Finding Self-Care and Resilience in Picture Books

The University of Hartford Secondary English Education preservice teachers and I had the privilege of attending the New England Association of Teachers of English conference. Last year when I attended, I took detailed notes on the young adult literature that Penny Kittle suggested in her inspiring keynote speech. I incorporated her suggestions to fine tune my own adolescent literature course and integrated her text Write Beside Them into my Elements of Teaching Writing course. This year the highlights included specific suggestions in pairing classic novels with young adult literature and a moving performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. However, my big take away is that picture books should be used as a self-care and resilience tool in the classroom.

The inspiring messages within these short texts are just as relevant for us as they are for our students. For example, After the Fall by Dan Santat reminds us to get back in the game and do our best after a big failure. It’s a lesson in not being afraid to try even when it feels scary. Humpty Dumpty is a well known character, so the book is relatable to children in your classroom and to lifelong learners. The reader follows the character through courage, resilience and transformation. Integrating a picture book like this into a unit is a springboard for analysis, collaboration and writing. Our presenters shared their favorite picture books that have made a difference in their lives and in the lives of their students and readers.

Elly Swartz author of, Finding Perfect, a story about Molly, slam poetry, courage and OCD, and Jimmy Sapia, a passionate and dedicated sixth-grade Individuals and Societies teacher from Stamford, Connecticut, not only made the case about the importance of picture books but inspired the group to add picture books from kindergarten to the college classroom. Referring to picture books is a powerful way to create a social-emotional connection within the classroom.

Here are some of their favorites:

Empathy and Kindness:

ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

BE A FRIEND by Salina Yoon

EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson

IF YOU PLANT A SEED by Kadir Nelson


Dreaming, Believing, Persevering:

FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine by Heather Lang**

HENRY’S FREEDOM BOX: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

THE WATCHER: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter**


ELEANOR by Barbara Cooney**

**Empowering for girls!

I sincerely hope that the exploration of picture books will add a social-emotional element to your classroom that will inspire and uplift your students and you.

Until next time,


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