Storytime with Jessica – Perseverance

What is perseverance?

Perseverance is that skill we need to keep going and keep trying when things are hard. Perseverance can be seen in small children all of the time – when they are learning to crawl or walk or talk – it is not easy to master all of these things and they have to keep going, and sometimes they fail or fall and then we get to see their resiliency in picking themselves back up. A little while ago I wrote a similar blog on resiliency and it’s important to think about both because they are so tied together that often you will hear about developing resiliency and perseverance rather than one or the other.

Perseverance, like resiliency, is integral to our mental health. It is important to our sense of self and sense of accomplishment to be able to keep trying when things are hard. We keep going when we are first learning to drive even though it is difficult, we keep trying in our relationships through the bad patches to get back to the good times. If we cannot keep going when things are hard then we cannot function in life where difficulties both large and small are inevitable.

This is one of the many reasons it is very important for children to see their role models (the adults in their life) struggle with things and keep going. It could be as simple as “I’m finding this new knitting pattern very hard to follow but I’m going to keep working at it”. These small moments of perseverance are watched by children and taken on board and then they will try to replicate them. This is also why it is so important for children to struggle with things because it gives them the chance to practise the skill of perseverance. Not succeeding in something, or something being hard to master, is a universal feeling and it is something we have to learn how to deal with just like we have to learn how not to throw ourselves on the floor and scream when the world is annoying you…even if sometimes we still want to 🙂

As with all skills, it’s important to talk about it explicitly and sometimes it’s nice to use books to help model these behaviours so today’s blog is showing you some of the books out there dealing with perseverance. Sometimes a different person (or character) saying those words we have shared before can make a bigger impact. Which is one of the benefits of using books to help model these behaviours (as well as being a source of frustration for the person who had been saying it all along).

You will see as you read these books that the ideas of resiliency (moving on after failure) and perseverance (keeping going when things are hard) are so tightly wound together that most books are actually a mix but I have found some that do focus more on perseverance. These are only some of the books out there that help share the message of how important this skill is.

The Books

Cover Image for Ada Twist, Scientist

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts

Like her classmates, builder Iggy and inventor Rosie, scientist Ada has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. Not afraid of failure, she embarks on a fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble.

Ada Twist is a scientist.
And like so many scientists she asks lots of questions…what, why, how, where, when…and like so many scientists the answer to these questions isn’t straightforward. The real question that intrigues her in this book is WHAT IS THAT SMELL? She runs experiments, she develops hypotheses. And she fails to answer the question. This is something familiar to scientists as they don’t always know the answer…and sometimes they think they do know the answer only to have someone else come along and disprove their theory. But Ada does what all scientists need to do – she keeps trying, it doesn’t matter that the stew and the cat weren’t the answer. When she is out of options, she starts to think. And think (and maybe draw on the walls). The wonderful thing about the message of perseverance in this book is that it isn’t answered – Ada doesn’t know what made the smell (though a little investigation and visual literacy will give an astute reader the answer). But she keeps trying!

Mr Crocodile’s Cooking Class by Dianne Ellis

Mr Crocodile loves sponge cake and he’s excited when Mrs Crocodile suggests he learn to cook. Going to cooking classes he realises it is harder than he expected and is ready to give up, but encouraged to practise his cooking and before long he is ready! A delightful story of encouragement, perseverance and having belief in yourself.

Cover Image for Mr Crocodile's Cooking Class

Mr Crocodile wants to learn how to make sponge cake so Mrs Crocodile suggests he goes off to cooking class to learn but each class, his cooking isn’t quite right. But each time Mrs Crocodile encourages him to keep trying. So he practises and practises until each new recipe is just the way he likes it. But then the next class is just the same. This book shows perseverance really well – it’s explicit: each time Mr Crocodile tries and doesn’t quite succeed but through practise he does. And it happens more than once and each time he is given support and then masters the skill. The book breaks down exactly what children go through as they learn things. And at the end of the book Mr Crocodile even succeeds first time and makes some friends along the way. This book is also great at highlighting the similarities between resiliency and perseverance because through Mr Crocodile’s perseverance he keeps going with his cooking class but through his resiliency he keeps trying even though he didn’t get it quite right the first time.

