Responsible Decision-Making Books for the Classroom

Responsible Decision-Making Books for the Classroom

These responsible decision-making books illustrate characters taking responsibility by following rules, being accountable for their actions and thinking about the consequences before they act.

Responsible Decision-Making Books for the Classroom

Social and Emotional Learning: Responsible Decision-Making

Responsible decision-making is one of five social and emotional learning components. The other components are self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills and social awareness.  

Responsible decision-making is “the ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others.” CASEL

Younger children often act without thinking and don't always see the effect of their decisions. The goal is to help them plan and consider the consequences of their actions on others.

We all make choices every day, some thought through and others more impulsive. Some decisions are easy, while others are complex. And we need to take responsibility for our actions. It isn't easy for children to understand they are accountable for their actions and dealing with others and think about the consequences before acting or speaking. 

Why Read Responsible Decision-Making Books?

These picture books about responsible decision-making reinforce the importance of taking responsibility and understanding actions have consequences. They focus on following rules, taking on new responsibilities and being accountable for their actions, especially when they don't make good choices.

In these responsible decision-making books, you will find characters who are working towards:

  • Making positive decisions about personal behaviour and social interactions.
  • Considering the well-being of themselves and others.
  • Brainstorming different strategies or solutions to a task.
  • Reflecting and evaluating actions to meet set goals.
  • Identifying rules and social norms of behaviour.
  • Understanding the consequences of a particular course of action.
  • Making appropriate and constructive choices about behaviour and interactions.
  • Considering a situation and making appropriate decisions.
  • Being proud of their choices.
  • Realising not all decisions will be easy.
  • Being aware of positive and negative consequences to decision-making.

Questions to use with Responsible Decision-Making Books

  • Did [character] make the best decision under the circumstances? Why?
  • Did [character's] emotions affect their decision-making?
  • What was [character's] motivation for making that decision?
  • Do you think the outcome was what [character] hoped for? Why or why not?
  • Did [character] think about the consequences of their decision? What could they have done?
  • Could [character] have made a better decision? Why?
  • What should [character] have thought about before making such a decision?
  • Will the results of [character's] decision impact the other characters or the environment? How?
  • Who could [character] have discussed their idea before making a decision? Would it have made a difference?
  • Will this decision help [character] reach their goal(s)?
  • Is this a decision [character] can be proud of? Why or why not?

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Responsible Decision-Making Books

Babu's Song by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Bernardi lives in Tanzania with his mute grandfather, Babu, who makes toys. He gives Bernardi a handmade music box. Sadly, when a tourist offers a lot of money for the box, he sells it. Bernardi hands over the money to his grandfather, who uses the money for his grandson to attend school.

Promotes compassion, empathy and responsible decision-making.

The Busy Beaver by Nicholas Oldland

A busy beaver only realises the damage his mindless chomping does when he gets hit by one of his falling trees. He reflects on his destructive behaviour and makes positive changes.

Promotes a balanced life, reflection and a growth mindset.

A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Rosa, her mother and her grandmother, are devastated when their home is destroyed by fire. The community helps them by donating items they will need.

Promotes community, generosity, responsible decision-making and perseverance.

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Three children use their imagination to create real-life objects after finding magic chalk. This wordless picture book promotes creativity, friendship, responsible decision-making, creative thinking, problem-solving and retelling.

Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

A young bear called Lucy brings home her new pet, a little boy! Her mother warns her that children make terrible pets, but Lucy carries on regardless with funny results.

Promotes responsible decision-making, relationship skills, communication, and social awareness.

Claire Malone Changes the World by Nadia L. King

Claire Malone takes on the burden of addressing problems in the world. She does all she can to make changes, but it doesn’t work out the way she wants. Before burning out from the worry, she decides to work on issues closer to home and even learns to have fun.

Read to start discussions on being knowledgeable, persuasion, community action, persistence, responsible decision-making, and being well-balanced.

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool

A boy spins clouds into beautiful cloth. When a greedy king sees it, he demands the boy make his clothes. This demand has consequences as the clouds disappear and cause a drought. The princess returns the woven cloth to the boy, who releases it to become clouds once more.

A Day's Work by Eve Bunting

Francisco helps his grandfather find work by lying that he is a gardener. They are hired by Ben to work on his garden but they pull out all the plants instead of the weeds. Abuelo returns the next day to complete the job correctly before taking his wages.

Promotes responsible decision-making, honesty, integrity and trust.

Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big by Berkeley Breathed

Edwurd Fudwpper's humongous fib gets him into trouble with the military, a dogcatcher and a three-eyed alien. It takes his little sister, Fannie Fudwupper, to rescue him.

This rhyming book promotes honesty and responsibility.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Annabelle finds a box of colourful yarn, which never runs out no matter how much she knits. When an evil archduke steals the yarn, its magic no longer works. When the yarn finds its way back to Annabelle, the magic continues.

Promotes determination, integrity, perseverance, respect and being a risk-taker.

Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe

A young boy loves the jar full of fireflies he has just caught, but he sets them free to keep them alive when their light starts dim. Use to discuss visualizing, summer, inference, making connections, freedom, first-person narration, and responsible decision-making.

Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo

A small animal appeals to the larger animals of the city not to ignore the flooding that started overnight. As the water rises, the larger animals go about their business, ignoring the issues faced by the smaller animals. When the flood becomes a problem for everyone, they all work together to save their city.

Promotes discussions on how problems get bigger if ignored, teamwork, taking action, problem and solution, and responsible decision-making.

For You are a Kenyan Child by Kelly Cunnane

A young boy forgets his responsibility of looking after his grandfather’s cows when he visits everyone in the village. When he returns to the cows, they have gone. What will he do now?

Reinforces the themes of community and responsibility.

A Forest by Marc Martin

A forest peacefully grows for thousands of years until people begin to chop down its trees. In its place grows a city and its factories. The consequences of deforestation are devastating when a flood destroys the town. A lone tree is left standing and gradually becomes part of a new forest.

Promotes discussions of deforestation, conservation, pollution, responsible decision-making, sustainability, and consequences of our actions.

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

A girl wants to buy a new bike but doesn't have enough money. She helps her elderly neighbour by doing yard work and developing a new friendship. When she has enough money, she rushes to the shop to buy the bike, but to her dismay, it has gone.

This wordless book shows how the girl's hard work and perseverance are rewarded.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Over the course of a boy’s life, he asks a tree to help him, and she gives him everything she has. As an old man, it is only on reflection that he feels gratitude and thankfulness towards the tree.

The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers

This is the first of two cause and effect picture books by Oliver Jeffers. To their dismay, residents of a forest notice that something is chopping down trees. As they attempt to solve the mystery, they accuse each other before working together to find the culprit. The culprit turns out to be a bear obsessed with becoming a champion aeroplane maker.

Read to discuss being well-balanced, sustainablility and responsible decision-making.

Hello, Mr World by Michael Foreman

Mr World is poorly. He is hot and struggling to breathe. Young doctors examine the earth and discover the reasons it is suffering. Promotes environmental responsibility, social awareness and responsible decision-making.

The Herd Boy by Niki Daly

Malsui, a herd boy, watches his flock every day but dreams of being President of South Africa. On his way home from rescuing his herd from a group of baboons a large, shiny car passes him. As the window winds down, he sees the man inside is Nelson Mandela who encourages Malsui to follow his dream.

Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter

A New York town disposes of their rubbish on a barge but as the boat proceeds down the coast every port refuses to accept the cargo. For 162 days, Cap’n Duffy tugged the stinky garbage around until it disposed of its smelly load back in New York.

Promotes environmental issues, respect and responsible decision-making.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

This is the second of two cause and effect picture books by Oliver Jeffers. Travel over mountains and oceans, space and constellations, and the animals and people who populate the Earth. The handwritten facts throughout the book are a gentle plea to care for the planet and each other.

Read to discuss appreciation, community, curiosity, gratitude, being knowledgeable, open-mindedness, responsibility, and tolerance.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Bear asks the animals if they have seen his lost, red, pointy hat, but they all deny seeing it. He feels dejected and worries he will never see his hat again. When a deer helps him remember, the bear confronts the guilty animal.

Promotes responsible-decision making, manners, cause and effect, honesty and integrity.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Lilly loves school, her teacher, and her purple plastic purse. When her teacher, Mr Slinger, confiscates the purse, she plans her revenge. She draws a mean picture of Mr Slinger but soon feels remorse and sets out to make amends.

Promotes self-management, forgiveness, integrity, relationship skills and reflection.

Love Is by Diane Adams

A young girl describes love while she learns how to care for a duckling she found, but she learns love also means knowing when it is time to let it go.

