Growing Reader

7 Picture Books for 6- to 8-Year-Olds That Encourage Positive Thinking

by Jennifer Garry

Image credit: Bonfanti Diego/Getty Images

It has been raining a lot here in New York. The combination of the gray, dreary skies and being quarantined makes it difficult to stay upbeat. The days feel long yet somehow still fly by. Milestones pass and have to be celebrated in new ways. The obstacles are many.

Yet, the sound of laughter still reverberates through my house. The tree outside my window has sprouted bright green buds. My daughter is so close to learning how to ride her bike. There are good things out there — even when it seems dark — if you just look hard enough. A little bit of optimism, perseverance, and creative thinking will see us through.

These seven picture books will inspire growing readers to stay positive and always look on the bright side of things.

  • The Little Engine That Could

    by Watty Piper, illustrated by Dan Santat

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    The quintessential story of a positive outlook, this 90th anniversary edition with updated illustrations by Caldecott Award-winning artist Dan Santat does not disappoint. In this classic story, a train carrying treats for good girls and boys breaks down. A little blue engine comes along and saves the day with sheer determination, repeating her mantra of “I think I can, I think I can” the whole way.

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  • Amazing Grace

    by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch

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    Grace loves stories — especially acting them out — so when her class is putting on a production of Peter Pan, she immediately knows who she wants to play. Her classmates tell her she can’t be Peter because she’s a girl and she’s black, but support from her mom and Nana (who tell her she can be anything she imagines) is just the encouragement she needs.

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  • Ish

    by Peter H. Reynolds

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    Ramon loved to draw until one careless comment from his brother changed everything. Suddenly, nothing he created was good enough. Drawing became fraught with frustration. Everything shifted again the day he discovered a gallery of his not-good-enough drawings on the walls of his little sister’s room. This small change in perspective shifts Ramon’s whole world back into place.

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  • The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

    by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by Oge Mora

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    From the time she was a young slave in Alabama, Mary Walker dreamt of being free to rest and read when she wanted. Throughout the course of her long life, something always came up to push learning to read further down the hard-working woman’s to-do list. At 116, Mary decided to change that. She was the oldest person in her class, but she was determined to learn.

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  • Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

    by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls

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    Another triumphant story based on real events, Emmanuel’s Dream is about a boy who never allowed other people’s thoughts about him to stamp out his determination. Born in Ghana with one deformed leg, most people — his father included — dismissed him. His mother, however, taught him to go after his dreams. As a child, he hopped two miles to school and learned to play soccer with his classmates. By the time he was 13, he was providing for his family. Eventually, he became a cyclist who rode 400 miles across Ghana to share the message that disability is not inability.

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  • Max and Marla

    by Alexandra Boiger

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    Max and Marla are best friends and aspiring Olympians. They face difficulties with determination and a relentless can-do attitude — even when rusty blades, strong winds, or difficult slopes threaten their success. The unstoppable duo gets up, dusts themselves off, and tries again and again, knowing that “obstacles are turned into victories.”

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  • How to Catch a Star

    by Oliver Jeffers

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    Another tale of perseverance, from the author of Here We Are, this one follows a boy who loves stars so much he decides to catch one of his own. After waiting, jumping, and stretching, again and again, his dream still looks and feels so far away. Then, just when he’s about to give up, he finds a star in an unexpected place and emerges with a friend. The big, open, colorful pages shimmering with hope will inspire readers of all ages to keep reaching for the stars.

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