Kids + Teens

10 Life Lessons We Learned from Picture Books

All we ever really needed to know about life we learned from picture books. Truly. We have proof. As we head into the full swing of back-to-school, here are some valuable life lessons from our favorite reads.


1. Be prepared.

From Hidden Dangers by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Tymn Armstrong

Whether you’re getting ready for a field trip or just a wild and woolly trip on the school bus, be prepared. This dramatic portrait of sharks, grizzly bears, and poisonous frogs emphasizes that it’s a jungle out there. Don’t forget your flashlight, and have fun.
Life lessons from children's books

2. When you fall down, get up (and skate, skate again).

From Lines by Suzy Lee

In this dazzling wordless book, a red-capped ice skater discovers that making a mistake can lead to propitious discoveries and creative new paths.

3. Think of others, and be kind.

From The Fox Wish by Kimiko Aman, illustrated by Komako Sakai

When Roxie and Lukie walk into the forest, they discover a group of foxes jumping rope, of all things! Even though the jump rope belongs to Roxie, she gives it to the littlest fox of all. In doing so, she discovers the simple and true magic of generosity and being kind.

4. There’s always a creative solution.

From Give Me Back My Book! by Travis Foster and Ethan Long

When wily Bookworm steals Redd and Bloo’s book, the two creatures have a lightbulb moment. They’ll make their own! Ingenuity saves the day.
Give Me Back My Book! by Travis Foster and Ethan Long

5. It’s all about perspective.

From They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Try walking in someone else’s shoes (or paws) and you’ll be surprised by how a seemingly clear-cut situation suddenly changes into a much, much different animal. They All Saw a Cat teaches this lesson in the most elegant way.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

6. Value your grandparents.

From Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

One perennial theme of my ninth grade students’ stories was their close relationship with their grandparents. Otherwise worldly 13- and 14-year-olds talked about the lessons they learned and the memories they cherished with Grandma and Grandpa. Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy perfectly captures grandpa Grumpy’s patience and gentle humor with his two young grandsons.

7. Always include others.

From Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex

When a collection of fruit get together for a chorus line and sing a catchy song, they rhyme their names. Kiwi rhymes with peewee. Plum is, of course, a chum. But inevitably, Orange feels left out of the fun. It takes the sensitive nature and ingenuity of Apple to save the day. Nothing Rhymes With Orange reminds us that it’s always better to be considerate and include others.
Life lessons from children's books

8. Teamwork saves the day.

From Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Bulldozer is heavy, wide and grand. But even he can use a hand! This supercrew of construction vehicles can only get the job done when they work together.
Life lessons from children's books

9. Your passion will lead you places; you just have to listen carefully.

From Libba by Laura Veirs, illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

As a child, folk singer Elizabeth Cotten taught herself to play the guitar, upside down and backwards, and wrote the classic folk song “Freight Train” when she was only eleven years old. But it wasn’t until she was a grandmother that she finally became a world-famous musician—her sheer passion and perseverance won her a Grammy Award when she was in her 90s. This nonfiction picture book chronicles an artist’s inspiring journey.

10. Take the time to look outside your window and let your imagination do the work.

From A River by Marc Martin

When I was growing up, my optometrist (and parents) would dutifully chorus, “Take a break and look out the window every once in a while. Relax your eyes!” And of course, they’re absolutely right. Give your eyes—and your mind—a break, and suddenly creativity has the space to bloom. A River is a gorgeous, imaginative dive into worlds that lie just outside of a window.

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What life lessons have you learned from children’s books? Comment below.

Photography by Michelle Park

Jaime Wong

Marketing Manager, Children's, East Coast transplant, and former teacher.
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