3 Children's Books That Teach Social/Moral Lessons

Lately, I've been on a hunt for children's books that teach lessons.

Not academic lessons, mind you. We have plenty of that kind. We have stacks of books that teach numbers and letters and colors and vocabulary.

I'm talking about social and moral lessons. Books that teach sharing and good manners and the importance of putting others before yourself...that kind of thing.

Surprisingly, I am finding that the selection is rather shabby.

There appear to be plenty of books that provide educational instruction, but not many that provide lessons for life.

Books are a powerful way to subtly (or not so subtly) shape character and instill values...and I'm a bit disappointed in my lack of options. I may have to write a few of my own...

In the meantime, I'll share with you 3 books that I have found that teach positive lessons about behavior...and I'm hoping that YOU will share your suggestions as well.

green eggs and hamGreen Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss : Not only is this classic Dr. Seuss title rhythmic and lyrical and hilarious in a way that both children and adults can appreciate, it also has a fantastic message about trying new things. I always enjoy getting to the very end when the main character tastes the eggs and ham. I almost always turn to my daughter and say, "Do you think he's going to like them?" And she replies with an enthusiastic, "YES!" And, of course, he does like them...in the rain, on a train, etc.

the berenstain bears and the messy room by stan and jan berenstainThe Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room by Stan & Jan Berenstain : The Berenstain Bears' books offer many lessons, but - unfortunately - they often portray Papa Bear as a big buffoon. His anger and incompetence is problematic in that it paints a picture of fatherhood that is not at all pleasant or admirable. That said, this book is an exception. It starts with a problem (a messy room) and ends with a happy solution that the whole family works on together.

it's time to start using your words by lawrence shapiroIt's Time to Start Using Your Words by Lawrence Shapiro : This small, squarish book is not as "subtle" as the above two titles with it's message. The book follows several children as they do normal daily activities and encourages them to use words to express their feelings or make requests, as opposed to just pointing or crying. Even before reading this book, I found myself saying "Please use your words..." to my 2-year-old throughout the day. It's nice to have found a book that reinforces that concept.

YOUR TURN: Have you discovered any books that teach moral/social lessons? Share the titles here!

WIN IT! One winner will receive a copy of "It's Time to Start Using Your Words" by Lawrence Shapiro ($7.95).  To enter, leave any topic-related comment on this post prior to Monday, May 25 at midnight (Don’t forget to follow the rules…all generic comments like “Enter me!,” “Love it,” and “Cool stuff!” will be disqualified.).

*UPDATE* The winner is #22 Sara. Congratulations!

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78 comments on “3 Children's Books That Teach Social/Moral Lessons”

  1. Hello, my name is Laura from the UK.

    I am a book cover artist but have recently written a couple of stories for children, 'Santa's last House' and 'The lonely little Christmas Tree.'

    Both available on amazon Kindle and paperback [email protected]

    'The Lonely little Christmas Tree' has morals for children, more than one in fact. Here are some reviews for my book:

    "This book has not one but two very strong morals to the story. One deals with how we treat others, the other is how we think on people in wheelchairs or with handicaps. There is so much teaching that can go along with this book. A must read for an adult and a child, as the morals need to be talk about, and this book opens the door to those lines of communication. If you know a child that is being picked on this is just the book for them. Or if you know a child with a handicap here you go with a way to talk at a child's level.

    L. D. Redmond may just be the next writer/illustrator to hit the American market. She knows how to write and illustrate a book. I have seen so much of her work and just love how she has grown as an artist. Now she is putting forth some great kids books for the kid in all of us."

    "I really enjoy and appreciate this author's work. She brings enlightening wisdom into her words and illustrations, while giving the reader a wealth of thought provoking and absorbing moments as we reflect, enjoy and relax with this easy to read book. Thankyou for a great read!!"

    "After reading L.D Redmonds book .. Santa`s last House .. I just knew I had to read this delightful tale.
    This is a beautiful story, filled with magic, a little sorrow and a wonderful happy ending .. I admit my eyes filled up with a tear or two for the little tree. The artwork is quite lovely and suits the story perfectly
    This is a story suitable for all ages. Children will just love and will want to read it over and over. I can just picture a Mum reading to her kids on Christmas Eve. Its a Thumbs up from me"
    Laura :)

  2. Hi there! I'm just starting out writing children's stories, (along with my husband) and want to help "spread the word" to any of you moms or dads that would be interested. Please check out my website at: icharacter.org which includes just the beginning stages of our dream, which is to create lots of children's books and material which encourage good moral behavior, as well as early introduction to the Bible and knowing Jesus. I would be honored if you would have a moment to check it out and let me know what you think about it, thanks a billion.

