7 Character Building Read Aloud Books

Stack of books that help build character.

Character can easily be learned through experiences and life lessons, and picking yourself up after failure is an important part of growing, but we don’t ALWAYS want our kids to be learning things the hard way, do we? My kids learn plenty of lessons through the natural consequences that come from their actions, but they’ve learned even more lessons through stories, and building character is also an important part of the learning goals we have for our kids’ early years.

Books as Character Studies

Through stories, we’ve seen the cost of behaving selfishly or unkindly, heard the way kids can speak with respect, and witnessed the grace parents, siblings or friends can extend to someone who as messed up. And little by little, I’ve seen my kids {and myself!} put those character lessons into action, sometimes even word-for-word from how they’ve heard something said in a book.

Below are some of the books we’ve read together and found important character building lessons in, some more subtly than others. I think lessons can be found in almost any book we read together {even, and perhaps most especially, the bad ones!}. If someone behaved with kindness, respect, or self-control, point it out; if someone was disrespectful or made poor choices, point it out. Ask how it would have been better to behave.

For each of the books below, I’ve included my favorite quote, so you can decide for yourself if it might be something you’d like to add to your home library.  Please comment with your own favorite character building books!

Character Building Books

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth {and Leo Tolstoy}

Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.

The Three Questions, Jon J. Muth

Shoemaker Martin by Bernadette Watts {and Leo Tolstoy again}

“Let him go, Grandmother,” he begged. “He won’t do it again. If we punish someone so harshly for taking an apple, what punishments should we expect for our sins that are far, far worse?”

The boy and the woman looked at Martin and then looked at each other. Quietly, the boy asked the old woman to forgive him and offered to carry her basket along the road.

Shoemaker Martin by Bernadette Watts

If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade

On the one wing, I could try and find that I flap and I flail, flounder and plummet, look foolish and fail.

If I Never Forever Endeavor, Holly Meade

How Leo Learned to be King by Marcus Pfister

“That’s the kind of king I’d like to have,” trumpeted the elephant. “Someone who cares about you.”
“Yes!” yelped the hyena. “Someone who’s kind. Someone who notices the smallest things.”

How Leo Learned to be King by Marcus Pfister

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

“I want a house to keep me warm,” he said. “Can you give me a house?”

“I have no house,” said the tree. “The forest is my home, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy.”

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

She bounced the football to Wilfrid Gordon and remembered the day she had met him and all the secrets they had told. 

And the two of them smiled and smiled because Miss Nancy’s memory had been found again by a small boy, who wasn’t very old either.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

The Sparrow’s Song by Ian Wallace 

Safe indoors, Katie tucked the sparrow inside a cage that she found in the attic. The frightened bird curled up into a tight, trembling ball. Slowly, tenderly, Katie coaxed it out. Her warm voice began to ease the sparrow’s fears and it gobbled up a morsel of bread from her fingers, hungrily crying out, “More.”

The Sparrow’s Song by Ian Wallace
Two sparrows watching over their nest of eggs.
Beautiful illustrations are just a bonus to the character building stories in many of these books!

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