We want our students to be determined and hard-working individuals who persevere when things get more challenging. When a student has a growth mindset, he believes he can improve with hard work and effort. When a student has a fixed mindset, he sets limits on his abilities and will not take on new challenges because he fears he might fail. So how do we get our students to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset? One way to do this is with engaging read alouds. Here are some of my favorite growth mindset books for kids to help start a conversation about taking risks, dealing with failure, and having persistence through it all.
You can click on any of the covers below to learn more about each book or find all of these books on my Amazon page.
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Books about Having a Growth Mindset
Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.
Did you know you can stretch and grow your own brain? Or that making mistakes is one of the best ways your brain learns? This book teaches all the ways that the brain can develop with exercise, just like the rest of our bodies. Educator and psychologist Dr. JoAnn Deak offers a fun and engaging introduction to the anatomy and functions of the brain that will empower each young reader to S-T-R-E-T-C-H and grow their fantastic, elastic brain!
Making a Splash by Carol E. Reiley
Some children have a fixed mindset. They think they only have a fixed amount of intelligence. When they try something new and fail, they’re embarrassed because they think it proves they aren’t smart enough. Other children have a growth mindset. They realize that it’s not about how smart you are today, but about how smart you can become. They value learning over looking smart. These kids understand that even geniuses must work hard. This story explains both mindsets while following Lisa and Johnny as they begin swimming lessons at the local pool.
Bubble Gum Brain by Julia Cook
Meet Bubble Gum Brain and Brick Brain: two kids with two VERY different mindsets. Bubble Gum Brain likes to have fun adventures, learn new things, and doesn’t worry about making great mistakes. Brick Brain is convinced that things are just fine the way they are and there’s not much he can do to change them, so why try? When Bubble Gum Brain shows Brick Brain how to peel off his wrapper, Brick Brain begins to realize just how much more fun school…and life… can be!
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
Being perfect is overrated. Beatrice Bottomwell has NEVER (not once!) made a mistake. She never forgets her math homework, she never wears mismatched socks, and she ALWAYS wins the yearly talent show at school. In fact, the entire town calls her The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes! One day, the inevitable happens: Beatrice makes a huge mistake in front of everyone! But in the end, readers (and perfectionists) will realize that life is more fun when you enjoy everything―even the mistakes.
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
This story follows an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after? This story follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall―that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear?
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
As one artist incorporates accidental splotches, spots, and misshapen things into her art, she transforms her piece in quirky and unexpected ways, taking readers on a journey through her process. Told in minimal, playful text, this story shows readers that even the biggest “mistakes” can be the source of the brightest ideas—and that, at the end of the day, we are all works in progress, too.
Mindset Matters (Without Limits) by Bryan Smith
Amelia is her name and conquering new challenges is her game! She’s an up-for-any-adventure second-grader who’s eager to try new things, provided nothing can go wrong. She takes up skateboarding with gusto and feverishly builds a swing set for her kid brother. But at the first sign of trouble- tumbling off her skateboard and whacking her thumb with a hammer-she’s done. Her confidence shattered, Amelia frets she’s a failure. But after a little self-reflection and some loving advice from dear-old Dad, Amelia learns she needs a “gonna get it done” mindset. With her new outlook, she discovers success has many definitions… more than she ever imagined.
I Can Do Hard Things by Gabi Garcia
What we tell ourselves matters! This is just as true for kids as it is for adults. Help your child tap into their inner strength and find the encouragement they need to navigate their daily environments. Mindful affirmations can help your child tune out the streams of messages they get about how they should be in the world. I can choose kindness. I can practice peace. I can share my gifts with the world.
Thanks for the Feedback, I Think by Julia Cook
This entertaining story follows RJ as he goes about his day doing the things he enjoys, such as blowing bubbles, playing soccer, and hanging out with friends. But when a couple of friends give him compliments, he just isn’t sure how to respond! As RJ continues through the day, he hears from his teacher and parents that while there are many things he’s doing very well, there are also some things he needs to work on. His first reaction is to argue and make excuses. Throughout this must-read story, RJ learns what it means to receive positive and negative feedback, and how to respond appropriately to that feedback.
