Children’s books are a wonderful way to teach your children wonderful life lessons in a creative and fun way. I’m often surprised by the lessons that my daughter has internalized from her story books, and the conclusions she draws on her own based on those lessons. I’ve even learned a thing or two from her. Five of my daughter’s favorite books that teach lessons I’m a real fan of, include The Little Brute Family, by Russell Hoban, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and The Sweetest Fig, by Chris Van Allsburg,.
It’s no surprise my daughter finds The Little Brute Family so engaging – the book is filled with delightfully monstrous cartoon characters of a family of “brutes,” and the lesson of the effects that a positive attitude can have is simple enough for even a very young child to understand. The illustrations are simple but highly imaginative and endearing. The reading is basic enough that this would be a great book for a Kindergarten-aged child to practice reading with.
I didn’t actually discover The Giving Tree until I was well into adulthood. I fell in love with the book at once, however, and was thrilled when I first read it to my daughter, who heartily approved. The book is a heartwarming, heartrending glimpse into the nature of generosity and forgiveness, and will be appreciated by any parent who knows what it means to love unconditionally.
The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss, is, in my opinion, one of his finest works. The book tells the tale of the “sneetches on the beaches,” funny-looking yellow beings who love to leave each other out but are taught a lesson in acceptance by a wandering, crafty salesman who preys on their prejudices. The tale points out the silliness of prejudice and the damage it can do, and has a lovely happily-resolved ending that will comfort a small child while still leaving a bit of a sting from the lesson.
Everyone has either read of or heard of the popular story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which never seems to have a particular draw for child and adult audiences alike, generation after generation. At times a gloomy and stinging criticism of such human vices as selfishness and gluttony, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory retains a positive tone with its endearing main character, Charlie, and the depiction of the eccentric but benevolent factory owner, Willy Wonka. I would recommend Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for slightly older children who will appreciate the nuances of the story.
The Sweetest Fig is a dark tale in the vein of Beauty and the Beast, but I wouldn’t recommend it for any child under the age of nine or so. Unlike most stories represented in contemporary children’s literature, The Sweetest Fig does not end well for the protagonist, who is actually more of a villain, anyway. The book is quite ironic, and teaches hard lessons about slavery and the nature of cruelty — though it is a picture book, it might be more appreciated by pre-teens or teenagers who might be impressed by the irony and unique tone.
Many children’s books teach some lesson through an unpleasant event and the subsequent transformation of a character from selfish or prejudiced to more kind and wise. The Sweetest Fig might be considered more realistic, because the plot is resolved without the mean main character getting a second chance. Both types of stories probably have merit, but you will no doubt know what your particular child needs are. I hope this list of books will help you pick an entertaining book that will teach a life-lesson to your child in a meaningful way. Good luck!