Help your child discover career options in picture books

By Susan Pohorski

Often teens don’t know what they want to do as adults because they were not exposed to different careers when they were young. Career exploration can begin with a preschool picture book. 

Bob the Builder is not the only career role model for young children. Many children’s books feature characters with different jobs or introduce career concepts at a preschool level. These picture books stir a child’s imagination and expose them to possibilities. 

Here are a few favorites: 

  • At Work - Richard Scarry published several great picture books showing animal characters living and working in Busytown. At Work describes both skilled and professional jobs. The book also contains questions to engage with your child. Illustrations of places like the airport show all the different types of work people do there. 
  • What Do People Do All Day? - Scarry takes us on a tour of Busytown showing characters at work “outdoors, indoors, up in the sky or underground.” Readers visit a construction site, a hospital, a bakery and even a cruise ship. 
  • The Busiest People Ever contains an illustrated list of job titles in various settings. You’ll meet a rug salesman, a raccoon plumber, a bear locksmith, a mouse florist, a fox lawyer and more. The book contains several short stories to show the animal characters at work. You have to look closely though because the pages are also very busy. 

My only caveat about these books is they were written in the 1970s and don’t contain much technology. However, you could take your child on some field trips and observe real workers at work in the post office, the store, in a restaurant, on the street or at a construction site. 

  • When I Grow Up by Mercer Mayer - A young female character dreams of all the things she would like to do when she grows up including mail carrier, police officer, airplane pilot, world-famous doctor, truck driver and circus star. There are no gender stereotypes here. 
  • Jobs Around Town by Jan and Stan Berenstain - Brother Bear tells Sister Bear about the jobs to be done in Bear Country. The inside back cover contains some questions to ask your child about their own interests and jobs that are important in your community. 
  • Career Day by Ann and Lizzy Rockwell published in 2000 - The children in Mrs. Madoff’s class take turns introducing special visitors and help young readers think about what they want to be when they grow up. You’ll meet a judge, a musician, a veterinarian, a carpenter, a professor and a grocery store manager. 
  • I Can Be Anything! – Author Jerry Spinelli introduces careers like puppy-dog holder, paper plane folder, barefooted hopper and bubble gum popper. This silly story shows the lighter side of things to do when you grow up. It is an “imaginative joyride about hopes and dreams, and a reminder of all the possibilities life has to offer.” 

The next time you go to the library or bookstore look for these and other books to help you expose your child to the many possibilities in his or her future. Do you have any suggestions to add to the list?

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