Building Trust in the Classroom: Children's Books About Honesty

Children’s books about honesty and trust illustrate characters listening to their consciences and understanding the effects of dishonesty on others. They also explore characters who lie, cheat, and don’t always think about the consequences of their actions. With their vivid illustrations and engaging narratives, picture books offer a way to make the concept of honesty accessible and relatable.

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What is Honesty and Trust?

Before diving into picture books, let’s define honesty in terms young readers can grasp. Honesty is being truthful in our words and actions. 

It means not telling lies, not taking things that don’t belong to us, and keeping our promises. It’s a simple principle that forms the foundation of trust and integrity.

On the other hand, a dishonest person is deceitful and untrustworthy. They often have little regard for others and often act out of self-interest.

Children sitting on the floor and reading children's books about honesty in a library, with a focus on a young boy holding an open book.

The Value of Teaching Honesty

As adults, when we know someone is honest, we can trust them, but it can take children some time to connect the two. Children are prone to exaggeration, which may seem innocent enough, but as they age, this can lead to mistrust and related social issues.

Honesty is not just about teaching children to tell the truth but nurturing a sense of integrity and trustworthiness.

Teaching honesty from a young age fosters a culture of trust and respect. Children learn the importance of being reliable and developing strong, healthy relationships and helps them navigate social situations with confidence.

Why Read Children’s Books about Honesty and Trust?

Telling the truth isn’t always natural for children. They know honesty is the best option, but it may mean disappointing someone. Children may lie to avoid punishment or protect their friends.

Teaching children to be truthful in their actions and words helps them develop healthy relationships and be seen as trustworthy.

Picture books about honesty tell stories illustrating the importance of truthfulness and building trust-based relationships. You can use these stories to open up discussions with your students about why honesty and trust are important and the consequences of dishonesty.

Picture books focusing on honesty show children the importance of being truthful and handling difficult situations with integrity.

Four young girls from diverse backgrounds smiling together outdoors, with greenery in the background, reminiscent of scenes from children's books about honesty.

Honest and Trustworthy Character Traits

Reading these children’s books about honesty illustrates characters who:

  • Show integrity.
  • Are truthful and trustworthy.
  • Listen to their conscience.
  • Understand the effect of dishonesty on others.
  • Show loyalty and fairness.
  • Stand up for their beliefs.
  • Have healthy relationships.
  • Have a happier mindset.

In addition to these positive characteristics, you will read about characters who lie, cheat, and don’t think about the consequences of their actions.

Questions to Use with Children’s Books about Honesty

When reading, ask questions that predict the story’s outcome, use expressive voices for different characters, and pause to discuss the book’s illustrations. Encourage children to draw parallels between the characters’ experiences and their own.

  • What is a lie?
  • Is it ever okay to lie? Why or why not?
  • Is it ever wrong to tell the truth?
  • Is it easier to lie or tell the truth?
  • What are some of the consequences of lying?
  • Are some types of lies more severe than others?
  • Is it okay to keep quiet rather than tell the truth?
  • Is being honest always easy? Why or why not?
  • Why do we tell the truth? Why are some people dishonest?
  • How did [character’s] honesty/dishonesty affect the story and the other characters?
  • How would the story change if [character] had been honest in the first place?
  • Why do you think [character] was dishonest?
  • How did the [character] feel when they were lied to? How do you feel when someone lies to you?
  • Why do you think [character] did/didn’t trust [character]?
  • Why do you think the main character chose to be honest or dishonest?
  • If you were in the story, what would you have done differently?
  • What impact did honesty or dishonesty have on the characters’ relationships?
  • How would the story change if the character made a different decision about honesty?
  • What did the characters learn about honesty by the story’s end?

Children's Books About Honesty

Selecting the right picture books is crucial. Look for stories that not only address honesty directly but also explore its nuances, such as the consequences of dishonesty, the challenge of admitting mistakes, and the bravery in telling the truth even when it’s difficult.

A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

Camilla Cream loves lima beans but won’t eat them because her friends hate them. A mysterious illness causes her to become what others think she should be. Only when she embraces her true self does she recover.

A Bad Case of the Stripes serves as a reminder that individuality should be celebrated and that personal growth stems from self-acceptance and the courage to resist societal pressures.

Caperucita Roja / Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault

The setting remains the familiar path through the woods to Grandma’s house, and the characters include Little Red Riding Hood, her grandmother, and the wolf, along with elements from other folk tales.

Caperucita Roja revolves around courage, deception, and resourcefulness, and its wordless nature encourages interpretation, imagination, and storytelling.

Colette's Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault

Feeling lonely after moving to a new neighbourhood, Colette invents a story about a lost pet bird to gain the attention of the neighbourhood children. As the interest of her new friends grows, it leads Colette into a web of embellishments. 

Colette’s Lost Pet explores the complexities of making new friends and the importance of being oneself, honesty and the power of storytelling.

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo

Zot, a lonely alien from a grey world, visits Earth to take its colours. He soon realizes that taking colours away makes others sad and that happiness comes from giving and sharing with others.

The Colour Thief explores loneliness, empathy, sharing, how our actions affect others and how beauty can be appreciated and multiplied when shared.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

Jasper Rabbit is a carrot lover. However, things take a turn when the carrots start to stalk him, leading to Jasper’s imagination running wild. As the tension escalates, Jasper devises a strategy to fend off the creepy carrots.

