Picture Books about Reflection and Self-Awareness
Discover picture books about reflection, focussing on giving thoughtful consideration to our actions, and analysing personal strengths and weaknesses.
Why Read Picture Books About Reflection?
According to the IBO, reflective students “thoughtfully consider the world and [their] own ideas and experience. [They] work to understand [their] strengths and weaknesses in order to support [their] learning and personal development.”
Reflection helps your students consider their actions, behaviour and learning. Using picture books about reflection lets your students see characters analysing personal strengths and weaknesses, including interpersonal skills and academic growth. Encouraging your students to reflect promotes an attitude of lifelong learning. Other benefits include:
- understanding why they make the choices they do.
- improving decision-making abilities.
- letting go of negative thoughts and feelings.
- seeing the big picture rather than focusing on trivial details.
- developing a growth mindset.
- developing strategies to overcome challenges.
- creating and maintaining positive relationships.
- focusing on the present rather than worrying about what has already happened and what may happen in the future.
Here are a few questions you can ask your students to get them started on their self-reflection:
- How do you think other people see you? Do you think it is the same as you see yourself?
- Do I interact with other people in positive ways?
- In what ways could you improve your social interactions?
- Think about the ways you work? Are there any improvements you could make?
Picture Books about Being Reflective
Reflective characteristics reveal themselves at different times, depending on a child’s self-awareness, age, and experiences. In these picture books about reflection, your students can learn from characters who:
- recognise and reflect on strengths and weaknesses.
- assess the actions to take in a given situation.
- recognise the feelings and needs of others.
- understand how our actions affect people and the world around us.
- learn from mistakes and make changes.
- recognise the outcome of reflection is change.
- understand learning never ends.
- communicate and share feedback and ideas.
- see constructive feedback as a positive process.
Some characters show a more unreflective attitude, including:
- not take on board other people’s opinions.
- struggling to admit if they are wrong.
- unwilling to change beliefs and behaviour.
- being impulsive rather than taking the time to think things through.
- not seeing the need to evaluate their actions.
- being ignorant of how their actions affect others.
- refusing or doesn’t ask for help.
- being unapologetic or insincere when apologising.
Questions to Use With Picture Books about Reflection
- How did [character] change throughout the book?
- Did [character] consider how their actions or behaviour would affect others? How could they act more positively?
- What were [character’s] strengths and weaknesses?
- Did [character] reflect on the consequences of their actions? Would they have acted differently?
- What lesson did [character] learn? Do you think they have better self-awareness?
- How could [character] reflect on their behaviour and improve?
- What previous knowledge did [character] use in the story? How did it help them?
- How did [character] deal with feeling [scared, anxious, etc.]?
- What was the most important or relevant moment in the story? Why?
- What do you think [character] learnt about themselves by the end of the book? How do you think they will use this knowledge in the future?
- What factors prevented [character] from being successful?
- Explain how [character] could have done things differently for a better outcome?
- Is there anything [character] should do differently next time? Why?
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Picture Books about Reflection and Self-Awareness
Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona
From her home in the Dominican Republic, Anita watches dragons fly high above her. She doesn’t let them scare her, but one day she finds she will have to travel on one of them, an aeroplane, to begin a new life in “a distant land far, far away”.
Promotes immigration, thinkers, self-reflection and courage.
Avocado Asks: What Am I? by Momoko Abe
Avocado is feeling fine until a customer asks if it is a fruit or vegetable. Avocado has no idea how to respond and the question just won’t go away.
Reinforces asking questions, a sense of identity and being positive in your own skin.
The Bad Seed by Jory John
When a “bad seed' overhears negative comments he decides to change his ways. He doesn’t change his behaviour overnight but takes it one day at a time.
Promotes a growth mindset, self-management, self-awareness and social awareness.
Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland
A loving bear hugs every living thing he comes across, particularly trees. When he comes across a man ready to chop down the oldest, most beautiful tree. Bear finds the perfect solution to stop the destruction.
Reinforces themes of nature, social awareness, problem-solving and enthusiasm.
Big Wolf and Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme
Translated from French, Big Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme is a touching book about the courage to make new friendships, adaptability, and open-mindedness.
Bob The Artist by Marion Deuchars
Bob is made fun of because of his skinny legs. His lack of self-esteem leaves him deflated until he visits an art gallery and gets inspired!
Promotes a growth mindset, relationship skills, creativity and appreciation.
Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt
A bug is sucked into a vacuum bag as it flies around a house. It goes through the five stages of grief as it tries to come to terms with its situation. Helps children understand the different emotions involved in unexpected and disappointing events.
Read to discuss self-management, overcoming adversity, acceptance, self-reflection and different perspectives.
Butterfly Brain by Laura Dockrill
Gus doesn’t listen to adults and after being told not to lean back in his chair, he falls and cracks his head. Out of the crack escapes memories of his mother. He realises he has been locking away his emotions about his mother’s death.
Read to discuss memories, grief, fears, self-reflection, love, and self-management.
First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch
Two boys from rival Kenyan tribes realise they have more in common than they thought when they work together to save a baby.
Reinforces themes of self-awareness, relationship skills, and social awareness.
Freedom, We Sing by Amyra León
Amnesty International endorse this book about freedom. The poetic text tells the reader about the freedom to live without violence, to be who we are, not experience fear and be protected and safe.
Use to discuss social justice, civil rights, human rights, hope, and empathy.
Garmann's Summer by Stian Hole
As Garmann’s summer comes to an end he experiences anxiety about starting school. He talks with his family and discovers he is not the only one who has to face their fears.
Reinforces themes of anxiety, confidence, courage, fears and risk-taker.
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
Beatrice Bottomwell has never, ever made a mistake. Until she makes one huge mistake in front of everyone. Will Beatrice realise it is okay to make mistakes and have more fun at the same time?
Reinforces themes of perfectionism, a growth mindset and a balanced life.
The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts
Tomos Roberts’ poem is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It celebrates acts of kindness, applauding key workers for their heroic endeavours and how people everywhere coped with adapting to a new way of life.
Promotes discussions on resilience, adaptability, hope and facing challenges.
Ish by Peter Reynolds
This is the first of two books about reflection by Peter Reynolds. In Ish, Ramon loves to draw. It is what he does. When his brother makes a negative comment on his drawing, Ramon loses his passion for drawing. It takes his little sister to show Ramon that there are more important things than being perfect.
Read to discuss appreciation, being reflective, and positivity.
Kevin by Rob Biddulph
Sid invents an imaginary friend called Kevin to take the blame for his mischievous behaviour. But with Kevin’s help, Sid realises it is best to be honest and he apologises for his past behaviour.
Promotes forgiveness, honesty and being reflective.
Kindness Grows by Britta Teckentrup
Kindness Grows illustrates the consequences of our actions, positive and negative. Using a visual representation of a tree, one side of the page shows it flourishing through kindness. The other side shows how negative behaviour creates unhappiness and separations. The book ends with the children on both sides coming together through an act of kindness.
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
This is the first of two books about reflection by Mo Willems. Leonardo the Terrible Monster is not very scary. In fact, he is cute! No matter how hard he tries he can't scare anyone, even a nervous boy called Sam. It is Sam that teaches Leonardo being a good friend is more important than trying to be mean.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
A lion visits a library every day, to the delight of the children. But the lion breaks the noise rules when it roars to help the head librarian in an emergency. What will happen to the lion now?
Promotes integrity, being principled, respect, reflection and the joy of reading.
Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana
Maia is devastated when her best friend, Nico, moves away. After some time she makes new friends, but worries she has no more room for Nico. When he returns she finds there will always be room in her heart for Nico.
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.
Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry by Samantha Berger
Martha does not apologise, ever. She soon learns that if she wants others to cooperate with her, she must apologise for her behaviour.
Promotes themes of balance, cooperation, forgiveness, honesty, manners and reflection.
Masai and I by Virginia Kroll
At school, Linda learns about the Masai people who live in East Africa. She wonders what her life would be like if she were a Masai. “Would I live in an apartment building the way I do now? Would I have a pet hamster of a new pair of sneakers? What would my family be like if I were Masai?”
Use to promote making connections, perspectives, empathy, and open-mindedness.
The Museum of Me by Emma Lewis
A young girl visits a museum and explores wonderful bugs, paintings, plants and beasts. At home, she realises she has her own museum that reflects her identity. Read to discuss self-reflection, anticipation, and curiosity.
On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne
A boy with a brilliant mind imagines evolutionary ideas. This boy grows into Albert Einstein who revolutionised our understanding of the universe.
This biography promotes science, creativity, inventions, perseverance, questioning and curiosity.
Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson
A little girl and her grandmother live and work in their general store. The grandmother is unsure of renting a shabby apartment to an interested couple. The girl intervenes, and the couple brings the building to life with their optimism and hard work. Their positivity spreads, and the grandmother slowly accepts the couple as part of the family.