Not Yet by Lisa Cox & Lori Hockema
The setting of the book is one full day in the life of Lorisa, the main character. The story takes you through her day at home and at school as she models for children a positive attitude as she makes some mistakes and experiences successes, too. The title of the book originated when Lisa wrote song lyrics to convey a message she was teaching as a school counselor. She felt that students need to learn to enjoy the process of striving for a goal and not be defeated by mistakes.
My Strong Mind by Niels van Hove
The story is about Kate, a sporty and happy girl who uses her strong mind to tackle her daily challenges with a positive attitude. Kate faces several situations your children will face too. She applies a positive attitude to deal with her challenges. Amongst them are getting ready in time in the morning, doing cartwheels, standing in front of the whole class with show and tell and playing basketball. Kate applies techniques like goal setting, positive self-talk, accept failure as learning, visualization of a problem, breathing or mindfulness exercise, gratitude, and controlled distraction.
I Can’t Do That Yet by Esther Pia Cordova
Enna is a girl who doesn’t believe in herself and often utters the phrase “I can’t do that!” One night in a dream she sees all the possible future versions of herself, discovering that she can be any of those versions with time, knowledge and dedication. She develops a growth mindset throughout her journey and instead of saying “I can’t do that,” she learns to say “I can’t do that YET!”
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada
In this story, a child is visited by his first chance and unsure what to do with it, he lets it go. Later on, when a new chance arrives he reaches for it, but this time he misses and falls. Embarrassed and afraid, he begins ignoring each new chance that comes by, even though he still wants to take them. Then one day he realizes that he doesn’t need to be brave all the time, just at the right time, to find out what amazing things can happen when he takes a chance.
When Sophie Thinks She Can’t by Molly Bang
When Sophie can’t solve a math puzzle, she feels upset and inadequate. “I CAN’T DO IT!” she shouts, expressing the frustration all of us feel when we try and fail. Will she ever be “smart” like her sister? Maybe she isn’t smart at all. Luckily Sophie’s teacher steps in. What does it mean to be smart? Using current, popular “mindset” techniques, Sophie’s class is taught that we get smarter when we exercise our brains, such as when we work harder at solving a puzzle. Struggling to solve a problem doesn’t mean “I can’t do it!” Sophie and her classmates just can’t do it… yet!
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Gerald would love to join in with the other animals at the Jungle Dance, but everyone knows that giraffes can’t dance …or can they? You can find a book companion for this story here.
The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright
You see, high-up was safe since he liked a slow pace,
While the ground down below seemed a frightening place.
Too fast and too loud and too big and too strange.
Nope. Kevin preferred not to move or to change.
Kevin the koala loves every day to be the same, where it’s snug and safe. But when change comes along, will Kevin embrace all the joys that come with trying something new?
Flight School by Lita Judge
Little Penguin has the soul of an eagle, but he wasn’t built to soar. With irrepressible spirit, Penguin follows his dreams to flip, flap, fly! Even if he needs a little help with the technical parts, this penguin is ready to live on the wind.
Keep Trying, Little Zebra by Christina Wilsdon
Little Zebra is sad because he is not as fast as the other zebras in the herd. His mother tells him to just keep trying. She also suggests he practice with other animals. As Little Zebra races against an ostrich, a giraffe, and a gnu, he wants to give up because they are all faster than he is. But after he meets with a cheetah cub, he learns that everyone has to start somewhere!
Salt in His Shoes by Delores Jordan
Michael Jordan. The mere mention of the name conjures up visions of basketball played at its absolute best. But as a child, Michael almost gave up on his hoop dreams, all because he feared he’d never grow tall enough to play the game that would one day make him famous. That’s when his mother and father stepped in and shared the invaluable lesson of what really goes into the making of a champion — patience, determination, and hard work.
Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim
Ruby is unlike most little girls in old China. Instead of aspiring to get married, Ruby is determined to attend university when she grows up, just like the boys in her family. Based upon the inspirational story of the author’s grandmother and accompanied by richly detailed illustrations, Ruby’s Wish is an engaging portrait of a young girl who’s full of ambition and the family who rewards her hard work and courage.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere dreamed of becoming a great engineer. Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration. Alone in her room at night, shy Rosie constructs great inventions from odds and ends. Hot dog dispensers, helium pants, python-repelling cheese hats: Rosie’s gizmos would astound—if she ever let anyone see them. Afraid of failure, she hides them away under her bed. Until a fateful visit from her great-great-aunt Rose (AKA Rosie the Riveter!), who shows her that the first flop isn’t something to fear—it’s something to celebrate. And you can only truly fail, if you quit.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board. Can Jabari stop stalling and finally conquer his fear?
Brave Irene by William Steig
Brave Irene is Irene Bobbin, the dressmaker’s daughter. Her mother, Mrs. Bobbin, isn’t feeling so well and can’t possibly deliver the beautiful ball gown she’s made for the duchess to wear that very evening. So plucky Irene volunteers to get the gown to the palace on time, in spite of the fierce snowstorm that’s brewing– quite an errand for a little girl. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, as Irene proves in the danger-fraught adventure that follows. She must defy the wiles of the wicked wind, her most formidable opponent, and overcome many obstacles before she completes her mission. Surely, this winning heroine will inspire every child to cheer her on.
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaka
When Hana announces that she’ll be playing violin in the school talent show, her brothers laugh so hard they nearly fall out of a tree. But Hana doesn’t let that stop her – she practices and practices, inspired by memories of the time she spent in Japan with her ojiichan, a professional violinist. But when the day of the performance arrives, will she be able to overcome a sudden case of nerves?
Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Art class is over, but Vashti is sitting glued to her chair in front of a blank piece of paper. The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw – she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. “There!” she says. That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery. That special moment is the core of Peter H. Reynolds’s delicate fable about the creative spirit in all of us.
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere. Drawing is what Ramon does. It’s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.”
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
It’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.
A Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
If Peter could only learn to whistle, then his dog, Willie would hear him and come running. But nothing Peter does seems to help. He tries spinning around and around but it only makes him dizzy. He draws a long line with colored chalk; he walks along a crack in the sidewalk. He even wears his father’s hat and tries running away from his own shadow! It’s not until Peter least expects it that his wish comes true, and he blows a whistle that brings Willie running.
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers
Once there was a boy, and that boy loved stars very much. So much so that he decided to catch one of his very own. But how? Waiting for them to grow tired from being up in the sky all night doesn’t work. Climbing to the top of the tallest tree? No, not tall enough. The boy has a rocket ship . . . but it is made of paper and doesn’t fly well at all. Finally, just when the boy is ready to give up, he learns that sometimes things aren’t where, or what, we expect them to be.
The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
In this clever and visual play on words, OK is turned sideways, upside down, and right side up to show that being OK can really be quite great. Whether OK personifies an OK skipper, an OK climber, an OK lightning bug catcher, or an OK whatever there is to experience, OK is an OK place to be. And being OK just may lead to the discovery of what makes one great.
Emma’s sister, Bella, is the star runner on the high school track team. Her super athletic mom has been running for years. And her dad trains for marathons. Running is just what Emma’s family does. When Emma finds out she made the school running club, she’s excited…and nervous. Right away, though, it becomes evident that Emma isn’t the fastest one in her family. Or the most coordinated. Emma thinks quitting is her only option…until her teacher invites a special guest to talk to her class about failure. Emma is surprised to learn that failure isn’t something to fear – it’s actually something to celebrate! As her classmates share their own failures, Emma realizes that maybe failure is actually a stop on the road to success…and that maybe she shouldn’t throw away her running shoes just yet.
Cielo loves to skateboard! But when she messes up on a new ramp she’s embarrassed and afraid to fall again in front of so many people. With the help of some new friends, Cielo summons the courage to try again (and again, and again), and learns that falling is not failing–true fierceness isn’t about landing the perfect trick, it’s about picking yourself back up when you don’t.
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What are some of your favorite books for teaching students about a growth mindset? I’d love to check them out!
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