you persevere when faced with a challenge?

Recommended by Carly Bowden, seventh-grade teacher 

Available in Spanish and as an audiobook

More strategies for building resilience

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