Use this wordless book to discuss acceptance, different perspectives, open-mindedness, assumptions, and a positive attitude.
Red by Jan De Kinder
At first, a girl finds it funny when another student is teased for blushing. Soon, she realises she must stand against the bully but is fearful. Through her compassion and integrity, she finds the courage to do what is right.
Use to teach inferring, integrity, courage, compassion, and social justice.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
A small child is overwhelmed by a complex, puzzling and alienating world. She returns to the bedroom, full of emotions to find a tiny red seedling that has grown to fill the room with a warm, comforting light.
Reinforces themes of hope, loneliness, reflection, self-awareness, and balanced.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Rosie hides her inventions after being laughed at. Her great-aunt shows her that failure is part of the creative process.
Promotes a growth mindset, open-mindedness, perseverance, problem-solving and creative thinking.
Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
Ruby has a Worry. It wasn’t very big, but it stayed with her all day so she stopped doing the things she loved. She finds discussing her worry makes it gets smaller until it was almost gone. Though the Worry appears every now and again Ruby knows how to get rid of them.
Read to discuss adaptability, self-awareness, self-management and self-esteem.
The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley
Joe's mum tells him the new neighbours are asylum seekers, but he mishears this as ‘silence seekers'. In an act of kindness, Joe helps his new neighbour find a quiet place to be and a new bond grows despite the language barrier.
Reinforces themes of immigration, thoughtfulness, social awareness and persistence.
Silent Music: A Story of Bagdad by James Rumford
Ali practices the ancient art of calligraphy in Baghdad. When bombs fall he writes sweeping words to the silent music that drowns out the war around him.
This personal narrative focuses on being reflective while surrounded by conflict.
So Few of Me by Peter H. Reynolds
This is the second of two books about reflection by Peter Reynolds. Leo’s ever-growing to-do list needs two of him. When his wish comes true it only complicates his already busy life. Leo realises he must find a simple solution to his over-complicated life.
This book reinforces the themes of balance, time-management, self-awareness and self-esteem.
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
A teacher helps a young girl see beyond her scary feeling for her neighbourhood. She looks for beauty in her community with the help of her neighbours. Her beautiful journey helps her feel happy and hopeful.
Promotes a sense of community, poverty, responsibility and hope.
A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
A girl grieves the loss of her dog Sascha in this wordless picture book. The family goes on holiday, but without Sascha, it won’t be the same. The girl finds a golden stone in the ocean and can only imagine how it got there. She takes it homes and uses it to mark her beloved dog’s grave.
Promotes resilience, self-reflection, cause and effect and compassion.
Taking Time by Jo Loring-Fisher
The poetry in this book encourages the reader to take the time to enjoy and experience the world around them. The global children in the book listen to a bird’s song on the breeze, pick up blossom dancing free, and imagine the sounds of the sea.
Use to promote mindfulness, balance, and reflection.
Ten Tiny Things by Meg McKinlay
Tessa and Zachary's machine takes them from here to there and back again. When the machine breaks down the duo have to venture into the real world. As they take in the wonders around them they are no longer distracted by technology and modern conveniences.
Reinforces themes of balance, sustainability, nature and observation.
The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
This is the second of two books about reflection by Mo Willems. Piggie is determined to thank all the important people in her life. A sceptical Gerald is certain she will forget someone very important – him! At first, he is hopeful and then visibly upset when Piggie does forget him. She realises her error and apologises for her mistake only for Gerald to prompt her to thank someone else… the reader!
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
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
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.
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein
Told in Haiku, Wabi Sabi sets off on a journey to find out the meaning of her name and her identity. She discovers that wabi sabi is a Japanese philosophy of seeing beauty in simplicity.
Read to discuss inquirers, reflection and thinkers.
Weirdo by Zadie Smith & Nick Laird
Maud, a judo suit-wearing guinea pig, is given as a surprise birthday present to Kit. Left alone in her new home she meets the other pets, who do not approve of ‘the Surprise’. The guinea pig is lucky enough to meet neighbour, Emily Brookstein, who tells Maud it is great to be different and she should embrace who she is.
Use in the classroom to discuss courage, open-mindedness, individuality, and identity.
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Supporting your students to reflect on their learning and behaviour independently will help them become well-rounded individuals.
Do you have any suggestions for picture books about reflection? Please add them to the comments below.