10 Books That Teach Your Children to Overcome Adversity

As parents, we still must carry on where the schools fail.

An Easy Life Is Not Meaningful, and a Meaningful Life Is Not Easy

Everyone faces a critical moment in their life when things are not going as expected. Some people give up and surrender, while others step out of their comfort zone and fight back. In a parallel universe, your child will never experience hardship or adversity. They wouldn’t have to endure challenging circumstances or deal with difficult people. Instead, life would be easy, and they would never face tough challenges. But the real world is not perfect, nor should it be.

As the saying goes, an easy life is not meaningful, and a meaningful life is not easy. Adverse situations can build or destroy character. 

How do you think your child will deal with adverse situations? Are they equipped to overcome adversity? Or do they quit at the first sign of trouble? 

As a parent, one of our most important responsibilities is to teach our kids resilience when things don’t go their way — because things won’t always go their way in life. We try to teach those lessons about overcoming adversity as early as possible. Then, when life starts packing a punch, we hope our children have the mindset and tools to punch back.

The lesson is that your child isn’t born knowing how to overcome adversity. Instead, they need to learn the mindset, skills, and tools. But that becomes difficult, especially when our country has become more comfortable, where everything can be accessed at a moment’s notice, where the standard of living is high, and the threat of war is low. 

Perhaps that is why our children are not learning about overcoming adversity in school. Most schools aren’t even teaching critical thinking skills. I’m sure some parents reading this who overheard what your children were “learning” on Zoom during the pandemic were shocked that “narratives” passed as “teaching.”   

The Top 10 Books That Teach Kids To Overcome Adversity

As parents, we still must carry on where the schools fail. Please read on to see our list of the top ten books showing how people from different walks of life have faced — and overcame — some form of adversity in their personal or professional life. Their captivating stories will inspire your children to overcome the struggles they will face in life and provide an excellent way for parents to talk about resilience with their children. 

  1. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park

Yeonmi Park fled North Korea with her mother at age 13 after a harrowing ordeal where she had been sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers. Her difficult journey to freedom is inspiring for any who feels trapped by hardship or circumstance.

  1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Silvie Zamperini gained fame for competing as a runner in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But then, things didn’t go as planned during World War II. He recounts how he survived a long sea journey on a raft and then years of cruel treatment as a Japanese prisoner of war. Yet, he survives through inner strength and camaraderie with other Prisoners of War. 

  1. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone takes place in Sierra Leone during their civil war. While the civil war is ravaging through Sierra Leone, Ishmael Beah, 12 years old at the time, did not believe it would ever touch his life . . . until it did. What follows is an eye-opening story of war through the eyes of a child soldier. Beah describes how he fled attacking rebels and wandered his homeland rendered unrecognizable by violence and evil. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army and became a soldier. Ishmael Beah wrote this book when he was 25 years old. The honesty of his words is haunting but necessary to show how he survived the ordeal. 

  1. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle recounts the story of Jeannette Walls’s upbringing in a poverty-stricken and dysfunctional family. The family moves around the country and tries to re-settle in different states. Although Jeannette’s family is dysfunctional, there is no condemnation, judgment, or preaching in the book. Instead, this story, written humorously, ultimately shows how Jeannette Walls reconciled her past so that she could be the person she is today.

  1. Stay Alive, My Son by Pin Yathay

Stay Alive, My Son is a genuinely heartbreaking true account of the plight of the people of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and an insight into how quickly what you have can be lost. But it also shows the power of the human spirit and quest for freedom as it follows Pin Yathay’s struggle to stay alive during the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia. This book will keep you at the edge of your seat.

  1. Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

Laughing at My Nightmare is a memoir by Shane Burcaw. You may know him from social media or have seen him on television. He lives with spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive and debilitating condition caused by the body’s inability to create and maintain muscle. Burcaw’s memoir perfectly demonstrates how much he is like every other eighteen-year-old and how his disability shouldn’t affect how the world perceives him.

  1. White Butterflies by Colin McPhedran

White Butterflies follows 11-year-old Colin McPhedran after the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1941. He was forced to escape on foot, across the steep and treacherous Patkoi Mountain Range, to reach India. Over three months, Colin and his family battled heavy monsoon rains, starvation, disease, and exhaustion as they attempted to traverse the 300-mile trek across the border. This is a true story of an unbreakable spirit and a quest for freedom.

  1. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Emmanuel’s Dream is the true story of Emmanuel Yeboah. He was born in Ghana in 1977 with a deformed leg. But that disability never broke his indomitable spirit even in the face of discrimination. To share his message, he bought a bike and rode across the country to show how people with disabilities can achieve great things. 

Just a note: this is a picture book, so it’s best for younger readers.

  1. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes recounts Frank McCourt’s strict upbringing in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. McCourt’s account of the people and events of his childhood is captivating, along with how he tried to make sense of the world around him. Angela’s Ashes is genuinely a work of art. It’s not surprising this became a movie.

  1. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s life was nothing short of extraordinary. He was a South African freedom fighter and a political prisoner for 27 years. Yet, through his own words, your child will learn how he helped his fellow citizens escape apartheid and how he became his nation’s first black president. So instead of having your child copy Nelson Mandela’s quotes found on Instagram, have your child read the words that he wrote that inspired generations.

Teaching Your Kids To Overcome Adversity Starts With You

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

– Theodore Roosevelt.

We shouldn’t shy away from adversity merely because it’s challenging. Adversity builds character, confidence, and a resilient mindset that refuses to let life bring you down. Your children will first look to you as an example of how you deal — or not deal — with adversity and challenging situations. The recommended books will give you an additional tool to help your child learn about real people from different walks of life who faced tremendous challenges but never gave up. The books also will give you a natural segue to discuss the importance of resiliency and overcoming adversity with your children.

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