One of the things I love about kids is their capacity to dream. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up, and you’ll hear all sorts of things, including superhero, astronaut, Olympic athlete, and much more. If you ever seen a child fall in love with something — reading, writing, a sport, a hobby — you might see them set their sights on a goal and work toward it with their whole heart and soul. Little kids often have big goals, and that’s great. It’s important to nurture their interests and support their plans (appropriate ones, of course) and to keep encouraging them to set goals. Thankfully, there are lots of picture books for motivated kids from which to choose to show kids that big goals and big dreams are possible, with hard work, determination, help, and support.
Picture Books for Motivated Kids
All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans With Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel, Nabi Ali, and Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was only passed in 1990. This picture book tells the story of Jennifer Keelan, a young girl who faced discrimination at school because of her wheelchair. That sparked activism in her, and she went to D.C. to participate in the Capitol Crawl to urge Congress to pass the ADA — this is her story.
Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles by Michelle Meadows and Ebony Glenn
Simone Biles is synonymous with gymnastics excellence, and this picture book tells the story of her growing up. We read about how her grandparents adopted her and one of her sisters, and her introduction to gymnastics, and what came next. While it not only is a great book about an Olympic champion, it also showcases her personal triumphs and perseverance in a way that young kids can understand.
How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi and Yao Xiao
Shiraishi started rock climbing at the age of 6, and in this book she explains that in climbing, boulders are called “problems.” To solve it, you need to get to the top. She talks about falling down on the way to solve the problem, but persevering until the problem is solved, and to keep working toward your goals. It’s a great book to remind your little one to not let setbacks deter them from their goals.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Big goals can look different for different people at different times in our lives. This is a heartwarming book about a little boy who’s ready to jump off the diving board…or is he? He has to do many things to prepare for his jump, after all — can’t rush it! It’s a gentle story about gathering up the courage to do something that scares you a little bit.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle and Rafael López
This book, inspired by Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese African Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s taboo against female drummers, tells the story of a little girl who dreams of playing the drums. On the little girl’s island, it’s assumed girls can’t be drummers, but she kept practicing in secret — until one day her music was heard, changing everything.
Little People, Big Dreams: RuPaul by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Wednesday Holmes
I love this series because of the depth and breadth of the people they profile. This book about RuPaul was recently published, and tells the story about how he came to the performing arts and found his place in drag. This was a way for him to express himself through art, and he wanted to help others find their way of expressing themselves, too, while encouraging them to love themselves. It’s a colorful, fun book about following your heart and making your dreams come true.
Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris and Melissa Valdez
It’s more than okay to have big dreams and bigger plans. It’s fabulous to be outspoken and set goals. Those are just some of the messages in this picture book. After seeing a strong woman on TV, a young girl looks at the challenges girls and women face and how they can reclaim language and own their stories proudly.
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stacia Burrington
This gorgeously illustrated picture book imagines Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, as a little girl, writing about what she wants to be when she grows up. With her parents’ encouragement, she doesn’t give up her dreams, even when she’s discouraged by other people. It’s a great reminder not to let anyone stop you from reaching your goals, and to reach for the stars — sometimes literally!