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The 27 best moral stories to read with your kids

Oct. 17, 2018

The only thing better than curling up with a good book is curling up with your little one and a good book. Introducing reading to children at a very early age has numerous educational benefits, such as rapidly increasing their vocabulary and their understanding of sentence structure. But the benefits of reading with your children don’t end there. Books can be a helpful tool for parents who are trying to instill important values and morals in their children.

Recent studies show that reading with your children can have a direct impact on their behavior and their ability to develop key social skills. Through relatable characters and familiar life adventures, young children can begin to learn vital life lessons while nurturing their imaginations.

Here are 27 children’s books you can read with your young child to instill important morals and values.

Value: Honesty

1. “David Gets In Trouble” by David Shannon

In this story, David can’t ever seem to admit when he has done something wrong and instead has an excuse for everything. He finally realizes he feels much better when he tells the truth.

The moral of the story: We should always own up to our actions, even if we’re afraid we might get in trouble.

2. “The Empty Pot” by Demi

A Chinese emperor holds a contest to see who will be his successor. Whoever grows the most beautiful flower will be the winner. Although Ping works diligently on his flower, it just doesn’t grow. He presents the empty pot to the emperor anyway and is rewarded for his honesty.

The moral of the story: Being honest, even when it may disappoint someone, is always the best policy.

3. “The Honest-To-Goodness Truth” by Patricia C. McKissack

After being caught in a lie, Libby vows to only tell the truth from now on, but soon she’s upsetting everyone in town with her honest ways. She can’t figure out what the problem is until a conversation with her mama helps her understand that there may be a right and a wrong way to tell the truth.

The moral of the story: This book is best for kids 6 and up, as it deals with the nuanced balance of telling the truth without hurting other people’s feelings.

Value: Responsibility

4. “What If Everybody Did That?” by Ellen Javernick

This story asks kids to imagine what would happen if everyone broke the rules all the time. A little boy’s seemingly small negative actions, such as feeding popcorn to a bear at the zoo, build up throughout the story as he is asked each time “What if everybody did that?”

The moral of the story: All of our actions, no matter how small, affect the world around us.

5. “Strega Nona” by Tomie dePaola

In this classic fable, we meet Strega Nona, the benevolent town witch who is well-loved by the townspeople. When she needs extra help, she hires Big Anthony as her assistant and he is warned to never touch her magical pasta pot. Unfortunately, Big Anthony does not heed her words and soon the whole town is covered in pasta!

The moral of the story: People can only trust you if you do what you promise you will do.

6. “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss

In this cautionary tale, we learn about the Once-ler, who found a valley of Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots and decided to harvest them all until there was nothing left at all.

The moral of the story: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax has been popular with teachers for decades — and with good reason. It teaches children that it is up to each of us to care for the world around us.

Value: Gratitude

7. “An Awesome Book of Thanks” by Dallas Clayton

Taking us through a world of magical unicorns and robotic dinosaurs, Clayton illustrates the many things one can be thankful for, big and small. The pictures are vivid and whimsical and the simple language makes it easy for young children to connect with the sweet message.

The moral of the story: We have so many wonderful reasons to be thankful in our lives every day.

8. “Gratitude Soup” by Olivia Rosewood

Violet the Purple Fairy uses all the things, people and experiences that she is grateful for to make a big pot of Gratitude Soup. Using her imagination, she shrinks the pot and keeps the gratitude in her heart as she goes about her day.

The moral of the story: Thinking about the things you are grateful for can make you a happier person. After reading, ask your child what he would put in his own pot of Gratitude Soup!

9. “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” by Dr. Seuss

A down-in-the-dumps young child meets an old wise man in the desert, who explains to him all the ways in which he is actually very lucky.

The moral of the story: Don’t dwell on the bad things in life; instead, focus on how good your life is and how lucky you are to be living it. 

Value: Kindness

10. “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud

Teachers reach for this award winner over and over again because it resonates so well with young children. The story explains that we all have an invisible bucket that gets filled when we are kind to others or they are kind to us and is emptied when we are mean or someone is mean to us.

The moral of the story: Giving or receiving kindness makes you feel good, and being unkind to others not only makes them unhappy, but it makes you less happy, too.

11. “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” by Philip C. Stead

Kindly zookeeper Amos McGee takes very good care of the animals in his zoo. One day, Amos isn’t feeling well and the animals return the favor by taking care of him.

The moral of the story: Always be kind to others, and they will be kind to you.

12. “Horton Hears a Who!” by Dr. Seuss

Horton, a gentle elephant, hears a small voice and discovers a whole town living on a very tiny speck of dust. He goes to great lengths to protect his new friends, even though they are so small that no one else believes they even exist.

The moral of the story: Helping those who are not as big or as powerful as you are is important.

