The term ‘growth mindset’ is by no means a new one, but certainly feels like it’s grown (no pun intended!) in popularity in recent years, especially among influential business leaders and entrepreneurs. Yet its roots lie with younger people, in education.
Put simply, a ‘growth mindset’ is the belief that you can get smarter, and therefore view “failure” as opportunities for further learning and development of skills.
This upturn in popularity among the entrepreneurial community has sparked an explosion of books, from the practical ‘how to’ guides to more philosophical and theoretical self-help types. Among this noise, however, are a collection of books that bring back ‘growth mindset’ to its beginnings in education, helping children to develop their own growth mindsets.
Over the course of this guide, we’ll be looking at the history of growth mindset, why it’s important, what makes a great growth mindset book, and, of course, we’ll be sharing our 10 favourites.Before we dive into it, check out our selection of free growth mindset printable resources!
What are the characteristics of a growth mindset?
There are a varying number of characteristics of a growth mindset, depending on which books or blogs you read or which YouTube videos you watch. While some may overlap with each other, they all tend to agree that the characteristics of a growth mindset include:
Resilience to setbacks
See failure as learning opportunities
Embrace challenges or risks
Open to criticism or feedback
Believe intelligence can be developed
Believe hard work is key to success
Wordings might change, and some might split into separate things or grouped together, but the core principles certainly remain the same.
Where does ‘growth mindset’ come from?
More than 30 years ago, American psychologist Carol Dweck became interested in the way students ‘fail’ at school, and their attitudes towards said ‘failure’. I put “fail” in inverted commas because it perfectly highlights the core principles of the concept of a growth mindset. Dweck and her team were fascinated by whether or not students deemed themselves a failure when they didn’t achieve their goals on a given task.
Since then, advancements in neuroscientific research have shown that the human brain is far more malleable than previously thought. It means the brain has the capability to grow through experiences - asking questions, practising skills, good sleep and nutrition, and even believing that intelligence can grow.
Dweck’s initial studies found that some students weren’t deterred by setbacks - the birth of the growth mindset. On the other hand, some students saw even the slightest of setbacks as a significant failure. They believed they had reached the limit of their intelligence - a ‘fixed mindset’.
Why a growth mindset is so important
People with a growth mindset believe that they can learn from their mistakes or failures, and work hard to capitalise on them to help them achieve more in the future.
Since Dweck’s research three decades ago, numerous studies have shown that people with a growth mindset experience the following benefits:
Just a few years on from the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more young people are suffering with mental health issues - particularly anxiety. In fact, the NHS in England says nearly four in 10 children aged 6-16 saw their mental health deteriorate between 2017 and 2021. And Paul Johnson of Childline even says children get the ‘January Blues’, too!
This all means that a mindset that develops self-esteem and resilience to adversity is incredibly powerful and important for the children of today.
It’s also important to make clear that it’s not a case of people with a growth mindset being ‘intelligent’ and those with a fixed mindset being ‘unintelligent’. The clue is in the name, it’s about people having the tools and, well…mindset, required to, well…grow. It really is one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ ideas.
The 10 best growth mindset books for children
Now you know what a growth mindset is, why it’s important and what to look out for in a growth mindset book for children, it’s time to take a look at our 10 favourites.
It wouldn't be fair to let us review our own book, would it? So we'll let an Amazon buyer do the job for us...
"As an ex teacher I have to say I love this book, although I am now using it with a niece rather than a whole class...I would definitely recommend this for parents who worry about their children's confidence, attitude to learning, or just want to continue to develop their child in a postive way."
We couldn’t not put our own book top of the list, could we?! We developed this workbook with the support of primary school educators from both the US and UK. It includes more than 60 different activities to be completed by the child, or with the support and guidance of an adult, all designed to help children overcome challenges, inspire learning and become modern-day problem solvers.
60 fun activities
Developed with educators
7 day child-focused journal
"Despite ending his career 20 years ago (and arguably his greatest years a further five years on top) Michael Jordan is still synonymous with basketball, even among young children. And so that real-world aspirational story is at the absolute heart of why this is such a great growth mindset book for kids. It’s so easy for young children to see elite athletes as unattainable - but this book shows that everyone can achieve greatness with a growth mindset."
