Literature can be a critical tool for teaching and strengthening executive functioning skills. Reading can be a simple, fun, and engaging way to approach skills like organization, self-control, attention, and perseverance. The idea is pretty simple: just read the stories and discuss the skills as they come along. Integrating reading and executive functioning skills is truly a win-win.
I have created a list dedicated to books that can be used to teach these important skills. It’s important to mention that even though these are considered children’s picture books, they really can be used to support learners of all ages and levels. Even older kids often love the treat of getting to sit back and enjoy a read aloud.
Because I love using literature to teach critical skills, I created an entire set of read alouds that explicitly teach executive functioning skills. They use fun characters like Oscar the Organizing Octopus and Tyra the Time Management Tortoise to helps kids learn. You can check them out here.
Besides the stories I’ve written, I also put together a huge list of over 50+ read alouds teachers and parents can use with kids and young adults. Many of these you can find even at your local library for free.
Feel free to check out any of these books to teach, practice, and discuss executive functioning skills. You can even grab the free printable list. This is super helpful to build your own executive functioning read-aloud library.
What We’ll Build by Oliver Jeffers – A beautifully illustrated book centered around the story of a father and daughter planning to build a happy life together.
I’ll Never Get All of That Done! by Bryan Smith – A story directly targeting skills for planning, prioritizing, and initiating tasks.
Polly the Planning Poodle by Pathway 2 Success – No matter what came up, Polly the planning poodle could handle it! This story teaches about the power of planning.
More-Igami by Dori Kleber – After learning about origami for the first time, Joey becomes hooked. He uses planning, perseverance, and patience to improve his skills along the way.
The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room by Stan and Jan Berenstain – A classic set of books, this short story highlights the importance of having a tidy room.
It Was Just Right Here! by Bryan Smith – In this story, Blake is struggling to stay organized with everything. He even loses the class pet! Thankfully, he gets some help and strategies to keep things in order.
Respect and Take Care of Things by Meredith Johnson – Respect, responsibility, and doing the right thing are just a few of the big topics covered in this text.
A Place for Everything by Sean Covey – Use this read aloud to highlight the importance of putting things back where they go, because there really is a place for everything.
Oscar the Organizing Octopus by Pathway 2 Success – Oscar is a disorganized octopus, but with some help, he learns he can get back in shape.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrew Beaty – Rosie has a plan to make a special contraption to help her aunt. Her story doesn’t go quite as planned, but she learns a valuable lesson about getting started and persevering through.
Toby the Task Initiation Tiger – This story teaches about Toby and how he learns to get started right away.
The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey – A simple story about a boy who rises before the sun to load his delivery bag and deliver papers with the dog by his side.
Time to Get Started! by Bryan Smith – A positive story that teaches the importance of starting work right away.
All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant – This story highlights all the possibilities, chances, and opportunities a day offers.
I.Q., It’s Time by Mary Ann Fraser – I.Q. learns some time management skills to complete his daily work and prepare for parent night at the same time.
The Time Fairy by Efrat Haddi – A story that teaches kids how to get organized, better use their times, and take responsibility for their actions.
A Second, a Minute, a Week with Days in it by Brian P. Cleary – A fun book that helps kids think about the time in everyday life events.
Just a Second by Steve Jenkins – A nature-lover’s book focused on what events can happen in a second, a minute, or an hour.
Me Counting Time: From Seconds to Centuries by Joan Sweeney – A playful story that introduces the measurement of time.
Tyra the Time Management Tortoise – This rhyming story is about Tyra and how she learns to manage her time well so she doesn’t have to rush and run at the last minute!
Think Tank! by Baby iQ Building Books – A helpful book for kids and young adults that goes over how the brain works.
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds – Help kids change their perspective by learning that it’s okay to do things more creativity than trying to always be perfect.
Your Fantanstic, Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak – A growth mindset book for kids, this story teaches that you can grow, shape, and stretch your brain.
What Do You Do with An Idea? by Kobi Yamada – With an idea and persistence, you can do amazing things. This is a helpful book to teach about how we shape our brains with just the start of one small idea.
I Think, I Am! by Louise Hay – You are what you believe about yourself! Use this story to help kids learn the power of positive thoughts and intentions.
Mira the Metacognition Macaw by Pathway 2 Success – Mira yearns to fly high up in the treetops like all her macaw friends, but she must pass a special test before she is granted permission to do so! Join Mira as she learns some skills for studying and training her brain to gain the knowledge she needs!