Cover Image for Two Bad Grans

After the Fall: How Humpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened afterwards? Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid birdwatcher whose favourite place to be is high up on the city wall – that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear?

Okay, so this book is also about resiliency. Humpty fell off the wall, the King’s men were able to fix him but now he’s scared of that wall. But he misses being up high and he adapts but it’s not easy and it’s not quite right but then another accident occurs and Humpty has no choice but to climb up the wall again. And this is where the message of perseverance comes in because every step up the ladder is hard. And Humpty wants to turn back but he perseveres. Humpty is terrified, but he keeps going…one step at a time. And there is a lovely ending for Humpty because he kept going when things were hard and he could have quit and climbed back down the ladder. Sometimes our greatest test when it comes to perseverance is when it comes in the form of resiliency – we have failed, we have had to pick ourselves up and try again and we struggle because now we know what it is to fall, now we know what is at stake if we don’t succeed and that fear can be crippling but it’s also often the time we need to be strongest and persevere just a little harder. That’s what this book shows us.

Rabbit’s Hop by Alex Rance

Jack Rabbit loved Rabbit Island. He loved his friends and family and all the little rabbits. He loved being the best at hopping and chomping and (nearly the best) at zigzagging. But Jack Rabbit was restless. So when his cousin Roo invites him to Big Island, he’s very excited – and a little bit scared. Can he overcome all the challenges and get to Big Island and become the best Rabbit he can be? A wonderfully entertaining picture book about self-belief, determination, being kind and having fun.

Cover Image for Rabbit's Hop

Rabbit is the very best hopper and chomper but when he is invited to the Big Island he is scared and when he sets out he doesn’t think he’ll be able to make it but with his mantra “work really hard, be kind, and enjoy yourself” along with some perseverance and determination he makes it to the big island. Sometimes the hard thing we need to do is starting, trying, pushing ourselves and this is really important. We might be the best hopper but unless we try new things and push ourselves we might never learn what else we are. The great thing about this book is that Rabbit does have determination, he does persevere but he is reminded that it’s okay to lose so long as you try your best and have fun and this is also a very important message to tie into our focus on perseverance because we do not always succeed even when we persevere and we do not always win but trying your best is winning in its own way.

Rhymes

A fun little rhyme about something struggling to work out where their hat goes.

Do You Put Your Hat On…

Do you put your hat on…?
Do you put your hat on your foot, on your foot?
Your hat on your foot – uh uh, uh uh !

Do you put your hat on your elbow, on your elbow?
Your hat on your elbow – uh uh, uh uh !

Do you put your hat on your knee, on your knee?
Your hat on your knee – uh uh, uh uh!

You put your hat on,
you put your hat on,
you put your hat on
your head, head, head.

You put your hat on,
you put your hat on,
you put your hat on your head,
head, heady head.

The mouse just really wants to get to the top but each time they try something makes it harder and harder…this one is a bit of a stretch on the theme but it’s a great rhyme so let’s all pretend 🙂

Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory dickory dock.

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck two,
The mouse said ‘BOO!’,
Hickory Dickory Dock.

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck three,
The mouse went ‘WEEEEE!’
Hickory Dickory Dock.

Family Activity

A great way to show perseverance without feeling alone is to make it a family activity.

You could pick something no one in the family has done before and do it all together – every one will pick it up at different speeds and you talk about what went well or what didn’t.

You could each get to pick something you are good at and everyone has to have a go – again our abilities will be different but by showing that you are trying at something that you might not be good at children are seeing them, internalising it, and learning the skill.

But the most important thing any role model can do in helping their child learn perseverance, and resiliency, is to allow them to see you deal with both and to talk about it. And it’s important to remember that we never have perfect perseverance or resiliency – it is something we are constantly learning.