The 5 Best Picture Books for Teaching Character Traits

Are you looking for engaging ways to teach your upper elementary students how to analyze character traits? My favourite way to do this is through picture books. Even your big kids will love listening to a story in order to practice reading skills.

The Teaching Method:

teaching character traits to students
  1. Choose a Book (I have created an awesome list for you to reference below.)
  2. Set a purpose for reading. Let the kids know that after reading, they will be expected to talk about the characters. If you want them to focus on one particular character, be sure to tell them that. If you want them to focus on how a character has changed throughout the story, let them know!
  3. Read the story.
  4. Provide students with an opportunity to turn & talk with their reading partner about the characters in this story.
  5. Summarize aloud for students what you heard a few groups talking about. Share the best responses so that they know what they are trying to achieve.
  6. Formatively or summatively assess students’ understanding with a digital reading response activity.
character traits digital reading response activity

The Books:

Here are my top 5 picture books for teaching students to analyze character traits. Note that the links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through my link, amazon sends a few pennies my way, at no additional cost to you.

1. Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry

  • This is a great story for asking students to analyze how characters change. You might ask students to describe Swashby at the beginning of the book and at the end. Then ask them how he has changed and what caused that change to happen.
  • I actually have an amazing FREE digital picture book study that goes along with this story. You can get your FREE copy by clicking here.

2. After the Fall by Dan Santat

  • This book is actually all about what happens after Humpty Dumpty fell off of the wall. It is a super cute book that upper elementary students love!
  • After the Fall is a great story for students to practice describing characters based on what they do, say and think.

3. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

  • Jeremy, the main character in this story goes through a big change, making this a great book to talk about characters changing!

4. Thank You Omu by Oge Mora

  • This is a great book for identifying character traits. Asking students questions such as:
    • What kind of person is Omu?
    • How do you know?
  • I like using this book towards the beginning of the year because students are generally able to easily generate character traits for Omu and it helps them to feel successful for the rest of the year.

5. When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan – Fenton and Margaret – Olemaun Pokiak – Fenton

  • When I Was Eight is about a little girl who goes to Residential School. She exhibits many admirable character traits throughout her journey.
  • In fact, there are so many amazing character traits in this book that I have a special characterization activity in my When I Was Eight Interactive Read Aloud!

Be sure to pin the image below so that you can find this book list when you need it!

mentor texts for teaching character traits in the upper elementary classroom

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