Our Favorite 33 Books to Read With Your Kids About Hard Work

Updated Mar. 12, 2019

Teaching our children the value of hard work is one of the best lessons we can help them experience. Many children's books address the topic directly or indirectly, showing children the satisfaction a character experiences from working hard to achieve a goal or overcome a challenge. This list shares some of our favorite stories sharing a message about hard work.

To the Sea book
#1
To the Sea
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school-until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn't just any new friend: he's a blue whale, and he can't find his way home! Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it's not every day you meet a new friend! This picture book about the power of friendship by new talent Cale Atkinson is brought to life by charming, dynamic illustrations.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book
#2
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From the author of The BFG and Matilda! Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

McToad Mows Tiny Island book
#3
McToad Mows Tiny Island
Written by Tom Angleberger and illustrated by John Hendrix
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Every Thursday, as a break from mowing Big Island, McToad and his tractor make their way to Tiny Island, using various modes of transportation and types of machinery to get there and back.

Holes book
#4
Holes
Written by Louis Sachar
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

As further evidence of his family's bad fortune which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself.

What Do You Do with an Idea? book
#5
What Do You Do with an Idea?
Written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A young boy comes up with an idea and he keeps it safe until one day he realizes the amazing power it can have.

How to Catch a Star book
#6
How to Catch a Star
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

From the illustrator of the #1 smash hit The Day the Crayons Quit comes a story about wishing, persevering, and reaching for the stars. Once there was a boy, and that boy loved stars very much. So much so that he decided to catch one of his very own. But how? Waiting for them to grow tired from being up in the sky all night doesn’t work. Climbing to the top of the tallest tree? No, not tall enough. The boy has a rocket ship . . . but it is made of paper and doesn’t fly well at all. Finally, just when the boy is ready to give up, he learns that sometimes things aren’t where, or what, we expect them to be. Oliver Jeffers offers a simple, childlike tale of reaching for the stars, and emerging with a friend.

Ike's Incredible Ink book
#7
Ike's Incredible Ink
Written and illustrated by Brianne Farley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Cleaning his room and talking to his best friend while preparing to write what he knows will be an incredible story, little Ike discovers that he is missing just the right ink to get his project underway, a need that requires extraordinary effort to fulfill.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole book
#8
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Sam and Dave are on a mission. A mission to find something spectacular. So they dig a hole. And they keep digging. And they find . . . nothing. Yet the day turns out to be pretty spectacular after all. Attentive readers will be rewarded with a rare treasure in this witty story of looking for the extraordinary — and finding it in a manner you’d never expect.

Earn It! book
#9
Earn It!
Written and illustrated by Cinders McLeod
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

I thought this was a cute book about a bunny who wants to be rich and famous. :) I loved that her mom did a fantastic job of encouraging her to follow her dreams, but gave realistic and practical advice for how she could do it. The illustrations are cute, too!

In this delightful introduction to the simple concept of earning money, an exuberant little bunny learns that fame and fortune must be earned. Bun wants to be rich and famous. She loves to sing and knows she’s meant for a career on stage. It should all be pretty easy—her mom can just drive her to the concert hall to perform! But her mom reminds her that most good things, like the garden they are growing, take time and work. At first, Bun isn’t terribly excited by the idea of singing lessons and practice, but as she does the math and daydreams about her future singing career, the more she starts to like the idea of earning her way to stardom—a feeling just as good as being rich and famous!

Ruby's Wish book
#10
Ruby's Wish
Written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Ruby is unlike most little girls in old China. Instead of aspiring to get married, Ruby is determined to attend university when she grows up, just like the boys in her family. Based upon the inspirational story of the author's grandmother and accompanied by richly detailed illustrations, Ruby's Wish is an engaging portrait of a young girl who's full of ambition and the family who rewards her hard work and courage.

Salt in His Shoes book
#11
Salt in His Shoes
Written by Roslyn M. Jordan, Deloris Jordan and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Goodfather

This is a great book, especially for young readers who enjoy sports. It's an inspiring story of the perseverance, hard work, faith and family of a young Michael Jordan that helped him become a star athlete.

Young Michael Jordan, who is smaller than the other players, learns that determination and hard work are more important than size when playing the game of basketball.

Mighty Tug book
#12
Mighty Tug
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by David Mottram
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From early in the morning until time to say, "Good night," Mighty Tug works in the busy harbor, guiding cargo ships, pulling barges, and helping with rescues.

The Carrot Seed book
#13
The Carrot Seed
Written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Crockett Johnson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When a little boy plants a carrot seed, everyone tells him it won't grow. But when you are very young, there are some things that you just know, and the little boy knows that one day a carrot will come up. So he waters his seed, and pulls the weeds, and he waits ... First published in 1945 and never out of print, this timeless combination of Ruth Krauss's simple text and Crockett Johnson's eloquent illustrations creates a triumphant and deeply satisfying story for readers of all ages.