  3. The Noodleboro book/activity/cd sets are inexpensive and great for teaching kids moral lessons. One is a Listening pizza activity with a story on the importance of listening and then a pizza game where you have to listen to instructions to make someone's pizza correctly. They also have a Manners book with Manners picnic basket activity and the best one in my opinion (and many of the kids i know) is the Sharing book and the Share Fun Amusement Park activity - all by Noodleboro. I've played these games with kids from 3-15 and all of them LOVED them!

  4. This has been killing me. I'm 30 and I still remember these books or stories my first grade teacher read me. They were about some sort of good witch, or good lady, that taught children with small flaws good lessons in uncharacteristic ways.

    1) Some kid who didn't share - so she labeled everything, I believe even the apple to his lunch, and I believe he was pleased at first but then as he became embarrassed he started to share everything; and
    2) A story about a girl or boy who wouldn't make their bed, so the good witch/lady told a story about someone evil who did something bad if all the folds weren't smooth, so the little girl/boy and the good witch/lady made a game of smoothing out every single fold like it was an artful skill

    If ANY of you know this book or collection of stories, I'm DYING to know it...It's been 25 years and I still think about this book and I'm going to be a father soon!

  5. My wife and I read to our children every night. Most of the books that I read to my children are nonsense. My children are memorizing what is going on in these books. Since they are memorizing the content in the books, I wanted the content to be worth while, so I decided to write my own series of books. The first book I wrote is called stealing is bad, but giving is good. It should be available on amazon.com in the next week. The next book I wrote deals with lying. I put the audio version of my books on my website for free, so everyone can listen to the books before they buy them. I hope that people can use my books to teach morals to their children, and open a dialogue between parents and their children. If you are interested my website is http://www.childrensbookswithmorals.com.

  6. this was a great article; however it is important to remember that you do not need to go searching for books to teach moral/social skills. Daily occurences and all of the current books in the library offer an opportunity to teach your kids a moral/social lesson. Sometimes the negative books offer the most opportunity because you can ask you child what they would do differnt.

    1. Not that I can think of right off the top of my head. Perhaps you should write one? That's a great topic! :)

    2. Yes Angie, on Amazon look for NAJI'S TREASURES and BESSIE SUE HELPS HER PARENTS. They both present children characters who are content and thankful.

      The author is Jocelyn Sophia Poesnecker

  7. Thanks for this site! I just stumbled across this page in my search for moral books with strong stories. I'll be trying out a few of your and your readers' suggestions.

    How excellent!

  8. Serendipity is a series of children's books about fictional animals. The stories have a strong moral perspective. First released in 1974, they were written by Stephen Cosgrove (b. July 26, 1945) and illustrated by Robin James.

  9. I haven't discovered any books that teach moral/social lessons yet. Thanks for sharing your finds with us!

  10. Love the initiation for speech and langauge skills; It puts the child at the top both for inward/outward excellence; Self-esteem to the top!!!!! Thanks

  11. My daughter-in-law is having this exact problem with her 3 year old right now. He has tantrums and starts to cry and point. She teaches highschool and is tired when she gets home dealing with thier moods, so trying to get a 3 y.o. is really tough. This would be a great help to her.
    Thanks for the chance.

  12. Old but true today...my children love the message in "The Wizard Of Oz"...that all the things Dorothy wanted were right there all the time!What a neat contest and wonderful book as a prize! Thanks!

    Barbara Rawe
    [email protected]

  13. My son is struggling to talk. And when he gets frustrated, any progress that we have made goes out the window. This sounds like it might be a good thing to try with him.

  14. These books would be really nice to read to the children that I work with - some of them have coping issues and don't understand that they can try to explain how they are feeling.

  15. Now that both my children are getting older, I realize it's time to focus on certain books that address issues and not only entertain but teach. We love Dr. Suess books and some of the others mentioned on the blog will soon be added to our library!

  16. We always loved the Berenstain Bears’ books, I agree usualy Papa Bear looks like a bafoon but it was all for humor that the kids enjoy. and they always have great lessons. and thanks for the chance to win this book

  17. I would love to win and read these to my nephews who are just starting to read. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  18. The Berenstein Bears series has a lot of lessons that can be learned. They address many things like sharing, whining, tantrums, and manners. They are really great books.

  19. My favorite book for my children is called Minosaur I will have to find the author and let you know.. It teaches kids to share!

  20. Of course I've heard of Dr. Seuss and I have Berenstein Bears books from when I was a child, but the Learning to Use Your Words book was a new one to me! I love books that teach a lesson, concealed or not! These would make a great addition to our school library! Thanks for the chance to win!