No David! by David Shannon

David is a boy who breaks the rules; flooding the bath, jumping on the bed, and breaking a vase. His mum repeatedly says “No!” until David apologises, and he gets his mother's forgiveness.

Promotes discussions on responsible decision-making, manners, love and forgiveness.

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett

This is the first of two cause and effect picture books by Emily Gravett. All the birds had an egg, except Duck. He shows great compassion when he finds his own egg. The anticipation builds as the egg hatches. What will be inside?

Promotes open-mindedness, responsibility and a sense of belonging.

The Only Way is Badger by Stella J Jones

Badger thinks badgers are the best and expects everyone to be just like him. He soon learns a lesson in acceptance and that being the best is not always important.

Reinforces balance, open-mindedness, responsible-decision making, relationship skills and forgiveness.

A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno

Mako is thrilled when she gets a new pair of Geta, traditional Japanese shoes. They are shiny with red lacquer until she cracks them while playing outside. She tries to fool her mother to get a new pair of Geta but soon realises honesty is the best way to go.

Promotes forgiveness, making connections, and honesty.

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

Pig the Pug was greedy and selfish in almost every way. He lived with his dachshund friend, Trevor, but selfish Pig refused to share his toys with Trevor. Pig soon learns a painful lesson when he gets his just deserts.

Promotes positive behaviour, integrity, responsibility and self-management.

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

A girl picks colourful flowers poking up through the cracks in the pavement. She places her flowers on a dead sparrow, a sleeping man and into a dog’s collar. She places flowers in her mother’s hair and a few on her brother’s head at home.

This wordless book promotes kindness, generosity, making a difference and inference.

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Jeremy is mortified when his shoes fall apart, and the school counsellor provides an unstylish replacement. He finds a second-hand pair of ‘those shoes’, but they are too small. After some reflection, he passes the sneakers to a young child who Jeremy realises needs them more than him.

Read to promote discussions on peer pressure, compassion, empathy, generosity, kindness, sharing, and poverty.

Tidy by Emily Gravett

This is the second of two cause and effect picture books by Emily Gravett. Pete the Badger likes everything clean and neat. He takes this too far when he tidies up the forest by concreting it over. After realising the consequences of his actions, he sets out to rectify them.

Promotes self-management, cause & effect, responsible decision-making and reflection.

The Tomorrow Book by Jackie French

Children left in charge of a kingdom make environmental changes. They research at the library and set out to make positive changes. By working together and seeking solutions, they make a difference in their world.

Promotes environmental responsibilities, cooperation and problem-solving.

Tsunami!! by Kimiko Kajikawa

Ojiisan feels something coming as he watches the sea from his balcony. When he sees the water pull away from the beach, he understands a tsunami is coming. He knows the rest of the village cannot see the danger coming but will Ojiisan risk everything to save them?

The Tunnel by Anthony Browne

Two siblings discover a tunnel. The brother rushes in, dismissing his sister’s fears. When he doesn't return, she finds the courage to follow him. 

Promotes themes of facing our fears, cooperation, curiosity, responsibility and being a risk-taker.

Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine

In rural Mexico, Rosalinda wakes to find a Night Man has taken lemons from her much loved lemon tree. She discovers the man selling her lemons but realises he had a need to do this. With this new understanding, she gives away her lemons, including to the Night Man. He tells her to plant the lemon seeds while the lemon moon is in the sky.

Unplugged by Steve Antony

Blip learns the benefits of unplugging from technology by discovering the world around her. Reinforces the themes of a balanced life, reflection and responsible decision-making.

The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race by James Thorp

Six animals race through their respective homes and deceive, trick and cheat. All except for the unicorn. A snail witnesses the cheating, and the unicorn is rewarded for its integrity.

Promotes responsible decision-making, being principled and sportsmanship.

What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers

Find out what it means to be a good citizen. Different children show how their actions generate an active and supportive community. Practical ways to change the world positively include picking up litter, planting a seed, helping a neighbour, joining a cause and writing a letter.

Would You Rather… by John Burningham

John Burningham gives the reader endless choices of what they would rather do, including having a hippo sleeping in their bed or eating mashed worms. The possibilities are fun, scary, disgusting and silly.

Promotes discussions on decision-making, asking questions, reflection, creative thinking and open-mindedness.

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What Next?

Teaching responsible decision-making takes time. Using picture books reinforces the importance of taking responsibility by following rules, being accountable for their actions, and thinking about the consequences before they act.

What responsible decision-making books do you use in the classroom?

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