Blueberries for Sal book
#14
Blueberries for Sal
Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

What happens when Sal and her mother meet a mother bear and her cub? A beloved classic is born! Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! Sal and her mother a picking blueberries to can for the winter. But when Sal wanders to the other side of Blueberry Hill, she discovers a mama bear preparing for her own long winter. Meanwhile Sal’s mother is being followed by a small bear with a big appetite for berries! Will each mother go home with the right little one? With its expressive line drawings and charming story, Blueberries for Sal has won readers’ hearts since its first publication in 1948.

Mrs. Gorski I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets book
#15
Mrs. Gorski I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets
Written by Barbara Esham and illustrated by Mike Gordon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses is meant to demonstrate various forms of learning, creativity, and intelligence. Each book introduces a realistic example of triumph over difficulty in a positive, humorous way that readers of all ages will enjoy! David gets scolded a lot by his teacher, Mrs. Gorski, for not paying attention in class. He wants to pay attention but it is just so hard when an exciting idea pops into his head. And he usually can't tell that he's making a mistake until after he makes them. But after a particularly big mistake, David comes up with his own plan to tone down his wiggle fidgets. This award-winning story is a simple introduction to ADHD and the creative ways of finding solutions to the challenges that ADHD can create. Mrs. Gorski, I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgetsis the recipient of: the Academics' Choice Gold Seal Mom's Choice Award Gold Parents' Choice Award "A masterful tale of empowering children...Esham artfully describes the gifts and challenges of children with ADHD." -Dr. Susan Baum, professor emeritus, the College of New Rochelle Praise for the series: "This is a wonderful book series. Each story shows children that success is about effort and determination, that problems need not derail them, and that adults can understand their worries and struggles. My research demonstrates that these lessons are essential for children." --Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Roadwork book
#16
Roadwork
Written by Sally Sutton and illustrated by Brian Lovelock
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Big machines and their drivers work together to build a road.

The Night the Stars Went Out book
#17
The Night the Stars Went Out
Written and illustrated by Suz Hughes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Alien is very small, but it is his job to shine all the stars and make sure they keep shining, and he has no time for anything else--so when the stars go out one night he is desperate to find the solution, a quest that takes him to Earth.

Construction book
#18
Construction
Written by Sally Sutton and illustrated by Brian Lovelock
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Big machines and their drivers work together to build a library.

Alphabet Trucks book
#19
Alphabet Trucks
Written by Samantha R Vamos and illustrated by Ryan O Rourke
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Truck lovers find familiar and unusual trucks and learn where they work and what they do.

If You're So Smart, How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi book
#20
If You're So Smart, How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi
Written by Barbara Esham and illustrated by Mike Gordon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses is meant to demonstrate various forms of learning, creativity, and intelligence. Each book introduces a realistic example of triumph over difficulty in a positive, humorous way that readers of all ages will enjoy! Katie always thought her dad was smart--he is one of the busiest attorneys in town! People are always asking him for advice. She has been a bit confused ever since asking him for help with her weekly spelling list. How can her very smart dad struggle with one of her spelling words? This definitely didn't make sense. The word Mississippi has changed everything... This frank and thoughtful approach to dyslexia is an important exploration of the various ways people learn and that some difficulties do not have to be restrictions on what a person can achieve. "Challenges in reading and spelling are often accompanied by special abilities in areas like complex pattern recognition and spatial reasoning. If You're So Smart How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi? is a fantastic way of bringing this information to the many smart children who find reading and spelling especially difficult--especially to those who are beginning to doubt their own potential." --Drs. Brock (M.D., M.A.) and Fernette (M.D.) Eides, authors of The Mislabeled Child and founders of the Eide Neurolearning Clinic. Praise for the series: "This is a wonderful book series. Each story shows children that success is about effort and determination, that problems need not derail them, and that adults can understand their worries and struggles. My research demonstrates that these lessons are essential for children." --Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Construction book
#21
Construction
Written and illustrated by Cocoretto
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Digging, pushing, mixing and tipping! Lift the flap to see each vehicle busy at work.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel book
#22
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A modern classic that no child should miss. Since it was first published in 1939, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel has delighted generations of children. Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains, and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers -- the very symbol of industrial America. But with progress come new machines, and soon the inseparable duo are out of work. Mike believes that Mary Anne can dig as much in a day as one hundred men can dig in a week, and the two have one last chance to prove it and save Mary Anne from the scrap heap. What happens next in the small town of Popperville is a testament to their friendship, and to old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity.

Matthew's Dream book
#23
Matthew's Dream
Written and illustrated by Leo Lionni
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A visit to an art museum inspires a young mouse to become an artist, despite the wishes of his parents, who hope that he will become a doctor. Reprint.

Anything is Possible book
#24
Anything is Possible
Written by Giulia Belloni and illustrated by Marco Trevisan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A determined sheep and his practical wolf friend try their hand at building a flying machine together, but when their plans don't work like they wanted, they must find a new way to make their dreams come true.

Ricky, the Rock That Couldn't Roll book
#25
Ricky, the Rock That Couldn't Roll
Written by Jay Miletsky and illustrated by Erin Wozniak
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Unlike the other rocks that he plays with, Ricky can't roll because he isn't round. His friends help him to overcome his challenge and find a way for him to play like everyone else.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!