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9 Life Lessons We Learned from Children’s Books

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kenyon chapter.

The love of reading and learning often begins at a very young age, and most commonly through exposure to captivating picture books. Looking back at the children’s books of the past, there are an extraordinary number of life lessons that some of our generation’s children’s books taught us that will stay with us for all time.

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar: This humorous tale about a caterpillar that couldn’t stop eating is colorful and captivating at the surface level, but it also contains an important message. This book teaches children about the growth and development of the individual, and that new adventures and experiences will always be right around the corner.Notable Quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” 
  2. The Giving Tree: This incredible story teaches us that true love means caring for someone else more than for yourself. This tale of self-sacrifice follows a boy and a tree who are friends, and the tree ends up giving all of her self to make this boy—who eventually becomes a man—happy. Even when it seems the tree has nothing left to give, she still finds a way to show him her love.Notable Quote: “Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy, very very much—even more than she loved herself.”
  3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Alexander is having a bad day, and nothing seems to be going his way. But, this story teaches us that bad things happen, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it, because everyone has bad days. This story does a wonderful job of helping us see the humor in life even when things don’t go our way.Notable Quote: “It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that.” 
  4. Guess How Much I Love You: The story of Big and Little Nutbrown Hare is truly one for the ages. When Little Nutbrown Hare has trouble expressing to his father just how much he loves him, Big Nutbrown Hare teaches him it isn’t so much about how much you love, but how you love that matters.Notable Quote: “I love you right up to the moon…and back.” 
  5. Love You Forever: This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you grow up. There are few things as powerful as the everlasting love a parent has for their child, and this story explains why. This impossible, eternal love transcends the innocence and comfort of childhood and never, ever fails.Notable Quote: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” 
  6. Harold and the Purple Crayon: The imagination and sense of adventure aroused by this kindhearted book resonates with children and parents alike. It convinces its young readers that what you can imagine, you can create. This incredible lesson about the power of turning thought into action is one not to forget.Notable Quote: “One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.
  7. Where the Wild Things Are: Filled with suspense and adventure, this is widely regarded as one of the best children’s books of all time. This tale follows Max, who was sent to bed with no dinner, and eventually enters a world with unparalleled magic and whimsy. Creativity and quirkiness fill the pages of this beloved story, teaching kids that imagination and originality are two qualities that one should cherish and hold dear.Notable Quote: “And the walls became the world around.” 
  8. The Rainbow Fish: When the Rainbow Fish is selfish and proud, he learns that you must share your beauty with others to be happy. This story teaches us that beauty comes from the inside and that it’s not what you look like that teaches you the value of being an individual with a kind heart.Notable Quote: “And the more he gave away, the more delighted he became.” 
  9. Miss Rumphius: The story of Mr. Rumphius encourages children to look at the world in an innocent and compassionate way. It tells the tale of a woman who sought to change the world around her by making it more beautiful, and came up with a sincerely extraordinary and original way to do so.Notable Quote: “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

These astonishing contributions to literature meant something to us all, and will continue to mean something long after we’ve turned the last page.


Ally Bruschi is a senior political science major at Kenyon College. She spent this past summer interning as a writer with both The Daily Meal, a digital media group  dedicated to "all things food and drink" and The Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that partners with U.S. policymakers to alleviate global poverty. Before entering the "real world" of jobs, however, Ally spent many summers as a counselor at an all-girls summer camp in Vermont, aka the most wonderful place on earth. A good book, a jar of peanut butter, a well-crafted Spotify playlist, and a lazy dog could get her through even the worst of days.