Children’s Books for Teaching Character Traits in the Classroom
Using picture books for teaching character traits helps students identify a deeper understanding of characters, even if the author doesn’t explicitly state them.
Teaching Character Traits
Teaching character traits can be challenging, but picture books are a perfect tool to help your students develop a deeper understanding. Most of your students will be able to identify if a character is kind or mean, but using character traits as a literacy tool is so much more than that.
Picture book authors don’t spend a lot of time describing every aspect of a character, like in chapter books or novels. Your students need to learn how to infer information from the text, illustrations and reading between the lines to identify what the character thinks, feels, says and does. They also need to understand how events in a story change a character’s traits and behaviour and how this affects the plot and other characters.
Before I introduce some great books for teaching character traits, here are some things to think about.
- Define character traits by clarifying the difference between character traits and emotions.
- Create a list of traits and sort them into positive, negative and neutral categories. This involves a lot of discussion about the characteristics of each trait.
- Highlight the difference between internal (actions, words, thoughts and actions) and external traits (physical characteristics).
- Use the vocabulary of character traits as much as possible so they become second nature to your students.
Books for Teaching Character Traits
This is not an exhaustive list of books for teaching character traits. You can use any picture books that have characters who show strong personal qualities and who go through character development and growth.
As well as picture books, take a look at fairy tales and biographies. Fairy tales are a great opportunity to compare the ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’ traits. Biographies offer the opportunity to explore how a person influences or overcome events.
A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Character Traits Graphic Organisers
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle and Rafael López
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Character Traits Graphic Organisers
Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
Character Traits Discussion Starters
- How would the story have continued if [character] didn’t change?
- How did [character] behavior and actions affect other characters? What is your evidence?
- What caused [character] to change?
- Describe the challenges faced by [character]. How did they overcome them?
- What were the most important changes in [character]? Why?
- What prompted [character] to change?
- What do you think [character] is feeling or thinking?
- What is the character going to do next?
- How will their actions affect the story?
I hope these picture books give you a great jumping-off point for teaching character traits. Do you have any favourite books for teaching character traits that give your students a deeper understanding of characters?
Remember to check out the Character Traits pack on Teachers Pay Teachers. You will find over 30 graphic organizers to print and use in the classroom straight away.
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