Great Books For Teaching Life Skills To School-Aged Kids

If you’re like me, you are always on the lookout for new books for your kids. My oldest loves books about construction, superheroes, and anything funny. I’m happy to read these books, but on occasion, I like to slip in books about important life skills. I figure, no matter how old you are, it’s never a bad idea to learn, right? So here are some books we found which teach important life skills for school-aged kids.

The What Should Danny Do? Book Series

Do you remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books we used to read as a kid? Well, this series takes that story device and allows the reader to experience multiple plots depending upon the choices Danny makes. The overarching theme across the books is we have the “power to choose” how our day will play out.

What Should Danny Do?

The first book in the series follows Danny on a typical day and gives us, the reader, the power to choose how Danny responds to different events in his day. Make a good choice, and you move to a section of the book that unfolds differently than if you make a poor choice. But the thing I really liked was that you could always redeem the day by choosing to make good decisions from that point on. Another good aspect of the book, each plot thread ends with a quick summary of how Danny feels his day went and what he could have done to make it better.

What Should Danny Do? School Day

The second book follows Danny on a typical school day. Much like the first book, we are given the power to choose how Danny’s day unfolds. But because we were already familiar with the way the books worked, I began to ask my son to label the options provided as either a good or a bad choice. For being as young as he is, and not having a ton of experience with actual school, he did reasonably well. I think the thing I like best about this series is it provides us an opportunity to talk about choices in a non-threatening way.

The Boys Town Press Executive Function Series

As the title of this series implies, this series deals with learning executive function life skills through the eyes of a boy, in third grade, named Braden. Each book focuses on one lesson and provides an easy to remember 4 step process to help the child learn the skill. Honestly, I think these books are as helpful for me as they are for my son. 😂

What Were You Thinking? A Story about Learning to Control Your Impulses

This story follows Braden through a series of situations in which he initially struggles to control his impulses. He blurts out whatever comes to his mind in class, he throws a ball at another child’s head when she cheats in a dodgeball game, and eats a bunch of cupcakes that his mother had made for his brother’s birthday party. As a result, the adults in Braden’s life come up with a 4 step guide to help him control his impulses:

  1. Stop what he’s doing
  2. Think about what he’s going to say or do
  3. Decide if it will make the situation better or worse
  4. Choose the behavior that will make the situation better

Braden initially thinks these rules will be easy to do, and tries to apply the rules throughout his day, but he inevitably fails. However, after some guidance from the adults in his life, he’s able to put the steps into practice and is immediately rewarded with a boost of self-esteem that comes from doing something hard but rewarding.

Of Course It’s A Big Deal! A Story about Learning to React Calmly and Appropriately

In this story, Braden struggles with reacting calmly to the kinds of stresses a child of this age would encounter on a day-to-day basis. And just like the previous story, it provides us with Braden’s inner monologue while he is dealing with each situation. In my opinion, this is one of the best things about this series. It normalizes his thoughts and feelings in a way that I think will resonate with the child who is reading the story. There’s sass and large feelings that I can recall feeling when I was younger, and that I can see starting to happen with my son.

With this story, the adults in Braden’s life provide him with the following steps to help him remain calm and act in a more appropriate way to stressful situations:

  1. Find a way to calm down. Try and take deep breaths or count to 10.
  2. Think of a way to make the situation better
  3. Try it out
  4. If nothing works, or if you can’t figure out what to do, get help.

Just like the previous story, Braden initially struggles with these steps, but eventually, with the help of the adults in his life, he puts into practice these steps in a positive way.

My Day Is Ruined! A Story for Flexible Thinking

This story has been the most helpful for our family. Being 4 is hard. Especially when you have strong feelings about what you want to do. When my son’s friends don’t want to play the way he wants them to, or when he thinks he should be able to do something that is out of his control, he often melts down and feels like the rest of his day will be ruined because of this one incident.

Braden’s day starts off with a ton of excitement. He’s going to be playing in the championship baseball game for his little league tournament. He’s the star player on the team, and is super excited to win his trophy and be recognized at his school on Monday for winning the game. Unfortunately, the game is cancelled due to rain. Queue the drama. He is convinced his day will be ruined and that there is nothing anyone can do to make things better.

Eventually his mom calms him down and uses the moment to provide him the following 4 step process for flexible thinking:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Realize some things are out of your control
  3. Change your plan
  4. Accept the change

Braden, again, struggles to apply this to his everyday life, but like the previous books, eventually figures it out. What I really like about this book is how it focuses on how somethings in life are beyond our control. And by providing real world examples of situations where Braden couldn’t control what was going on, it provided me with example stories that I can refer back to when my son encounters something that cannot be changed. For whatever reason, these examples seem to resonate with him more than me just coming up with an example on my own. And while he isn’t always happy with the end outcome of the situation, it is providing him with the opportunity to pause and temper his reaction to the situation. Which is all we can really ask for as parents, right?

Dan was born and raised in New Berlin, WI. He is married to the most amazing woman, Dawn, and has two children, Joe (born September 2014) and Nora (born April 2017). Dan has a background in Psychology (BA from UW-La Crosse) and Nursing (BSN from UW-Oshkosh). He is currently staying at home full-time. He enjoys cooking, biking, running, and yoga. He is also an avid coffee aficionado and hopes to one day be able to roast his own coffee beans.


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