15 Books to Teach Children About Personal Hygiene

COVID-19 continues to raise challenges for people across the globe. Some parents are eager to find books that will educate children about handwashing and personal hygiene. These 15 titles (picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and nonfiction) will teach young readers about developing and maintaining healthy hygiene habits as well as the science behind germs and how to prevent them.

As COVID-19 continues to raise challenges for people across the globe, it is imperative that citizens have access to accurate information. Knowledge about this pandemic combined with instructions on prevention makes a potent resource. According to the Guardian, parents are eager to find books that will teach young children about good hygiene habits. 

These titles (picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and nonfiction) will teach young readers about developing and maintaining healthy hygiene habits as well as preventing the spread of germs. Photographs and cartoon characters often provide a solid and fun learning experience.

Picture Books

Ben-Barak, Idan. Do Not Lick This Book. illus. by Julian Frost. Roaring Brook. Jun. 2018. ISBN 9781250175366.
Gr K-2–Min the Microbe (E. coli), portrayed as a cartoon blob, explores the world of microorganisms with young readers. Accompanied by her friends Rae (streptococcus), Dennis (a fungus), and Jake (corynebacterium), Min visits a piece of paper, a tooth, a shirt, and a belly button. With enlarged photographs from an electron microscope as a background, Min and her cohorts share their nasty habits with readers, such as eating dead skin. Back matter provides additional details about each of the individual microbes. A fascinating way to learn about the world of microorganisms without being totally grossed out—although readers may feel inclined to wash their hands more thoroughly after reading about the hygienically challenged adventures of Min and pals.


Dewdney, Anna with Reed Duncan. Llama Llama Mess, Mess, Mess. illus. by J.T. Morrow. Viking. Aug. 2019. ISBN 9780670016440.
Gr K-2–Llama Llama loves to play with his toys. He’s not so eager to put them away. When his mother gently encourages Llama Llama to imagine what would happen if she stopped cleaning and zoomed away to play, Llama Llama learns that it’s only fair to help his mother clean up the messes he creates. A fun, cheerful way to stress the importance of cleanliness.


Ross, Tony. I Don’t Want To Wash My Hands! illus. by Tony Ross. Putnam. Jun. 2020. ISBN 9780593324820.
Gr K-1–The Little Princess feels grumpy after being told to wash her hands numerous times. She washes her hands after playing with the dog, before eating dinner, after going potty, and after sneezing. She demands to know why she needs to wash her hands so many times. Her maid says “germs and nasties” will attack her and make her ill if she doesn’t keep her hands clean. Suddenly, washing her hands seems more important. A cute way to help children understand the importance of washing their hands.


Chapter Books and Middle Grade

Citro, Asia. Unicorns and Germs. illus. by Marion Lindsay. Innovation Pr. Oct. 2018. ISBN 9781943147465.
Gr 1-5–While making homemade yogurt, Zoey, her cat Sassafras, and her mother get shaken up by an earthquake. When the earthquake turns out to have been caused by an enormous unicorn, Zoey and her mother need to find a way to aid the injured animal. The unicorn’s injury gets infected; Zoey and her mother conduct experiments growing bacteria in order to figure out how to help the creature. Interesting details about bacteria along with how treatments for infections are developed are included in this magical and scientific exploration of germs.


Coppens, Katie. The Acadia Files: Book Two, Autumn Science. illus. by Holly Hatam. Tilbury House. Sept. 2018. ISBN 9780884486046.
Gr 4-7–Acadia Green has many questions. Using the scientific method, she sets out to discover the answers. Why do the frogs at the local pond seem to have disappeared? Why do some leaves change color but evergreen leaves do not? What is the water cycle and transpiration? And how do germs infect us? Each of the five sections of the book focuses on one of Acadia’s questions and how she discovers the answers. A diary-like format with sketches mixed in makes the stories fun and interesting.

Read More: #AuthorsTakeAction and Spread Message to Readers: Stay Home



Clark, Rosalyn. Why We Keep Clean. Lerner. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9781512482942.
PreS-Gr 1–Bright, colorful photographs complement text that explains why keeping clean is important. Each spread explains the necessity of washing hands and brushing teeth. Critical thinking questions encourage children to contemplate their habits. A photo glossary, index, and additional resources are included.