Value: Empathy

13. “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig

Nobody ever seems to notice Brian, and he is never included in anything with his classmates, until a new boy comes to town and decides to reach out and become his friend. This is a sensitively told story, in which Brian is first illustrated in black and white and gains color as the other kids begin to interact with him.

The moral of the story: It hurts to be left out. If you see another kid who isn’t being included, be the one to reach out and get to know them.

14. “Hey, Little Ant” by Phillip and Hannah Hoose

What would you do if you were about to step on an ant and it began speaking to you? That’s the question this lyrical book asks children to contemplate when a little boy and the ant he is about to step on engage in a conversation.

The moral of the story: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes to see how they feel.

15. “Maddi’s Fridge” by Lois Brandt

Sofia and Maddi are best friends. They play in the same park, live in the same neighborhood and go to the same school. They are so much alike! But while Sofia’s fridge is full of food, the fridge at Maddi’s house is empty. Brandt handles the heavy topic of poverty delicately and with humor. Her story is, at its core, one about true friendship.

The moral of the story: There is more to people than meets the eye, and it’s worth it to try to truly understand what someone else’s life is like.

Values: Determination and Perseverance

16. “Beautiful Oops!” by Barney Saltzberg

Hooray for mistakes! This interactive book shows kids how mistakes can be turned into something beautiful just by using your imagination.

The moral of the story: It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you keep trying.

17. “The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown

A young boy living in a grey, desolate city discovers the world’s tiniest garden and works through many seasons to help it grow and thrive.

The moral of the story: Even when things seem hopeless, you can succeed in making something beautiful if you put your heart into it and try your hardest.

18. “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires

A little girl is excited to make the most magnificent thing, only to find herself failing over and over. Things become so dire that she quits entirely until she is convinced by her best friend to try again, and she finally gets it just right.

The moral of the story: Frustration is normal, but don’t let it stop you from achieving your dreams. Take a break, come back and work even harder to accomplish your task.

Value: Generosity

19. “Should I Share My Ice Cream?” by Mo Willems

Mo Willems’ adorable friends Gerald and Piggie star in this tale about just how hard it can be to share, even with our closest friends.

The moral of the story: Being greedy doesn’t feel good, and when you share, everyone gets to join in on the fun.

20. “A Chair for My Mother” by Vera B. Williams

A young girl, her grandmother and her mother save all their money to buy a nice chair after their home is destroyed in a fire.

The moral of the story: When times are hard, generosity matters more than ever and can bring everyone together.

21. “The Spiffiest Giant in Town” by Julia Donaldson

George the giant decides to buy himself a brand new wardrobe and becomes the spiffiest giant in town. On his way home, he meets animals who are in need of clothing, and he ends up giving away his entire new wardrobe.

The moral of the story: What’s on the inside matters much more than what’s on the outside.

Value: Forgiveness

22. “Horrible Bear!” by Ame Dyckman

After accidentally breaking a little girl’s kite and being called “Horrible Bear!”, Bear decides to go ahead and live up to his terrible new nickname. But the girl makes her own mistakes and realizes that maybe Bear isn’t so horrible after all.

The moral of the story: No one’s perfect, so we should forgive others for their little mistakes.

23. “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Henkes

Lilly is so excited to bring her new purse to school and show it off to all her friends and to her favorite teacher, Mr. Slinger. But when Mr. Slinger takes her purse and asks her to wait, she is so angry that she does something she regrets.

The moral of the story: Sometimes when we’re angry, we might say or do things that we regret. If we say we’re sorry, people will forgive us.

24. “The Berenstain Bears and the Forgiving Tree” by Jan Berenstain

Cousin Fred accidentally damages Brother Bear’s bike, and he is very angry. Sister Bear does her best to make him see it was an accident and he should forgive his cousin.

The moral of the story: Other people can make mistakes that upset us, and it’s important to forgive them when they say they’re sorry.

Value: Respect

25. “My Mouth Is a Volcano!” by Julia Cook

Louis has many important thoughts, and he needs to get them out! In fact, they need to come out so badly that his tongue pushes all the words up against his teeth until he erupts and disturbs everyone around him.

The moral of the story: Everyone’s words are as important as our own, and we should respect others enough to wait our turn to speak.

26. “Do Unto Otters” by Laurie Keller

Mr. Rabbit has new neighbors, who are otters, but he doesn’t know anything about otters and isn’t sure how he is supposed to act around them. Mr. Owl advises him to treat them as he would like to be treated, and we see Mr. Rabbit reflect on what this means throughout the story.

The moral of the story: The simple Golden Rule — treat others the way you would like to be treated.

27. “Personal Space Camp” by Julia Cook

Louis is back, and this time he’s learning about personal space. When his teacher sends him to the principal’s office for Personal Space Camp, Louis gets a lesson in respecting the physical boundaries of other people. This book handles a complicated concept deftly and with great humor.

The moral of the story: Everyone has the right to be as close or as far from others as they would like, and we need to respect their preferences.

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