Books to Teach Honesty

HONESTY. What a timely topic, especially in light of our current times! Once again, picture books to the rescue to teach theme and character traits! (Not character as in a book, but character as in one's true personality)
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Although this looks like a children’s book,  The Lying King  bears an uncanny resemblance to our current adult times. This parable portrays the King as a bully who is so full of himself, he claims to be the “greatest.” He taunts and torments other animals to make himself feel good, but few of those animals are willing to speak out and call the king on his lies. The other animals remain silent, doing nothing to stop the warthog from becoming king. He even turns his loyal subjects against one another until they didn’t know who they could trust. The king insults and calls animals who are honest, “cheaters.”  His lies became so bold and outrageous, that eventually no one believed a word he said. However, this book ends with hope: no one, not even a king can forever keep an ill-gotten crown. In many ways, this tale reminds me of a cross between The Emperor's New  Clothes and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  Your students will immediately feel the injustice of the king's words and actions.

Honesty is a great topic for morning meeting! Brainstorm as a class and chart:
  • Definition of honesty 
  • Why is honesty important to: society, in friendships, with family, and  teachers?
  • Should one always tell the whole honest truth? (This question alone will prompt MANY real-life examples and enthusiastic discussions!)
Share idioms about honesty and have students guess their definitions (before giving the actual definitions). Students love to illustrate the idioms. This is a tried & true way of eliciting discussion (& much laughter), as well as an important aspect of the English language, when working with non-native speakers! Use idioms such as:
  • to lie through ones' teeth
  • barefaced liar
  • a white lie
  • nothing could be further from the truth
  • to bend the truth
  • taken to the cleaners
  • a pack of lies
  • economical with the truth
  • ill-gotten gains
  • grease someone's palm
  • live a lie
  • stretch the truth
  • take someone for a ride
Author Alex Beard says he wrote The Lying King because, “There is so much corruption and cheating in the world today that it seems like the right time to tell the story. It seems as though our children are exposed to lies and deception so frequently and so casually that there is a risk of them beginning to accept it, to think of it as just the way things are.”

Depending on the age of your students, Newsela is a fabulous resource of  informational articles on many current events at varying reading levels. The articles are all appropriate for school-age children. Search "honesty" or "dishonesty" or "integrity" or "ethics",  and a listing of many articles will appear.  If you are feeling brave about tackling tough issues with your class,  HERE is one about the impeachment investigation. 

My We Teach So Hard podcast buddies are a wealth of knowledge and ideas! Click on the links below for more specific book titles and ideas to teach honesty. Click on the image below to listen to our latest podcast, episode 62: Using Books to Teaching About Honesty.
Clockwise, from top left:


  1. Kathie, I love it when you introduce me to new kidlit. I'm so excited to get my copy of these for our theme study. Also, great idiom idea for ELLs. I love this post!