More Books for Hopes and Dreams

A recent post on Facebook for more ideas about books to use with hopes and dreams made me think about why some stories work so well to inspire children to think about what they want to accomplish in school and beyond.

I think it’s because so many great picture books celebrate real or fictional characters meeting impossible odds or overcoming challenges. Hearing and discussing stories about persistence can help children understand why you are asking them to set a goal for their school year and why that goal is important.

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be at a children’s bookstore around this time of year, I look for books that could be used to inspire children’s setting of hopes and dreams. I recently got to spend some time at Children’s Bookworld in Los Angeles, and discovered some new ideas:

  • Basketball Belles: How Two Teams and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map written by Sue Macy and illustrated by Matt Collins. Agnes Morley’s parents sent Agnes, who had been raised in the rough and tumble of a cattle ranch, to Stanford University in the hopes that she would finally become a lady. Instead, she discovered basketball and determinedly led her team to the first-ever women’s college basketball championship.

    You could use this book with upper elementary students (grades 4–6) to talk about the type of mindset and persistence it took for Agnes to succeed. You could then have them reflect in detail about what it will take to accomplish their hope or dream for the year. (And if you like this book, check out Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History by Sue Stauffacher and Sarah McMenemy.)

  • In Jim Henson, The Guy Who Played with Puppets, Kathleen Krull explores the life of someone whom children might actually know, at least through his work in creating the Muppets. Illustrated beautifully by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, the book explores how Henson persisted in trying to make a career from his love of puppets and entertaining despite doubts from his parents and others.

    Upper elementary students (grades 4–6), who are beginning to feel and understand peer pressure at a deep level, will enjoy the story of his determination to be himself despite others not understanding his love of puppets . . . and how that determination led to his ultimate success. You could use the story to encourage students to choose a hope and dream based on their own passions and interests—what do they really want to learn or accomplish in the year ahead?

  • Me . . . Jane, by Patrick McDonnell, is a beautiful and charming book. (Even if you don’t read it for hopes and dreams, just read it!) In it, McDonnell tells about the childhood life of scientist and naturalist Jane Goodall. As a child, Jane played with her toy chimpanzee, Jubilee, and dreamed of a life taking care of and learning about animals. Of course, she more than fulfilled that dream, and younger children can’t help but be drawn in and inspired by this book’s simple message of the power of dreams and curiosity. Use it to launch their thinking about what dreams they have for the year ahead.
  • In a similar vein, The Little Plant Doctor: A Story about George Washington Carver, written by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max, looks at the childhood life of this great scientist. As a child, George was fascinated by plants and what made them grow. Conducting experiments on his and neighbors’ plants led them to dub him “the little plant doctor.”

    Younger elementary students could easily relate to George’s curiosity and love of nature. Students could appreciate how even at an early age, George had a love of learning and worked hard to do what he loved. Use this story to get students thinking about what they love about school and what they want to learn in the year ahead. Then explore what they will need to do to reach that goal.

I hope you enjoy these books and the read-alouds I recommended for hopes and dreams last year. Let us know what you’re doing to make the hopes and dreams and rule-making process powerful for your students this year!


Tags: Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals, Language Arts