Garstecki, Julia. Pick, Spit & Scratch: The Science of Disgusting Habits. illus. by Chris Monroe. Quarto/Young Voyageur. Nov. 2018. ISBN 9780760361788.
Gr 4-6–It can be challenging to maintain and sustain good hygiene when also dealing with other people’s bad habits. Habits such as picking one’s nose, peeing in a pool, and sneezing without covering one’s mouth are presented in a scientific way. The science behind some is common. The text shares disgusting habits and then details the good habits that should replace them. Gross facts delivered in sidebars are included. The cartoonish illustrations are appealing.


Holmes, Kirsty. My Hygiene. Crabtree. Dec. 2018. ISBN 9780778754220.
Gr K-1–Learning and implementing personal hygiene and grooming practices requires understanding not only what to do, but how and why to do it. Keeping the skin healthy and clean helps prevent germs from spreading disease. Washing hands and taking baths and showers keeps germs from being shared. Steps for washing one's hands properly are featured as well as other important aspects of hygiene (brushing teeth, washing clothes, blowing one’s nose, and cleaning up one’s environment). A glossary and index are featured in the back matter.


Jenner, Elizabeth & Kate Wilson & Nia Roberts. Coronavirus: A Book for Children. illus. by Axel Scheffler. Nosy Crow. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781839941467.
PreS-Gr 6This free ebook answers questions about the virus that causes COVID-19 in a calm, factual way. Factual information is explained while making it clear that many questions remain. The text covers what the coronavirus is, what the symptoms are, what is known about transmission, antibodies, and the treatments being pursued in a straightforward manner. The cartoon-style illustrations lighten the mood of the book. The authors highlight things children can do to work through the emotions related to the illness as well as helping out at home.


MacGregor, Eloise. Be a Virus Warrior! A Kid's Guide to Keeping Safe. illus. by Alix Wood. Rosen/Powerkids. Mar. 2020. ISBN 9781725330634.
Gr 2-4–Viruses can be particularly hard to defeat. Knowing what they are, how they are spread, and what strategies can help control them can provide a sense of comfort to children in a time of uncertainty. In an encouraging and hopeful tone, this book answers questions about viruses and the methods used to combat them. Advice about how to use social distancing and time at home add to the book's practicality. A great resource to help children face their fears.


McCallum, Brenda. Little Book of Germs. Schiffer. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781507300688.
Gr 2-5–A brief explanation discusses how germs spread and four different kinds: viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. Young readers are instructed to draw pictures of themselves sick and healthy. Hands-on activities also feature a bubble maze, a matching game, a word search, and a quiz. Instructions for proper handwashing are included.


Mould, Steve. The Bacteria Book: The Big World of Really Tiny Microbes. illus. by Mark Clifton & Molly Lattin & Bettina Stovne Myklebust. DK. May 2018. ISBN 9781465470287.
Gr 2-4–Microbes consist of not only bacteria, but viruses, algae, fungi, protozoa, and archaea. Bacteria and viruses get the most attention as Mould shares information about what they are, how they function, and their benefits and risks. Fascinating facts about bacteria and viruses as well as details about specific microbes round out the book. Information about the bacteria that leads to farting, the fungus that turns ants into zombies, and the mite that lives in human eyebrows add to the book's interesting collection of knowledge. The combination of cartoon images and actual microscopic photographs make for an appealing design.


Platt, Richard. The Germ Lab. illus. by John Kelly. Kingfisher. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9780753475829.
Gr 3-6–Vermin are depicted as key eyewitnesses in the story of history's biggest epidemics and pandemics. The text features information about germs, those who learned about them, those who fought them, and other facts about some of the diseases that have wreaked havoc over the centuries. Using fun characters and entertaining illustrations along with an attractive, eye-catching design, the book takes readers on a journey through the challenges and victories humans have experienced with the nastiest germs in existence. A rogue’s gallery, a secret war room, and a deadliest diseases presentation make learning about germs compelling.


Schuh, Mari. Stop the Germs! Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2020. ISBN 9781977126832.
Gr 1-3–Being healthy requires learning to wash your hands, eating well, drinking plenty of water, and being physically active. A glossary, further reading, an index, and a list of kid-appropriate websites add to the usefulness of the book.


Verdick, Elizabeth. Germs Are Not for Sharing / Los gérmenes no son para compartir. illus. by Marieka Heinlen. Free Spirit. Aug. 2018. ISBN 9781575423685.
PreS-Gr 1–In this bilingual nonfiction picture book, children learn about where germs can be found, how they can be spread, and how to prevent sharing them with others. Instructions for responding to sneezes and coughs are included. Ten specific occasions for washing one's hands are shared, one for each finger. The end of the book provides more detailed information about germs.

Reviewed by Heidi Grange, ­Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT 

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