  21. I LOVE reading and am hoping to pass that on to my daughter. I really like the idea of using books/stories to teach lessons. I was reading Green Eggs and Ham to Lily (5months old) thinking that it will be great when she gets older.

  22. My grandson will be one in August and my daughter in law has started reading to him. I think it is very important to start teaching life lessons social and moral at a young age. I think this would be a great book to add to Carters reading. Please include me in your giveaway.


  23. I'd love to win this book. My 2.5 year old talks when she feels like it, but most of the time it's whines and grunts and such.

  24. Wow I just read The Messy Room to my son last night! Some of my favorite books from growing up were 'learning books' - like Mooch the Messy and No Fighting, No Biting. Thanks for the great post!

  25. There are two that I really like. One is the Little Engine that Could, and the second one is a new one that we just came across Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic.

  26. My mom got my son a set of books all about manners, probably at a dollar type store or maybe Christmas Tree Shops (an East coast store). Anyway, they are called Manners Always Matter
    Kids' Book Set and include stuff likes Let's Share, Excuse Me, May I Help?, etc. They are by Publications International, Ltd. My almost 2 year old enjoys them.

  27. I'll just "dump" these out: The Empty Pot, by Demi. about honesty and integrity. All the children of the village receive "bum" seeds to "grow" for the emperor. Only one shows up with the empty pot Horton Hatches the Egg: integrity and fairness. The Arthur series is about social problelms and presents good morals. The book Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, is a great antidote to victim mentality and bad attitude - "some days are like that" - although the message is not blantant, or even clear, perhaps, to a child. Curious George series is also great, esp. for children (often boys) who are not great at anticipating consequences. George messes up a lot, but also helps out, and is noticed for the good he does. The Enormous Lie, about Truth, The Carrot Seed, Kraus is a great (old) one for teaching faith and carrying on to success even when others doubt you. I've never seen a child yet who didn't like it. Great for kindergarten age. THANKS!

  28. As always, great suggestions. I am in need of good quality childrens books that teach lessons as well.

  29. I love reading my daughter Green Eggs & Ham. I really enjoyed reading everyones comments to get even more suggestions for some new books. My daughter is 6 months old and we read for at least 20 minutes a day but don't have very many books so I've been looking for some suggestions.

  30. I often tell my son to "use his words" or "can you think of a nice way to say that?" when he starts whining. He really enjoys stories so whenever possible, we discuss what the characters are doing that's good or not so good in each story.

    P.S. I love Green Eggs & Ham. We also enjoy Robert Munsch books. Others we've found with good lessons are the Bear series by Karma Wilson.

  31. I think Knuffle Bunny offers the opportunity to teach a good social lesson. I love the story line and the illustrations. Dad's face at the end cracks me up.

  32. "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein is a beautiful story... you must read this!

    Also, if you are passionate about finding quality children's books, I would suggest either ordering a catalog from Chinaberry or visiting their web site at http://www.chinaberry.com/

  33. The Berenstain Bear books are great for teaching lessons and my daughter likes them. One that we read is about being safe around strangers and another is about money management.

  34. "How Butterbees Came to Bee!" by Tania & Lana Bloch features bees and butterflies and is a good book for explaining cultural differences and acceptance to young children.

    "The Littlest Dinosaur" by Michael Foreman teaches children that even the smallest, littlest members of society can make big contributions and also shows them that they can be friends with those that are different from them.

    "Do Unto Otters" by Laurie Keller is a humorous book for teaching the golden rule.

    There is a new book out by Samantha Berger called "Martha Doesn't Say Sorry" that looks promising though I haven't read it yet.

    For the very young, Karen Katz wrote a book called, "Excuse Me!"

  35. Good question! I'll have to give it some thought and look through our books with this in mind.

    I know I have encountered plenty of books that contained social lessons, but with lessons I didn't want to teach.

  36. Thank you for the suggestions! I always enjoy hearing book recommendations. I can't think of any books that we have that are specifically for teaching social and moral lessons, but I always manage to point out what Curious George did NOT do right that got him into trouble, and what he should have done!

  37. I am in grad school to become a librarian and I am a first time mom so this topic hits home for me. I love books and I love a book that teaches a kid morals without being preachy, great blog post, I enjoyed reading about the books.

  38. My kids love Green Eggs and Ham. They do not like however when we tell them they are doing Green Eggs and Ham at dinner! I have not read the other two yet but they look great!

  39. I've been wanting to find more "moral" books too. My friend has some kind of retro books that deal with hitting, lying and the like but there really for older kids although her 2 year old did glean some wisdom from them. We have a book by Elizabeth George called "God's Wisdom for Little Girls". It's based on the characteristics of the Prov 31 woman. Again really for an older audience but I hope some of it sinks in. I realized awhile ago that while we were playing with A's princess "paper doll" (it's wooden and magnitized but I don't know what else to call it!) that I would say, "Ooo, pretty" a lot so I began saying things like, "Ooo, she looks like a smart/helpful/kind/etc princess".

