7 Books to Promote Leadership Skills in Your Students

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I spent some time over the summer thinking about how to improve the organization of various clubs and initiatives that take place in the library. The school year always starts with much excitement and great intentions, but midway through November I find that I’m already run off my feet. A wise principal once told me that whoever is doing the work, is doing the learning. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for students to take on some of these tasks? I’ve decided to put ownership back into the hands of the kids. By preparing my students as leaders and setting them up for success, I can start them off on an amazing learning journey. This year for example, I’m putting together a library book selection committee of students from K–8 who will discuss and implement a plan for which books belong in the library. I usually spend hours compiling lists and sourcing tiles, and I’m not even the target audience for the material. This year my library collection will be fully representative of my students.

My robotics and Minecraft clubs will also be run by expert students this year. These kids know way more about robots and Minecraft then I do anyway. As an added responsibility, they will design lunch and learns for teachers on these topics.

The question becomes, how can I make sure that my students are good leaders? Do they have the skills required to do the job? Here is a list of books to help students better understand the desirable qualities of a leader.

Communication and Compromise:

Dear Mr. President by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Anne Villeneuve is a book written in the form of letters from a boy named Sam, to the unnamed (but obvious) president. Sam is unhappy that he has to share a room with his older brother and is thinking about building a wall down the middle. Over the course of the correspondence, Sam comes to realize that there are much better ways to solve his problem. With a little communication and compromise, he and his brother can live in harmony. This book can be used to spark discussion about real-life politics and the characteristics that make a good leader. Students can also revisit events in history and imagine different outcomes based on an open dialogue and the two sides willing to negotiate.

Inspire Others:

With its distinctive illustrations and important message, I Love My Purse by Belle Demont, art by Sonja Wimmer is a picture book I love for so many reasons. One day, Charlie decides to wear a red purse to school. He is met with opposition from everyone he meets, including his father. They tell him that boys don’t wear purses. Throughout the conversations, Charlie learns that there are others who want to do the things they love but feel they can’t because of perceived societal norms. By the end of the story, they have all been inspired by Charlie to be themselves, regardless of what other people think. Students reading this story can compose a letter to someone they are inspired by, listing the qualities they admire. By compiling key words from these letters, students can begin to develop a picture of what a leader could look like.

Follow Your Passion:

Young Chris has dreams of becoming an astronaut in the book, The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield, illustrated by The Fan Brothers. There’s only one problem: Chris is afraid of the dark. It isn’t until he watches the moon landing on a neighbour’s television that he realizes just how much darker it appears in space and how beautiful the dark can be. This book will generate discussion on how to overcome fears, especially in order to achieve goals. Students can brainstorm their own goals and a list of attainable steps to meet them.

Fail Forward:

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires tells the story of a little girl named Lou who loves to play imaginative games with her friends. Unfortunately, she becomes unable to join in one of the adventures because she has never climbed a tree before. Although she’s frightened, she finally gives it a try but is unsuccessful. However, she decides to try again tomorrow. The story is a wonderful springboard for a conversation about fixed vs growth mindsets. How does Lou’s mindset change from fixed to one of growth? Students can engage in a dialogue about their own mindsets and the importance of a leader having a growth mindset instead of a fixed one.

Recognize Potential:

What’s My Superpower by Aviaq Johnston, illustrated by Tim Mack is a book about a little girl named Nalvana who longs to have a superpower. She is happy to discover that her friends have superpowers and doesn’t hesitate to compliment them on their various skills. Nalvana finally learns her that her superpower is “making people feel good about themselves.” Students can draw inspiration from this book to make a list of their strengths and what leadership opportunities they see for themselves in the classroom or school.

Take Action:

The Little Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is a simple story, with beautiful illustrations, about a forest fire. The animals of the forest are frightened and try to run away when they see the fire. Except for the tiny hummingbird. She takes one drop of water in her beak at a time in an attempt to extinguish the flames. The book includes a message from Wangari Maathi, the founder of the Green Belt Movement, about not waiting for others to take action. After reading the book, students can talk about how small acts can actually drive change. What are some small acts of kindness that they can take in their school community to help initiate change? From environmental issues to bullying prevention, the possibilities are endless.

Examples of Leadership in Young People:

Our Future: How Kids are Taking Action by Janet Wilson is on my library’s wish list. I find all of Janet Wilson’s books inspiring for students because they feature real kids who make a difference. Our Future includes the stories of Autumn Peltier, an Indigenous teen who brought her concerns about water pollution to the UN, and Melati Wijsen, a boy from Bali who asked his government to ban plastic bags. I anticipate that this book will motivate students to stand up and not only be leaders in the school, but also in the community.

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Allison

Allison Hall is a Teacher-Librarian at a K–8 public school in Brampton, Ontario. She is passionate about creativity and empowering students. She is also a bit of a Lego addict.

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October 8, 2019
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