Creepy Carrots explores honesty and how confronting our fears can often lead to unexpected outcomes.

A Day's Work by Eve Bunting

A Day’s Work guides children towards ethical behavior and instills honesty and the courage to rectify our mistakes through the experiences of Francisco and his grandfather through a well-intentioned yet misguided decision. They demonstrate hard work and integrity, returning to correct their mistake.

The Empty Pot by Demi

An Emperor challenges the children in his kingdom to grow a seed. Ping tends to his seed but only has an empty pot when spring arrives. The king rewards Ping for his honesty by making him the next emperor.

The Empty Pot promotes discussions on honesty, integrity, perseverance, and the courage to stand alone even when difficult.

Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big by Berkeley Breathed

Edwurd Fudwupper’s monumental lie causes chaos, drawing attention from the military and aliens. His sister admires his storytelling but worries as it takes on a life of its own.

Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big explores the consequences of lying, the importance of honesty and the impact of our words and actions.

Finn's Little Fibs by Tom Percival

Finn finds it easier to tell fibs than the truth. As his fibs take on a life of their own, he realises the importance of honesty. He learns to navigate his feelings and understand the value of being truthful, even when it’s tough.

Finn’s Little Fibs promotes discussions on honesty, personal growth, understanding our feelings, and the consequences of dishonesty.

Found by Jeff Newman

Jenn finds a lost dog and names him Roscoe. They form a strong bond after her own dog’s disappearance. However, she finds a lost dog poster and realizes that Roscoe belongs to someone else.

Found opens up conversations about empathy, compassion, loss, making tough decisions and doing what’s right, even when it’s hard.

Fox Tells Lies by Susanna Isern

Super Turtle: myth or reality? Things spiral out of control when Fox tells a little white lie to impress his friends. But when Squirrel is in trouble, Fox realizes the importance of honesty and owning up to our mistakes. 

Fox Tells Lies reminds your students to make responsible decisions and always tell the truth.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School by Davide Cali

A boy recounts his tardiness to school by spinning a fanciful story filled with giant ants, cannonballs, and evil ninjas, among other unlikely obstacles. He even claims an elephant parade was part of his morning ordeal!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School promotes discussions about cause and effect, making connections, and sequencing.

The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR! by Rob Biddulph

This is the first of two children’s books about honesty by Rob Biddulph. Fred the Bear is training for the Best Bear in the Woods competition. When Boris the Bear steals Fred’s roar, his friends rally around. He realises it is best to forgive Boris, who soon sees the errors of his ways.

The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR! promotes discussions on sportsmanship, forgiveness, integrity, honesty, and respect.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

A mouse creates a mythical creature called ‘The Gruffalo’ to outsmart predators and avoid becoming their meal. To his surprise, the Gruffalo turns out to be real! The quick-thinking mouse manages to trick the Gruffalo and save himself.

The Gruffalo sparks conversations about quick thinking, courage, navigating challenging situations, honesty, and problem-solving.

A Hen for Izzy Pippik by Aubrey Davis

Shaina finds a magnificent hen belonging to Izzy Pippik. While looking after the hen, the town becomes overrun with rowdy chickens. She protects the bird through her determination and standing up for what’s right.

A Hen for Izzy Pippik explores the impact of one person’s ethical stance and the rewards of doing what is right, determination, integrity and honesty. 

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack

After being scolded for lying, Libby vows to only speak the honest-to-goodness truth from then on. However, her unfiltered honesty starts to upset her friends, neighbours, and family, leading her to understand there’s a right time and way to tell the truth.

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth explores being truthful and considerate of others’ feelings and that honesty must be balanced with tact and kindness.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

This is the first of two children’s books about honesty by Jon Klassen. A bear loses his red hat and asks other animals if they’ve seen it. No one knows until a deer helps him remember where he last saw it. The bear confronts the culprit and finds his hat.

I Want My Hat Back promotes discussions on the implications of dishonesty, integrity and the importance of making responsible decisions.

Kancil and the Crocodiles: A Tale from Malaysia by Noreha Yussof Day

Kancil, the mouse deer, and Kura-Kura, the tortoise, spot a tree full of juicy fruits. They trick some hungry crocodiles into helping them cross the river to the tree. Unfortunately, they didn’t think about their return trip. 

Kancil and the Crocodiles, a Malaysian folktale, promotes discussions on honesty, integrity, and consequences.

Kevin by Rob Biddulph

This is the second of two children’s books about honesty by Rob Biddulph. Sid blames his mischief on his imaginary friend, Kevin. However, when Sid finds himself in Kevin’s world, he realises the importance of honesty and taking responsibility for his actions. 

Kevin promotes discussions on the consequences of not telling the truth and the significance of owning up to one’s actions.

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett

Leo, a lonely ghost who has lived in an old house for years, sets out to find a new home and a friend. He meets Jane, who can see and speak to him. Leo worries about Jane discovering his real identity, but an incident at Jane’s home shows Jane is the perfect friend for Leo.
Leo: A Ghost Story explores honesty, inclusivity and having empathy towards those who may not fit in.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Lilly adores her school, teacher, and purple plastic purse. Her enthusiasm for her purse leads her on an unexpected journey of self-discovery, teaching her important lessons about self-management, forgiveness, integrity, and self-reflection.
Through Lilly’s experiences, readers learn the value of controlling their impulses and honesty, making amends, and learning from our actions.