Children’s books aren’t just pretty pictures and silly stories about animals — they can also be timeless tales that are inspiring, insightful and oh so wise.
From the importance of sharing and the power of love to realizing your potential, the lessons in these books aren’t just for kids. They’re for the kids in us all.
Take a cue from these six books and discover how you can apply their messages to your own life.
Lesson #1 - We must take care of the planet
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
This cautionary tale from Dr. Seuss, whose pantheon of children’s literature has served as a source of wisdom and entertainment for nearly 80 years, tells the story of a man who cuts down all the trees in town to build his empire, forcing the local fauna to flee in the process. The Lorax tries to warn him, defending the trees and the birds and the bees, but the man is too concerned with the bottom line. Unless… can he reverse the damage he’s done? We hope so.
Lesson #2 - Love is powerful
“Real isn’t how you are made...it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time...then you become Real.”
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
This tearjerker may have been published all the way back in 1922, but it still rings true today. The Velveteen Rabbit tells the story of a stuffed bunny who spends his days with a little boy — playing in the grass, picking flowers, laying in the sun — and each night snuggled up beside him in his bed. Thanks to the boy’s love, the Velveteen Rabbit realizes his dream of becoming real — but with a catch. Fair warning: keep those tissues handy for this one.
Lesson #3 - Happiness is worthless unless you share it with others
“The Rainbow Fish shared his scales left and right. And the more he gave away, the more delighted he became.”
The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister
A beautiful fish with rainbow scales that shimmer and shine swims through the ocean, the other fish eager for sparkles of their own. When he doesn’t share his unique gift, they refuse to play with him and he’s left alone. But when he hands off each of his beautiful scales to the others, he realizes that friendship and happiness are about sharing your joy with others — not keeping it all for yourself.
Lesson #4 - Face challenges head on
“We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!”
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen
As this group of intrepid bear hunters makes its way closer to the bear, they encounter a series of obstacles: tall grass, mud, a dark forest. Each time, they meet the challenge the same way. It’s an apt metaphor for life: When things get tough, you can’t avoid the sticky parts — you have to plough right through.
Lesson #5 - Learning is a lifelong journey
"The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between."
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
After a bored Milo receives a mysterious and magical tollbooth, it sets him on an adventure through the Kingdom of Wisdom. Along the way, he encounters a world unlike his own, filled with witty wordplay, curious rhetoric and a quest to save the exiled princesses Rhyme and Reason. It’s a lively romp that shines a light on how fun learning can be when you simply look at the world in a new way.
Lesson #6 - Make things up as you go
“And the moon went with him.”
Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
With crayon in hand, Harold creates the world around him, making things up as he goes. When there's no moon to light the way, he draws it. When he gets hungry, he draws some pie. When he becomes lost and needs directions, he draws a policeman to help him. As adults, sometimes we forget that the best opportunities we'll get in life are the ones we create for ourselves.