Best Books about
Goal Setting & Ambition
book characters as
goal setting examples

books for goal setting lesson plans

Children's book characters can be great goal setting examples for kids. As adults, we know the importance of goal setting for kids / students, so we often tackle the topic head on, seeking to persuade children of its importance through heartfelt exhortations and logical reasoning. This can be effective, but often a more subtle approach works best. Stories allow children to 'do their own thinking' and see, through goal setting examples, how reaching for your dreams and setting small goals on the way made a difference in the character's life.

The books below all provide excellent examples of goal setting for kids. They present characters or real people who had big dreams, set their goals high, and did what it took to reach those dreams. Try adding one or two to your next goal setting lesson plans and see what happens.




Roberto the Insect Architect
by Nina Laden

What it's about
Roberto dreams of being an architect even though all the other termites make fun of him. Termites devour buildings, not create them!  Undeterred, he heads to the big city to help the needy bugs in his community. His first project is an entire housing development for homeless bugs!
Roberto the Insect Architect


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/ buy from Amazon
Why we like it
What a fun book! The notion of an insect with big dreams is comical enough, but Roberto's irrepressible spirit takes it to the next level. Laden's illustrations are darling and "nonstop insect quips and humorous bug house illustrations [that] keep this book buzzing along," (PW). This book has a strong message of dreaming big, having ambitions, and going for it!

Reading levels
Interest Level:  K-Gr.2        DRA Level: n/a
Reading Level:  age 4-8      Lexile Measure: 400L


Awards and Rating
Smithsonian Notable Book 2000
Book Sense Top Pick 2000
Society of Illustrators Silver Medal 2000
Avg Amazon Customer Rating:
4.5 stars (13 reviews)






Cloudette
by Tom Lichtenheld
Cloudette


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What it's about
A cute little cloud thinks she's too small to do any- thing special like the bigger clouds, but soon realizes she can do big things! Delightfully reminscent of The Little Engine That Could. "The message that even small fry can accomplish important tasks is well suited to the intended audience." (Booklist)

Reading levels
Interest Level: Grade 1-3    DRA Level: n/a  
Difficulty Level: age 3+       Lexile Measure: AD660L

Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating:4.5 stars (10 reviews)






Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream
by Deloris and Roslyn Jordan; illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Salt in His Shoes

Reading levels
Interest Level: K-Gr. 2       DRA: 28
Reading Level: age 4-8      Lexile: 460L



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What it's about
Here's a fun title about basketball giant Michael Jordan, written by his own mother and sister. In this true story, young Michael wants to be a better basketball player and thinks the key lies in being taller. He initially follows his mother's advice to put salt in his shoes to make him grow, but when that doesn't work, he listens to his father, who says "practice, determination, and giving your best" are the keys to being "a real winner."  And he's right!

Why we like it
PW said illustrator Kadir Nelson "handily balances in-your-face on-court action with more reflective portraits of the player's inner growth." Your kids won't have to be sports fans to appreciate the action in the illustrations!  And, readers will see the determination of a young Michael Jordan to succeed in basketball, even when he's playing against much taller boys.

Awards and Rating
Children's Crown Award 2000
Avg Amazon Customer Rating:5 stars (24 reviews)






My Name is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream
by Jennifer Fosberry; illustrated by Mike Litwin

What it's about
In this simple story, a little girl named Isabella enjoys pretending that she's one of a number of famous female women, like Marie Curie, Sally Ride, Annie Oakley... So, when her mom calls her at different times of the day, Isabella replies "My Name is Not Isabella; it's Sally" (or whichever female heroine she is pretending to be.)
My Name is Not Isabella

Reading levels
Interest Level: K-Gr. 2        DRA:  n/a
Difficulty Level: age 4-8      Lexile: n/a



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What it's about
This is a great pick if you are looking for a 'girls can do anything' book. The illustrations are full of color and movement, depicting the imaginings of this little girl and giving the book a lot of energy.

