Picture Books about Risk-Taking and Courage
These picture books about risk-taking and confidence follow characters approaching new and unfamiliar situations, seeking new ideas, making good decisions, communicating their opinions and standing up for their beliefs.
Why Read Picture Books about Risk-Taking?
What is a risk-taker and how can we help our students take appropriate risks? According to the IB, risk-taking students “approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; [they] work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. [They] are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.”
Risk-takers approach unfamiliar situations with confidence and enthusiasm. In these books, you will follow characters who explore new environments and ideas, who are courageous and stand up for their beliefs. Some suffer from fear and anxiety but find ways to overcome their doubts.
Your students are always going to come across times when they have to take risks, whether or not they want to. We can prepare them for these moments. The benefits of being a risk-taker include:
- Overcoming fears and failure
- Learning new skills
- Dealing with new or unexpected experiences
- Creative thinking
- Motivation to take things to a new level
- Building self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment
- Learning from mistakes and making appropriate changes
- Developing resilience, perseverance and a growth mindset
Picture Books about Confidence and Risk-Taking
Many of the situations in these picture books will help your students discuss how they feel about taking risks. They bring up the positives, but also the fear and reluctance involved in trying something new. You will see characters:
- trying something new despite their fears
- making new friends
- exploring their curiosity
- reflecting on how it felt to try something new
- experimenting with solving problems in different ways
- confronting difficult situations
- standing up for their beliefs, themselves and others
- exploring new environments and ideas
Some of the book characters are reluctant to take risks, going through a thought process children will be familiar with. You will see characters who are:
- Reluctant to step into the unknown
- Worried they are doing something wrong
- Prevents or delays decision making
- Feelings of embarrassment
- Fear of failure and making mistakes
- Reluctance to try new things
- Second guesses, limiting growth
Questions to Use With Picture Books About Risk-Taking
- Describe how a character in the book is a risk-taker.
- Were the characters brave enough to stand up for their beliefs? Why do you think they may have found this difficult?
- Is there a connection between [character’s] risk-taking and their creativity? Explain.
- How would you have handled this situation?
- How do you know [character] was taking a risk?
- Was [character’s] risk-taking positive or negative? Explain.
- As a class, did you have different views or perspectives on [character] risk-taking? Why do you think this is the case?
- Will the [character] find this situation easier next time? Why?
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Picture Books About Risk-Taking and Courage
Alec's Primer by Mildred Pitts Walter
Alec Turner, born into slavery in Virginia, was forbidden to learn to read. The granddaughter of his owner taught him so and he eventually become a free man. He joined the Union army during the Civil War before settling in Vermont. Every night he told his family of his story and their heritage. Based on actual events.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid
Althea Gibson grew up in Harlem and tennis was her passion. Every time she lost a match, she worked harder. Through her determination and resilience, Althea overcame racist and sexist attitudes to become the first black winner of Wimbledon, US and French Open tennis championships.
The Barnabus Project by Terry Fan
Strange animals kept in glass bell jars in a mysterious laboratory are failed attempts to make the perfect pets. Destined to be recycled, Barnabus, half mouse, half elephant, takes action to reach his goal of freedom. Through teamwork with his fellow captives, he does what it takes to reach the outside world.
The Bird In Me Flies by Sara Lundberg
Berta Hansson grew up on a Swedish farm and dreams of being an artist. With her frail mother ill in bed with tuberculosis, she had to take on extra responsibilities. Her childhood builds a determination to follow her dreams to be an artist… “Because I have a bird inside me, that must fly where it will…”
This translated biography prompts discussions on believing in yourself, following your dreams, courage, and determination.
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
A family is afraid of a large black dog outside their home. As they each spy a dog through their window, it grows in size and menace. It is the smallest member of the family who discovers the dog is not what the rest of the family imagined.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket
The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey
An art teacher encourages Vashti to make a mark, a dot, prompting Vashti to create a wide range of dot paintings. She displays her work at the school art show and inspires a young boy to make his own unique mark.
Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood
The Earth Shook: A Persian Tale by Donna Jo Napoli
In Iran, Parisa is woken by a powerful earthquake. She finds everything around her has been destroyed. Frightened, Parisa knocks on some doors, only to be faced with animals who have previously been hurt by humans. Alone, she dances, laughs, cooks food and waters the plants. One by one the distrustful animals gradually come to join her.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson
People dismissed Emmanuel because of his deformed leg, but his mother’s belief gave him the courage and determination to be himself. As he got older he became a cyclist, eventually cycling 400 miles across Ghana to promote the message that disability is not inability.
Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett
As Albert wishes his birthday wasn’t so ordinary there was a knock at the door. It was his Grandma Z! A very unordinary adventure began, including climbing to the top of Enchanted Rock, playing in the Midnight Forest and building a twenty-four room palace. Albert’s unordinary day finished with a party and huge birthday cake.
Hiccup The Viking Who Was Seasick by Cressida Cowell
Hiccup, a little Viking, doesn't fit because he is polite and scared of everything, including going to sea for the first time. But it is this little Viking that saves the day when the big, strong Vikings cannot.
Journey by Aaron Becker
A lonely girl escapes into a mysterious world and witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. With courage, the girl outsmarts the emperor's army to set the bird free.
The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright
Let's Paint! by Gabriel Alborozo
Little Mouse and the Red Wall by Britta Teckentrup
Little Mouse, Scaredy Cat, Old Bear, Laughing Fox, and Lion Who Had Lost His Roar live in a grey village surrounded by a large red wall. The thought of what is beyond the wall fills cat, bear and lion with fear. Mouse filled with curiosity and courage, steps beyond the wall, finding a world of beauty and freedom.
Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaele Frier
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems
Parachute by Danny Parker
Toby has a great fear of heights and he always carries a bright orange parachute. When his cat gets stuck in a tree Toby follows and uses the parachute to rescue it. The problem is that Toby is now stuck in the tree. Can he face his fears and get down?
Phileas's Fortune: A Story about Self-Expression by Agnes de Lestrade
Large factories churn out beautiful, ugly and funny words. People purchase, then swallow the words to communicate. Not all words are equal and the cost of each word varies. Phileas catches three discarded, random words to express his love for Cybele.
The Real Boat by Marina Aromshtam
A paper boat floats down a stream and into a river before being pulled into the ocean by a tugboat. A storm causes the paper boat to sink to the bottom of the ocean. A scuba diver scoops up the boat and passes it onto a ship captain who is full of admiration for this brave, little boat.
The Ricker Racker Club by Patrick Guest
Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden
Ron loved visiting his local library to read books about the world of aviation. But the policy of segregation in South Carolina meant he couldn’t take home books. This brave young boy challenged this injustice through determination and peaceful resistance. His success meant that anyone, regardless of background or ethnicity, could have a library card.
Based on a true event in the life of Ron McNair, a scientist and astronaut. He tragically died, along with six others, in the 1986 Challenger explosion.
The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman
Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna the Very First Chicken by Douglas Rees
Tyrannosaurus Rex stomps and roars to scare the other dinosaurs right out of the forest. Only Edna, the very first chicken, stands up to this bully. But she will be a match for Tyrannosaurus Rex’s gnashing teeth and sharp claws?
The Visitor by Antje Damm
One day a blue paper aeroplane flies through Elsie's window. This event leads to a knock at the door which she opens to a boy who asks for his plane. An unexpected friendship develops and brings colour and light to Elsie’s lonely life.
Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford
Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of equal voting rights, but she had to overcome prejudice, verbal abuse and a beating which nearly killed her. In 1964 she gave a televised speech that prompted people to support the Freedom Democrats.
The Wall by Jessie James
Tom loves to explore until he hears adults talking about the monsters who live out in the world. He becomes scared and the adults build a wall to keep out the monsters. Life soon becomes dreary. When a colourful message flies over the wall, Tom starts exploring again and persuades the adults there is nothing to be afraid of.
When We Went Wild by Isabella Tree
Nancy and Jake are farmers who use large machines and chemicals on their deteriorating land. On reflection, they make a big change, and decide to go wild! They ban the chemical, stop using equipment and let the animals graze freely and the fields grow wild.
Promotes taking risks, sustainability, conservation and restoring the countryside.
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These picture books about risk-taking and courage give you an opportunity to show your students they are not the only ones who find it hard to step into the unknown and try something new. All your students will seek risk in different ways and at different levels. A classroom is a safe place for them to experiment by taking safe risks with no judgement.
Do you have any favourite picture books about risk-taking and courage in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below!