Helping children deal with obstacles and setbacks is a core part of parenting and teaching. Today education lecturer and writer Frank Wilson suggests some picture books that can help model these skills – while also being fantastic reads.
If you know a kid at primary school in New Zealand at the moment, you probably will have heard the term ‘growth mindset’ – this idea is incredibly popular at the moment.
While the jury is out on whether growth mindset makes any difference in academic results, there is evidence that it helps with emotional health by promoting resilience and persistence.
Resilience has been identified as a significant protective factor that helps children develop their pre-frontal cortex – this is the part of the brain that controls complex cognitive behaviour, personality, decision making and social functioning. A more developed pre-frontal cortex tends to lead to better mental health outcomes.
Resilience is often thought of as the ability to ‘bounce back’ from challenges. A better definition, however, might be the ability to ‘bounce forward’ – to learn from and develop from mistakes and challenges, rather than returning to the same place.
Resilience is often thought of as the ability to ‘bounce back’ from challenges. A better definition, however, might be the ability to ‘bounce forward’ …
These excellent picture books from Aotearoa all show a character who shows persistence in a challenge and can be a great starting point for a conversation about resilience or growth mindset.
The Bomb/He Pohū, by Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan
Sacha has a gift for creating relatable and interesting child characters.
In this book, a kid really really wants to do the best bomb. He tries all sorts of different ways, almost giving up until he eventually finds the secret that works for him.
The Marble Maker/Te Kaihanga Māpere, by Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan (Huia)
A girl dreams of featuring in a book of the best marble makers, but her inventions keep falling flat.
She’s down-hearted after a string of failures, and nearly gives up. But with the encouragement of her faithful lab-assistant-sheep Winston, she picks herself up, persists, and eventually creates the best marble of all.
Things in the Sea are Touching Me! by Linda Jane Keegan, illustrated by Minky Stapleton (Scholastic)
Any kiwi kid who’s swum in the sea will relate to the experience of unknown things touching them.
The girl in this story is scared each time something touches her, but her Ma explains what it is, and she keeps going.
This brand-new book from first-time author Linda Jane Keegan also happens to centre on a family of Mum, Ma, and the child telling the story.
Tāne steals the show, by Lino Nelisi, illustrated by G Hunter (Scholastic)
Tāne’s uncle is getting married and everyone is busy practising for their performances.
Tāne keeps being told he’s too little to join any of the groups, and he finds that really upsetting.
But each time, he bounces forward, and quietly watches and learns the words and dances for everyone’s pieces.
We’re off to find a Kiwi, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson (Scholastic)
Louie and his older sister set off to find a kiwi.
They search in the city, a farm, a mountain and a forest, slightly misdirected each time by their cryptic guides. But the clues build up and they learn more and more about a kiwi’s habitat until they reach the right spot.
Puffin the Architect, by Kimberly Andrews (Puffin/Penguin Random House NZ)
This one shows a puffin mother who is trying to build a house for her pufflings.
They don’t like any of her ideas and she persists, showing them examples of her stunning work for a range of animal clients, until they tell her what they really want, and she can finally design something that makes them happy.
Dear Donald Trump, by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Anne Villeneuve
Sam is struggling with sharing a room with his brother, so when he sees Donald Trump on the news talking about building a wall, he thinks he’s found the perfect solution.
He practises different ways to construct his wall, and writes to Donald Trump updating him on his progress each time. Eventually Sam comes to the conclusion that there are better ways to solve his problem.
Learning about the lives of real people is a great way to learn about resilience. David Hill, Phoebe Morris and Penguin have a wonderful series of picture books introducing younger children to famous New Zealanders, all of whom showed great persistence.
Sky High is the story of Jean Batten, the first person to fly across the Tasman. First to the Top explains how Edmund Hillary became the first person to climb Mount Everest. Speed King tells the story of Burt Munro and how he broke the land speed record on his motorbike. Hero of the Sea is the story of Peter Blake, who became a world renowned yachtsman.
Frank Wilson is a lecturer in teacher education at Victoria University. Her specialties are social studies, inquiry learning and integrated curriculum.