We wish the author had included details in the text about who the different famous women are (ie: most adults probably don't know Sally Ride, the astronaut, let alone kids.)  A section at the back that provides details on the women, but we would have liked to see some of this on the actual spreads. You might want to read that section first before reading this aloud to your kids. That way you can add in bits of information to ensure your kids are getting the full message.


Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating:5 stars (24 reviews)


Isabella Girl on the Go and My Name is Not Alexander There's a sequel (Isabella: Girl on the Go) and a boy version of this title too (My Name is Not Alexander.)

Find more details about either of these books via
the
Amazon link above.






Is there Really a Human Race
by Jamie Lee Curtis; illustrated by Laura Cornell

What it's about
In bouncy rhyming text, a young boy asks his mother many worried questions about the human 'race' and how he will fair. In response, his insightful mother gives him bits of kid-friendly wisdom. 

Really a Human Race

Reading levels
Interest Level:  K-Gr.3        DRA: n/a
Reading Level:  age 4-8      Lexile: n/a



* See inside / buy from Amazon

lessons/activitiesteachers guide by the publisher
Why we like it
The infectious, toe-tapping poetic text and whimsical ink and cartoon illustrations go perfectly together. 
In a starred review, SLJ promises this book "should be enjoyed by the whole human race." Agreed.

There are so many great messages in this book. The little boy's questions capture many common childhood anxieties about what the future holds and whether or not the child is up to the challenges ahead of him. Woven throughout the book are his mother's reassuring responses. We've included this book on this list because his mother does talk about ambition, saying life is to be enjoyed and not raced through and that while ambition is important, what's more important is that we help each other and make the world a better place "for the whole human race."

Awards and Rating
Child Magazine's Best Children's Book Awards 2006
Avg Amazon Customer Rating:5 stars(43 reviews)






Wilma Unlimited
by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz

What it's about
Wilma Rudolph was born early and weighed just over four pounds. She wasn't expected to live to see her first birthday. As a child, she had pneumonia, measles, mumps, scarlet fever, and polio. No one thought she'd be able to walk without clunky medal braces, but Wilma was determined. She did her therapy religiously and pushed herself to meet one goal after another until finally, not only was she walking, she was running and eventually won three gold medals in the Olympics.
Wilma Unlimited

Reading levels
Interest Level:  K-Gr. 5      DRA: 38
Difficulty Level: age 4-8     Lexile: 730L



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lessons/activitiesrelated activities / lessons
Why we like it
Wilma Rudolph overcame tremendous obstacles and never gave up, making her story an inspirational one to share with children of all ages. This picture book biography is both amazing and well told, so the addition of illustrations by David Diaz (Smoky Night) really puts this book in a class of its own. In his trademark, cubist-like illustrations laid on top of highly textural backdrops, Diaz adds even more drama to this triumphant story. If you were taken in by his Caldecott Medal winning illustrations in Smoky Night, pick up this book! You're in for a treat.

Awards and Rating
Jane Addams Picture Book Award
ALA Notable Children's Book Award
Booklist Best Books List for 1996
School Library Journal Best Books List 1996
NY Public Library 100 Titles for Reading/ Sharing

Avg Customer Rating:5 stars (19 reviews)






Dare to Dream! 25 Extraordinary Lives
by Sandra MacLeod Humphrey
Dare to Dream


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What it's about
Dare to Dream! is a collection of 25 short biographies about famous individuals from the 20th century--- people who made their dreams come true, each despite many obstacles in their way. Each profile is four pages long, covers the person's childhood, education, family life and adult life, and includes a small black-and-white photo. Profiled individuals include Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, astronaut Ellen Ochoa, NBA star Michael Jordan, and more. If you are looking for goal setting examples for older kids, this is a great place to start!

