Books to Grow Leaders: Part One


Collecting texts to teach the Seven Habits of Happy Kids isn't always something that comes easy. 

The Leader in Me school I was a part of had a "book of the month" for the whole school, and we usually connected it to the 7 Habits of Happy Kids. The challenge soon became finding a text that was engaging and appropriate for kindergarten through fifth grade. 

As a third grade teacher at the time, I found myself in the "sweet spot" - we could make just about anything work for us. But I kept hearing from my upper grades co-workers that they needed something a little more on their level. And when I transferred to another school to teach fifth-grade last year, I found out exactly what they were talking about! 

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The first three habits are known as "the private victory" - the idea being that they change a person from the inside out. The Leader in Me principles teach that it's hard to practice the last four (five) habits effectively without the first three solidly in place. We spend a lot of time focusing on the first three habits, especially during the first half of the school year. 

One of the ways I do this is through read-aloud. As I worked more in upper grades, I saw more opportunities to do this with class novels or in guided reading. Today, I'm sharing with you my favorite texts for promoting the first three habits (and paradigm shifts - but we'll get to that in a minute 😊). 

For each habit, I'm including three novels and one picture book. I've poured through my own collection to ensure a good mix of diverse texts and genres. I would love any suggestions you have as well! I hope these are helpful! 


Each of these titles features a character who has to learn that he (or she) is in charge of his (or her) own actions - no one else. They also become more aware of how their actions impact others. Or, in the case of Dream Big, they learn that they are in charge of their destiny. 

Links to Habit 1 Texts: 

Restart by Gordan Korman


These books all focus on a character with a plan who is determined to see it through. There are often obstacles - socio-economic status, race, tragedy, etc. - but each character learns to persevere in his or her own way. 

Links to Habit 2 Texts:

Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue

Ghost by Jason Reynolds (This is the first book in a 4-part series. SO INCREDIBLE.)

The School Story by Andrew Clements

Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm


This is probably a teacher's favorite habit --- "Work first, then play." 😂 Luckily, there are more than a few books out there to help us teach our students about the reward of relaxing once our work is done, and done well. There is also huge value in our students learning to say no to things they know they should not do! 

Links to Habit 3 Texts:

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (One of my annual FAVORITES)

The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson 

The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola

Several of these texts (Dream Big, The Hero Two Doors Down) were FREE as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription, so I plugged my iPad into my Smartboard "dongle" and projected the texts. We were able to close read several sections and "mark up" the text as well. It was a really great way to dig into the book!

I also have two sets of leadership story sorts that I use to teach and review the habits throughout the year. The primary version is best suited for kindergarten through third grade, as it provides more visual support. The intermediate version uses more detailed stories for students to sort into examples and non-examples.


A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in the way we think or behave. We have paradigm shifts because of events in our world (September 11th), in our lives (a new baby, the death of a loved one), and because of our relationships with others. These are often "internal transformations" so I'm including them in this group of texts to share today. 

These books show characters who undergo their own paradigm shift for one reason or another - and they provide incredible opportunities for rich conversations with our students. 

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

The Janitor's Boy by Andrew Clements 

As a school, we adopted five paradigms for reaching and teaching our students. 

1. Everyone can be a leader. 
2. Everyone has genius. 
3. Change starts with me. 
4. Educators empower students to lead their own learning. 
5. We develop the whole person.

Find Part Two by clicking on the image below!

On a final note, I turned those paradigms into a set of posters! If you'd like to use them, sign up for my email newsletter below and download them for free! You'll also get access to exclusive content, freebies, and more! 

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