10 Books to Help Kids Become More Responsible

10 Books to Help Kids Become More Responsible

Mamoo Kids asked me for a list of books to help kids become more independent. That got me thinking … can books for kids teach kids about responsibility? Why not? It will help start the discussion and that might lead to better remembering which might lead to being more responsible!

Mamoo Kids ‏@mamookids

@pragmaticmom great site! love your recommendations. do you have suggestions for books on helping kids become more independent? responsible?


  1. having an obligation to do something, or having control over or care for someone, as part of one’s job or role.


We are also using chores and allowance to get kids to be more responsible as well as to help around the house. We pay their age each week for doing a chore.

  • My son feeds the dog twice a day. (We kept overfeeding our dog so it helped to have one person in charge.)
  • Grasshopper and Sensei does the dishes.
  • PickyKidPix cleans the dining room and kitchen after dinner.
  • They all help with laundry (sort of).

What do you do to get your kids to be more responsible? I’d love to hear your ideas for chores, allowance, and anything else! And what are your favorite books on this subject? Thank you!!


10. I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayer

I think the Little Critter books are really amusing but this one is a particular favorite of mine because I hear my kids’ voices in my head as I read it saying, “I just forgot!” And they do too. My kids and Little Critter. Is Little Critter memory challenged or is he just not paying enough attention? Either way, it’s a fun way to go over what you are supposed to be remembering every day!  [picture book, ages 3 and up]

9. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

It takes just a nine-year-old girl who plants a handful of lima bean seeds to remember her father that turns a derelict lot into something that brings her diverse community together. In each story, neighbors come together over the promise of something hopeful and previously unexpressed. Curtis hopes the tomatoes can win Lateesha back. Virgil’s dad sees a cash harvest of lettuce. Sae Young regains her trust in people. I love the idea that a child can be the catalyst of turning a vacant lot into a community garden. Responsibility can go beyond just caring for oneself but also for one’s community. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

8. Arthur’s Pet Business by Marc Brown

My girls started a dog walking business to make extra money but only PickyKidPix was willing to do the work when the weather was cold. Arthur is lobbying to get a dog and he thinks that by taking care of other people’s pets he will convince his parents that he is responsible. It is a lot of work to take care of pets! Will it work? [picture book, ages 3 and up]

7. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

Big Anthony is not exactly the most responsible person in the world as Strega Nona knows all to well. He’s supposed to take care of her house while she’s gone and he’s certainly not supposed to try magic. This funny classic picture book teaches what not to do when it comes to being responsible. I’m sure your kids are not like Big Anthony! [Caldecott honor picture book, ages 3 and up]

6. Rocky Road by Rose Kent

What if the child is more responsible than the adult? 12-year-old Tess takes care of her hearing impaired younger brother and helps her mother as best she can in her latest “get rich quick” plan. They move from Texas to Schenectady, New York to open an ice cream shop in the middle of winter. Is it true that Ice cream warms the heart, no matter what the weather?

I like this chapter book for kids to realize that sometimes kids have more responsibilities than adults when parents have special needs or coping issues. In this case, Tess’s mother is bi-polar but doesn’t realize it until the end of the book. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

5. The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey

You might know Dav Pilkey more for his graphic novel series Captain Underpants which is now at the top of the Banned/Challenged book list.  His sweet picture book depicts an African-American boy who must get up early to do his paper route on a cold morning when it hard to get up. It’s a really gentle story that models responsible behavior. [a Caldecott honor picture book, ages 5 and up]

4. The Pigsty by Mark Teague

For kids who don’t clean their rooms until it gets to bad that it resembles a pigsty, complete with pigs. Yes, pigs included! I love that there are consequences, albeit hilarious ones, for not being responsible.  And in Wendell’s case, it’s easy to clean up if you can get the pigs to help! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

3. The Emperor’s Egg: Read and Wonder by Martin Jenkins

This non fiction picture book describes the animal kingdom’s most responsible dad: the Emperor Penguin! He stands in the freezing cold with an egg on his feet for two months, not eating and turning it carefully until it hatches. Can you imagine how hard that must be?!  [non fiction picture book, ages 5 and up]

2. Rules by Cynthia Lord

12-year-old Catherine feels like her world revolves around her younger brother who is Autistic. To help him fit in (and also to not embarrass her), she teaches him rules of behavior like “keep your pants on in public” and “no toys in the fish tank.” Feeling responsible for David’s behavior makes it hard for her to make friends but things change when a new girl moves in next door and she meets Jason while waiting for David at a therapy appointment. Should she feel this much responsibility for David’s behavior? She just wants to fit it but what exactly is normal? [Newbery honor chapter book, ages 9 and up]

1. Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Saturday by Judith Viorst

Alexander gets a dollar from his grandparents last Sunday and suddenly he’s rich!! It’s burning a hole in his pocket though. A dollar can buy a lot of things! What happens to Alexander’s fortune? A delightful and hilarious picture book on personal finance for kids. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