Reading levels
Interest Level:  Gr. 4-7         DRA Level:  n/a
Difficulty Level:  age 9-12     Lexile Measure:  n/a

Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating:4.5 stars (17 reviews)






The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
by Mordicai Gerstein

What it's about
In 1974, a French man named Philippe Petit spent an entire hour walking across a thin cable wire strung between the World Trade Center buildings at over a quarter of a mile above the ground. With impeccable pacing, lyrical words, and vertiginous perspectives, Gerstein captures the drama of the event and the larger-than-life persona of Petit. 
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Reading levels
Interest: K-Gr. 6       DRA Level:  28
Difficulty: age 4-8     Lexile: 480L



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lessons/activitiesrelated activities / lessons
Why we like it
This is such a unique and wonderful story, made all the more amazing because it is true!  Philippe Petit comes to life through Gerstein's skillfull words and illustrations, and children can't help but walk away with the message that anything is possible!

All the illustrations are charming, but those of Philippe on the wire are masterful! Readers see the event as a pedestrian looking up plus from above Philippe looking down. Done in fold out pages, these illustrations are "fascinating and harrowing" (PW). 

The fact that the story centers around an illegal activity is a bit concerning. Usually you don't want your picture books to teach such messages. But...for most children, the drama of the event and Philippe's "incredible determination, profound skill, and sheer joy" (SLJ) will dominate the experience, and most children will not think about the illegality. :)

Ratings and Awards
Caldecott Award Book -- 2004 Medal
Boston Globe - Horn Book Award
Carnegie Medal Children's Book Winner
Average Amazon Rating: 
4.5 stars (74 reviews)






Oh, the Places You'll Go!
by Dr Seuss
Oh the Places You'll Go


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What it's about
This bouncy 'ode to life' bursts with exuberance and joy about all the wonder, adventure, and happiness that the future holds for readers both young and old.
We love how Seuss works in the inevitability of pitfalls, mistakes, obstacles, and disappointments, but still keeps the tone so upbeat and positive that kids can't help but be exhilarated at the thought of their own future success. :)

Note: this classic Seuss title is often listed as a book for young children (ie: K-3), but we disagree. We think this book is best for older kids and even adults! 


Reading levels
Interest Level: all ages       DRA Level:  38
Difficulty Level: age 6+       Lexile Meas: AD600L  

Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating:5 stars (400 reviews)






Jonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach; illustrated by Russel Munson

What it's about
A seagull with a big fancy name -- Jonathan Livingston Seagull -- wanted to fly higher and faster and better then any seagull ever had, and wanted to live the best life he could. Other seagulls didn't understand why Jonathan cared so much and tried so hard. As long as they had the basics of flight down, they were happy. But Jonathan had big dreams, and didn't let the negativity of the other seagulls get him down. And in the end...he soared!

Jonathan Livingston Seagull


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Why we like it
Perhaps you are thinking, "Yeah, I know that book. It's has been around forever." True, it has, but it's one of those classics that adults tend to overlook when picking good books to read to our students/children. We need reminding that kids aren't 40 year olds. :)  

There are many powerful messages in this story, most notably that we should strive to be better and seek a higher purpose, just as Jonathan did, even if others may mock or disagree with us. Your kids will be inspired by this little bird just as you were when you were a child! And what a great message, one that deserves to be shared with a new generation.


Reading levels
Interest Level:  Gr. 3+     DRA Level: n/a
Reading Level: y.a.         Lexile Measure: n/a
 

Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars (383 reviews)






Ruby's Wish
by Shirin Yim, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Rubys Wish


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What it's about
"A tale of one little girls's dream to become more than was traditionally possible." (Kirkus Reviews)  This darling story set in ancient China is about a little girl named Ruby who is determined to go to a university, just like the boys in her family. Other girls in her community aspire to get married, but courageous little Ruby has her own unique goals and through determination and hard work, achieves her goals. The author based this story on the life of her own grandmother. In a starred review, Publ Wkly said, "This understated tale takes Ruby's predicament seriously while still celebrating her love of learning and her joyful personality."

Reading levels
Interest Level: PreS-Gr. 2     DRA Level: 30
Difficulty Level: age 4-8        Lexile Measure: 600L

Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating: 5 stars (24 reviews)





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