Mentor Texts for Teaching Courage

I love using picture books for character education lessons, including these mentor texts for teaching the character trait of courage!

Here are a few of my favorite courage read alouds for morning meetings. They can also be shared any time you focus on social-emotional learning!

You can easily use these picture books as an anchor for a classroom discussion about having courage. Kids need to know that in life there are lots of times we need to be courageous, not just for BIG things, but for little everyday things too.

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Songbird Mentor Text

1. Songbird

Songbird by Jenn Larson (that’s me!) is a story about Sydney Sparrow, a small bird with an out-of-the-ordinary dream!  After hearing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra play in Central Park near her home, Sydney decides that she wants to become a conductor! Even though no one else believes in her dream, Sydney finds the courage to believe in herself. Sydney works hard and is determined, but can she make her dream come true?

I LOVE to use this book to talk to students about having the courage to believe in themselves, even when it seems like no one else does! 


2. Courage

Courage by Bernard Waber empowers readers to find the strength to push forward and to find courage in the big things but also in the ordinary events in life. Waber explores the many types of courage young people (as well as adults) can have in this encouraging tale.


3. Sparrow Girl

Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker is about an aspiring farmer, Ming Li, who attempts to save the sparrows being driven out of the skies near her home in China. This book shows the impact one person can have when choosing to take a stand. It has a strong environmental message too.


Malala's Magic Pencil Mentor Text

4. Malala’s Magic Pencil

Malala Yousafzai writes in her picture book, Malala’s Magic Pencil, of how she wished for a magic pencil as a child growing up in Pakistan. Malala describes all of the good things she would do with her pencil in this heartwarming story of courage and hope.

This book describes her real-life story in a child-friendly way, as much as possible. It doesn’t mention specifically that she was shot in the head by the Taliban for supporting education rights for girls. It leaves the door open for good conversations between children and adults. 


5. Thundercake

Patricia Polacco is one of my very favorite authors! I love using her mentor texts for just about everything! In this book, Thundercake, a large storm brews over Grandma’s farm, and Grandma distracts her granddaughter by baking a cake together. She reminds her frightened granddaughter that this only means it’s Thundercake baking weather.


6. Ron’s Big Mission

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden is a true story about discrimination featuring a young Ron McNair. Ron, who dreams of being a pilot someday, wants to read about flying and space, but he is told he cannot check out books at the library because of the color of his skin. Ron is courageous in continuing to pursue his dream.

This book is a great opportunity to have deep discussions about how far we have come and how much farther we need to go.


After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) Mentor Text

7. After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat is a picture book about fear, anxiety, passion, and perseverance. It tells what happens when Humpty Dumpty becomes terrified of heights and he can no longer do many of the things he used to love.

This is a great book to discuss how overcoming our fears is a great act of courage. By the way, get ready for a surprise ending in this book!


Drum Dream Girl Mentor Text

8. Drum Dream Girl

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle empowers young girls in its story about a girl who dared to be a drummer while living on a musical island where drumming was only for boys.


Oliver Button is a Sissy Mentor Text

9. Oliver Button is a Sissy

Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola is a story about gender stereotyping. The young boy in this story, Oliver, must overcome teasing from other students for liking activities such as reading, painting, and tap dancing rather than sports. When Oliver Button courageously performs in the Talent Show, things start to get a little better.

I like to use this book with Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. They have similar themes and plots and are perfect for compare and contrast lessons.


10. Brave Girl

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel is a nonfiction picture book that tells the true story of a young immigrant girl who led the largest strike of female workers in American history.


I hope these read alouds have given you a few new ideas for some mentor texts to share with your students.

Besides mentor texts, I love to do other social-emotional activities in the classroom.

Character Education Courage - SEL Courage Activities in Print and Digital

This Courage Unit includes discussion task cards, a self-reflection quiz, a mentor text list, a sort, a courage activities page, a character trait poster, courage awards, and detailed teacher notes. To find out more, CLICK HERE.

Character Education Bundle in Print and Digital

If you’d like to take a look at the very complete Character Education Unit, which has enough materials to help you teach Character Education for the entire year, CLICK HERE


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