Books for Teaching Kids About Responsibility Honorable Mention

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

It’s hard to imagine four kids living on their own but the newly orphaned Alden children cope by running away from a grandfather they’ve never met and believe to be cruel to live on their own in a boxcar. Henry, the oldest at 14, gets odd jobs to earn money to buy them food. Jessie, 12, is the mother hen. Violet, 10, paints and sews. Benny, just 6, is the baby. Thankfully, the grandfather turns out to be kind and takes the kids home to live with him but they do manage to cope on their own. [chapter book, ages 7 and up]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

10 Books to Help Kids Become More Responsible

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Elle Carter Neal

    We’re just getting to this stage – mine are 5 and 2, but they like to help unload the dishwasher, helping with the laundry and folding clothes, that sort of thing. Getting them to pick up their own toys is another matter, however! (Although if I start picking up, my younger usually joins in – it’s a connection thing; they don’t like to be ordered to do something, but they love to help me and do stuff with me.)
    Elle Carter Neal recently posted…K is for Kseniya SimonovaMy Profile

    • Hi Elle,
      It’s so funny how kids love to unload the dishwasher when they are helping — mine did too, but the older they get, the more they hate it! I like your method of motivating kids to help out; I guess I wouldn’t like be ordered around to clean up either (though I do it to my kids LOL)!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Little Pim Twitter PartyMy Profile

  2. That Alexander book sounds fabulous! Thanks for the great roundup!
    maryanne recently posted…Pumpkin Pancakes RecipeMy Profile

  3. Jim Westcott

    Great idea and great list of books. ”I Just Forgot” was one of my favorite books to read with my oldest son who is now fifteen. Who, by the way, just forgets a lot of stuff these days:)

    • Hi Jim,
      I get annoyed when my kids say, “I forgot” but somehow saying, “I just forgot” charms me! We love the Little Critter series so much and my kids forget to do stuff they are supposed to do all the time so they really found that one especially funny!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Little Pim Twitter PartyMy Profile

  4. I love your selections. It really is important to start teaching responsibility at a young age. The Paper Boy brings back many memories of my son and dog having a paper route in the 80s. Don’t see many paper boys these days — all deliered by cars. Pigsty looks great as does the Box Car Children. Love Strega Nonia and Rules. Tom Lichtenheld has a two great “What’s With This Room?” and “What Mess?”
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about AutismMy Profile

    • Hi Patricia,
      Thanks so much for your great book recs!! You are right! We don’t have paperboys in our town either! It is all being done by car! That’s kind of sad; it’s a bygone era that I didn’t even realized passed by!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Little Pim Twitter PartyMy Profile

  5. Oh, just noticed you included my book review in your Best Book list. Thank you!
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about AutismMy Profile

  6. Thank you for this round up! I love the books you suggested and will be getting them for my two boys. Independence and responsibility is such an important skill for kids to learn. Great post in the Atlantic Monthly this month (front cover) about how safety has stripped kids of risk taking, independence and discovery.

  7. A brilliant list! Wish we’d had a copy of Pigsty when my children were younger!

  8. I love your book lists. This is awesome! I want to work on making sure my children are more responsible. It was inherent in me… well, more my hatred of being in trouble. But my son doesn’t seem to have the same disdain for it. Thanks for linking up with Countdown in Style.
    April recently posted…We’re Back! Come Link Up with Countdown in Style! {#CIS Week 19}My Profile

    • Thanks so much April!! I really appreciate your kind words! It’s so interesting how the concept of responsibility can be internally or externally applied. I wonder if kids who are less concerned about being in trouble would rise to the challenge of making change … like cleaning up a vacant lot or helping those less fortunate. I guess there are many motivations for being responsible and feeling reponsible towards something, even if it’s not yourself.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…FREE Books from Scholastic through EVEREADY® Gold®My Profile

  9. Brittnei

    I think this is a superb way to teach responsibility. I know we can show and tell them, but why not read a store that will show them other kids or children doing it too? Love this!
    Brittnei recently posted…Countdown in Style is Back! – Week 19My Profile

  10. Oh yes! Yes, yes, and did I say yes?! This is a fabulous list. Going to add some of these to our next library trip for sure. Thanks for the ideas!
    Aubrey recently posted…How to Raise Helpful Kids who Do ChoresMy Profile

  11. How did Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Saturday slip past me!!!????!!
    Growing up Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was my FAVORITE book! My kiddos love it too, especially when my husband & I act silly reading it 🙂
    Great list as always!

  12. Great recommendations Mama! Thanks for this!
    Lisa Nelson recently posted…Our Path to a more Sustainable Backyard – Earth Day 2014My Profile

  13. Such a FABULOUS idea for a book list! I am constantly impressed with the quality of books you come up with, Mia!
    Katie recently posted…Kid Lit Blog Hop #38My Profile

  14. Thanks for this wonderful effort. though my son is only 1.5 i have used alot of your recommendations and they’ve been wonderful I am going to hang on to these for sure.
    it’s never too early to teach them according to how you want them to be once older.

  15. Many of these titles are unfamiliar to me – appreciate how you connected them to the important topic of teaching responsibility.
    Suzanne Holt recently posted…Gluten, Dairy and Egg Free Apple CrispMy Profile

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