  40. This would be great for my little Sophia who's a little timid when it comes to this subject. This just might help her along!

  41. Nice picks. I found the cutest book called "Why Do You Always Have To Say Please?" It's lighthearted and fun but with a really great message.

  42. "big al" written by andrew clements is a book that we love... i used it when i was an elem. school teacher and now read it to my own kids. the story and illustrations are wonderful. the moral message is that we shouldn't judge by appearances... that even though we are different, we all have something that makes us special (and in big al's case, brave).

  43. We love books around here! As for books that "teach" I like the Christopher Churchmouse and Franklin books - sometimes the message is overdone in those, but they work. Unfortunately they are mainly written for a little bit older children, as are my favorite children's books - the Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant. They do "teach" a bit... but mostly they are just fun books to read.I like the Paddington Bear, Madeline, Peter Rabbit and even the classic fairy tale books too.

  44. A lot of books I read in my childhood discussed morals and topics on life. We even had a series that focused just on those, but for the life of me, I can't remember the series. However, one of my favorite books, "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters", demonstrates how kindness is rewarded while selfishness is punished (in a sense). It's a great story with stunning illustrations.

  45. What surprises me is just how awful some children's books are. A fun one though is "Olga the Brolga" - good for a child who has trouble entertaining themselves.

  46. One of our favorites for this is _Zen Shorts_, by Jon Muth, though I will say right off that it may not be for everyone or for every temperament.

    We love it for its quiet lessons and beautiful illustrations. Whenever we read it together, those two elements seem to put us in a calm and thoughtful frame of mind that lends itself to deeper discussions of the lessons in the book. I think I get as much out of it as my children.

  47. What a great post. With a 3.5 and a 1.5 yr olds running around here, we are finding lots of practice in the general "working with others" department. The only direct book I've got that focuses on this area is Bob McGrath's (from Sesame St.), "Oops, excuse me please". I found it kind of...well, unentertaining, but my 3.5yr old girl loves it. She's very into how to do things "right." i agree though with another poster in that my kids really learn how to work with others by listening and learning from their parents, and then re-enacting that with siblings and friends.

  48. Green Eggs & Ham is a fav around this household! this would be a very nice gift for a nephew indeed! :) thanks for having this giveaway!

  49. Sounds like a great book. I would also love to use this book to supplement my lessons with students during their speech and language therapy sessions. Thank you for the idea.

  50. My son has SO many books - but I think this one would be awesome for us. :) He's just starting his 'words' so this is right up our alley

  51. It is hard to find the perfect children's book with a message but not a cheesy overly done message. I have found the Bernstien Bears books to really do the job perfectly.

  52. The Skin You Live In is a wonderful book that everyone is beautiful, no matter what color their skin is. And also that skin color does not translate to how smart or poor or good at sports a person is. It has consistently been one of my daughter's favorites since we got it when she was just under a year old. The illustrations are bold and colorful and the text rhymes

  53. WE have a cute book that is good for teaching the kids to like themselves the way they are..."I like myself" by Karen Beaumont.

  54. When Sophie Gets Angry by Molly Bang is good for discussing how everyone gets angry and ways for them to calm down. Though the child leaves the house to calm down, you can teach your child to create their own quiet spot in your home. This is a different place than the time out area parents choose. Their own quiet area should be a calm, happy place to deal with their feelings because once angry and without an outlet, they might lash out in harmful ways and then you have to punish them in the time out area. I also like the No David! books that teaches children you might not like the things they choose to do sometimes but you will always love them.

  55. We have one called "Teeth Are Not for Biting" that we never thought much of when Roo was little, but we read it to Jasper a lot. I think it actually curbed his desire to chomp!

  56. I remember being taught about the importance of cleaning up after myself with "The Messy Room" book!

  57. I grew up with the Madeline books and they always dealt with different moral and social issues but were always fun to read. Thank you!

  58. In my family I find that it's not necessarily the actual "book" that always does the teaching. I find that (especially with four kids) that the one-on-one time, sitting down, reading together teaches in itself. Even now that my 9 year old can read by herself it's still great to have her read to me or one of the younger kids.

  59. A number of Robert Munsch's book are great for social lessons...but in a fun and funny way for kids. I think "Smelly Socks" is great. My 5 year old became very aware of body smells and the fact that others might be able to tell if he hadn't changed his socks (LOL) after reading this one. Needless to say I never have a problem with him changing his clothes on a regular basis. Hehe.


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