This is the true story of basketball legend, Michael Jordan. Written by his mother (Deloris) and sister (Rosalyn), it tells the tale of a boy who nearly quit the sport he loved because he didn’t think he was tall enough. His mother told him to put salt in his shoes and pray to God, but it didn’t work. Then, his parents taught him that hard work, determination and perseverance were far more important than being tall. And the rest is history…
Focus on key characteristics
“Most books explore all of the characteristics of a growth mindset. And so Niels Van Hove’s approach to exploring different characteristics in more depth across a series of books is relatively unique. Plenty of parents have lamented the quality of the front cover, describing it as “flimsy” for the price. But as far as the content is concerned, it’s a hit!"
Type: Storybook (series)
Interestingly, unlike most growth mindset books, Van Hove’s series focuses on a select one or two characteristics per book. The first is an introduction to social skills and developing mental strength, the second focuses on the power of positive thinking, while the third installation brings the main characters from each book (Kate and Jack) together to look at setting goals and working together. In the fourth, we explore pro-activity and coping with emotions, before looking at self-esteem in the final book.
Series of books
Full of practical tips delivered in story form
Notes for parents
“As a teenager, it’s so easy to believe your problems are your own - that no one else understands what you’re going through. And it can also be really difficult for anything or anyone to cut through that to have an impact. But that’s exactly what this book does. It doesn’t come across as a career academic trying to relate to Gen Z teens. Plenty of parents have raved about how easily their children have been able to relate to the issues and problems highlighted in the book."
This workbook is focused specifically on teenagers, applying the concepts of a growth mindset to the problems and issues teens go through in today’s society, evidenced by a section entirely on ‘Study Hacks’. At 156 pages, it’s certainly in-depth, meeting the maturity and experience of its target audience.
Focused on home, school and beyond
Real teen stories
Encourages reflection through open-ended questions
“Starting to develop a growth mindset really does introduce a host of new words that a child may not yet be familiar with, or at least uses words in a different meaning. And so utilising the alphabet structure to help children better understand that vocabulary is a really great idea. It makes everything really digestible, and the illustrations are lovely."
Remember we talked about the importance of breaking the concept of a growth mindset into smaller chunks? Well Y is for Yet does exactly that…26 chunks to be exact. It uses the familiar structure of the alphabet to help introduce a host of new words, and contextualise others, to build their growth mindset vocabulary.
“This is genius - taking a well known nursery rhyme and expanding the story to promote recovery and resilience to setbacks. The illustrations are incredibly clever and fundamental to the story, although some younger readers might need their parents’ help to understand the meaning on occasions."
Age: Up to 7
Whatever happened to Humpty Dumpty after his fall? All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together…and so Dan Santat’s brilliant… adaptation? continuation?... of the nursery rhyme tells a rather charming tale of how Humpty Dumpty got back on his feet - both figuratively and literally.
Fun fact for you: Picture Humpty Dumpty. You picture an egg with faces, arms and legs, right? That’s always how he’s illustrated, but the nursery rhyme never mentions his appearance (or even a gender. But he’s always referred to as ‘he’).
Reimagines the classic nursery rhyme
Written by award-winning and bestselling author
"This design of this journal is really bright and engaging, connecting the child with the concepts of a growth mindset in a really fun, exciting way. The sheer volume of journal pages certainly places the onus on the child to think and reflect, but the questions and prompts certainly act as really helpful guidance."
After more than 150,000 sales worldwide, this is the third edition of the Happy Confident Me Daily Journal. With over 100 pages for journal entries, it’s not a totally blank canvas, offering up daily questions and prompts to help the child consider their thoughts and feelings of the day.
Developed by psychotherapist and parenting expert
Over 100 pages for journal entries
Daily prompts and questions
"The angle of having several short stories is really what sets this one apart from the rest. It helps to give young girls the sense that every girl is amazing. The mixture of reimagined fairy tales and original modern-day stories also works nicely. There is one big issue, however - the lack of pictures. There are barely any inside and it does impact engagement."