My Fantabulous Brain by Olga Ivanov – Learning doesn’t always come easy. This story teaches that we can improve our brain power by using tools, strategies, and supports along the way.
We All Go Traveling By by Sheena Roberts – This rhyming and rhythmic story book provides practice with remembering as the train goes traveling by.
Wanda the Working Memory Wombat by Pathway 2 Success – Wanda the Wombat is known far and wide for her amazing working memory talents and abilities. She finds herself in trouble after a tumble out of a tree. Dr. Fixalot lets her know she may or may not have her memory skills return. Join Wanda and her friends as they work to relearn the skills Wanda lost!
Aren’t You Forgetting Something, Fiona? by Joanna Cole – Fiona uses some help to work on remembering everyday things.
Sammy the Self-Control Skunk by Pathway 2 Success – Sammy was a friendly skunk but needs some help with self-control. Teach self-control and managing your emotions with this fun story.
My Magical Choices by Becky Cummings – This story teaches kids that they have the ultimate power to make their own decisions each day.
Breathing Makes it Better by Christopher Willard – Use this text to teach that deep breathing can be a helpful strategy to manage emotions.
What If? by Colleen Doyle Bryan – A meaningful book that encourages kids to think about consequences before they act.
Making Smart Choices by Lucia Raatma – A true-life book that highlights choices that make us happy and healthy.
I Can Handle It! by Laurie Wright – Use this story to teach the power of positive self-talk and how you can use it to manage life’s challenges along the way.
What Were You Thinking? by Brian Smith – A to-the-point book about impulses, self-control, and managing your behaviors.
Breathe and Be by Kate Coombs – A book of mindfulness poems to teach self-regulation and calm.
Felix the Focused Fox by Pathway 2 Success – Felix learns some valuable skills for focusing and paying attention in class.
The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson – A wonderful picture book with such a positive message: if you stop and listen, you might be amazed at what you notice around you.
What Does It Mean to be Present? by Rana DiOrio – A great book to introduce mindfulness, focusing, and being in the moment.
Listen, Buddy by Helen Lester – A silly book about a bunny with big ears that has trouble listening.
Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen by Howard Binkow – An exciting and motivating story about learning to be a good listener.
Fix It with Focus by Bryan Smith – A story about coping with distractions and learning to stay on task.
My Day is Ruined! by Bryan Smith – A to-the-point story that teaches about flexibility and how it can help you work through life’s challenges.
Felicity the Flexible Flamingo by Pathway 2 Success – Read along with Felicity as she learns to be a flexible thinker on the spot.
Not Norman by Kelly Bennett – A story about a boy who doesn’t get the pet he wanted, but learns that sometimes good can come out of the unexpected after all.
It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr – Exactly like the title, this book helps kids learn that it is okay to makes mistakes, an important lesson when learning to be flexible and go with the flow.
The Adaptive Chameleon by Efrat Haddi – Colorful characters in this read aloud help teach that it’s helpful to adapt when you need to.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst – This all-time classic read aloud reminds kids that sometimes things don’t work out perfectly, but there will always be another day.
Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan – Patience, determination, and hard work. These are just some of the important lessons highlighted in this story about Michael Jordan.
Brave Irene by William Steig – In this story, Irene overcomes lots of obstacles and difficulties to help her mother complete a task.
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires – This is an excellent read aloud to reinforce the idea that accomplishing your goals isn’t always easy but it can be done with hard work.
Unstoppable Me! by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer – This story conveys the important message that you are unstoppable!
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall – In this story, Jabari learns that it’s okay to be scared trying something new, but that shouldn’t stop you from working towards your goals.
Pax the Persevering Polar Bear by Pathway 2 Success – Pax, a young polar bear from the arctic, wants to achieve his goal of catching a fish on his own. It doesn’t come easy for him, but he learns from his papa that maybe with a little hard work and perseverance, you can achieve your dreams.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Guy Parker-Rees – A favorite read aloud, this book about a giraffe helps kids see that it’s not just okay to be different, but it’s great. Also, if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can do amazing things.
Grab this Free Printable List
If you love this list, make sure to grab the FREE printable executive functioning read aloud list. You can use it to help you select stories for your students or build your own executive functioning stories library. I hope it makes a difference for you and your learners.
More Executive Functioning Resources
I hope this list has been helpful for you! If you need more executive functioning resources and activities you can use right away, check out some of the links:
- Executive Functioning Stories & Activities
- Executive Functioning Skills Task Cards
- Executive Functioning Games & Play Activities