Building Your Child’s Confidence Through Reading

Sponsored By: Academy at the Lakes

Words by Mrs. Debbie Szarko, Lower Division Librarian, Academy at the Lakes

Mrs. Debbie Szarko started working at Academy at the Lakes in 1994. She has built a library program in which children are excited about reading. She teaches her students about virtues such as empathy, compassion, and perseverance.


The Importance of Self-Confidence in Children

At the beginning of the school year, I talk with students about what it means to have an “I Can” attitude. We discuss the importance of believing in yourself and trying your best.

This year in the PreK4 and Kindergarten classes, we watched a video based on the book called When Pigs Fly by Valerie Coulman.

In this story the cow, Ralph, wants a bicycle. Everyone tells him that cows don’t ride bicycles. His father tells him that he would get him a bicycle “when pigs fly.”

Ralph is determined to get his bicycle and with a little bit of confidence and an “I Can” attitude, he soon achieves his dream.

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Here are some books which encourage the “I Can” attitude with students, perfect for children ages 3-5.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

I love when the story says, “Did Pete cry? Goodness, no! He kept walking along and singing his song.”

Pete the Cat goes walking down the street wearing his brand new white shoes. Along the way, his shoes change from white to red to blue to brown to WET as he steps in piles of strawberries, blueberries, and other big messes! But no matter what color his shoes are, Pete keeps movin’ and groovin’ and singing his song…because it’s all good. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes asks the reader questions about the colors of different foods and objects.

I Like Me by Nancy Carlson

“Little ones in need of positive reinforcement will find it here. An exuberant pig proclaims “I like me!” She likes the way she looks, and all her activities… When she makes a mistake she picks herself up and tries again.” –Booklist “Wonderful in its simplicity, here’s a story that will help kids feel good about themselves.” — Boston Globe

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper

The story of a train filled with toys and gifts for little boys and girls that breaks down before reaching the children. After asking several passing trains for help over the hill, a little blue train agrees to help the stranded toys. Even though she is small, the blue train tries her best to bring the toys to the children on the other side of the hill.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, the nationally bestselling and celebrated creator of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Owen, and Kitten’s First Full Moon, Chrysanthemum is a funny and honest school story about teasing, self-esteem, and acceptance to share all year round.

Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria. “Let’s smell her,” says Jo. Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?

This popular picture book has sold more than a million copies and was named a Notable Book for Children by the American Library Association. “Perfectly executed in words and illustration, Chrysanthemum exemplifies Henkes’s talent for creating true picture stories for young audiences.”—The Horn Book

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s okay to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.

An award winning, best-selling, one-of-a-kind interactive book, Beautiful Oops! shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope” — each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.

Mrs. Szarko also provides some fantastic reading suggestions on the topic of “growth mindset,” teaching your children the value of hard work and dedication through reading. Read the blog post on Academy at the Lakes’ website here.


Academy at the Lakes is a PreK3 – 12th Grade independent, college-preparatory school located in the north Tampa suburb of Land O’ Lakes.

Inspiration matters here. Passion matters here. The journey matters here. You matter here.

Schedule a tour or learn more about this small school that offers big opportunities at an upcoming Open House or Neighborhood Coffee.

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