Type: Collection of short stories
Girls are Amazing is a collection of seven short stories for girls about courage, strength and love. Some are based on well-known fairy tales, while others are original stories set in the modern day, designed to empower young girls with the characteristics of a growth mindset, and ensuring there’s something in there for every girl.
Collection of stories
Great range of topics
"At more than 140 pages, this one certainly goes into quite some depth. But the activities and design keep it fun and engaging. In some stages, it can be a fair amount of reading between activities but the sections aren’t too long. And the activities are so engaging that it more than makes up for it."
Don’t Worry, Be Happy is a practical guide and workbook that combines cognitive behavioural therapy methods with simple activities to help children cope with anxiety. With the help of ‘Fizz’, children are guided through useful tips, inspirational quotes and statements, fun facts and engaging activities.
Focuses on anxiety
Utilises cognitive behavioural therapy methods
"As a TV personality, older children might be more drawn to Dr. Alex’s book. Not only is he extremely well placed to advise and support around mental health issues among young people, describing his own personal experiences make this book incredibly relatable and engaging for its audience."
From TV personality and the UK’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador, Dr. Alex George, A Better Day offers up an in-depth, positive and accessible handbook designed to help pre-teens and early teens understand mental health. Calling on Alex’s own personal experiences, it offers practical advice on positive mindsets, developing resilience and more.
Recounts personal experiences
What makes a great growth mindset book for kids?
The idea of totally overhauling how you think about things and how your mind works is probably really daunting to a child. Heck, it’s pretty daunting for most adults! And that’s a really important thing for growth mindset books to bear in mind, regardless of what age they target.
Know your audience
There are actually growth mindset books for all ages. We’re all familiar with children’s storybooks that try to teach good morals. But there are plenty that now focus on building a growth mindset from the earliest of stages - encouraging self-esteem, positive thinking, and the value of hard work.
As they get older, however, you also start to see workbooks. From the age of around 4-5, you can really start to talk to children about the importance of these characteristics. And so workbooks become a suitable option providing practical tasks and steps to develop a growth mindset. Naturally, as you progress into adulthood, you’re more likely to be interested in the theory behind it all. And so books are quite a bit less interactive.
It’s critical that a growth mindset book understands its target audience in order to have the desired impact.
Break it down
Focusing on the individual characteristics of a growth mindset, rather than the big, hairy, audacious goal not only makes it more achievable but more accessible, too.
Think back to when you studied for an exam at school - your teachers always suggested breaking down revision into chunks. The BBC even had a study platform called ‘Bitesize’ to help break up entire subjects into - you guessed it - bitesize pieces!
*Checks to see if BBC Bitesize is still going*
Splitting the characteristics into smaller chunks better helps the child to understand what a growth mindset is, but also why it’s important. ‘This workbook will help you develop a growth mindset’ will have little impact on a child. And yet ‘this workbook will help you to think better about yourself’, or ‘this workbook will help you understand why it’s important to work hard’ are things children can understand. It’s already on their radar and in their vocabulary.
Put the emphasis on them
As we just said, this journey is about them. The characteristics of a growth mindset are individual and internal actions - it’s down to their own reflections and understanding of their mind that develops a growth mindset, all we can do as parents and educators is support them along the way.
That’s why so many growth mindset books for kids, particularly as they enter school ages, are workbooks. They’re task-driven, encouraging the child to look at themselves and how they currently think about things, and consider their own thoughts and feelings.
Growth mindset books shouldn’t tell children what to think, instead show them why the characteristics are important and show them the steps to get there.
What is a growth mindset?
A ‘growth mindset’ is the belief that intelligence can be developed or grown, and that success is achieved through hard work.
What is a fixed mindset?
A fixed mindset is the belief that there are limits to developing intelligence.
What are the main characteristics of a growth mindset?
- Give up easily
- Fearful of failure
- Avoid challenges and risks
- Take feedback as personal criticism
- Believe intelligence is static
- Believe putting in effort is pointless
Are people with a growth mindset more intelligent than those with a fixed mindset?
Not necessarily. Someone could be incredibly intelligent, but still have a fixed mindset - believing that they cannot develop beyond their current abilities. Likewise, someone may have relatively low levels of intelligence but have a growth mindset - believing that they can achieve more through hard work.