Children learn by seeing and doing, and where they may not have experience books can fill in the gaps. By reading about children struggling they learn empathy, or when they read about children who overcome obstacles they are learning about resilience.
The same applies to emotions. Books can help children learn to identify emotions in themselves and others while normalizing those emotions. While some kids express themselves naturally, others struggle with it. Here are some recommendations for general books about social skills and emotions to explore.
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr, like all of Mr. Parr's books, is a delight to look at and read. Full of playful examples, this book helps to normalize both negative and positive emotions.
Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner uses photographs of children to demonstrate many different emotions and goes beyond the common happy and sad. This book will be especially helpful for children who have trouble recognizing emotions in others. While reading it, encourage the children to describe what they see on each child's face, such as scrunched up eyes or mouth turned upward. Have children try to make each face as you read, as well.
Using a variety of art genres and artists, How Artists See Feelings by Colleen Carroll explores different emotions as seen in art. Full of great conversations starters and thought-provoking questions, this book is perfect for the school aged crowd. However, it can be used with younger children by paraphrasing the text or just looking at and talking about the artwork depicted. This book would be great used alongside Art Parts: A Child's Introduction to the Elements of Artwhich also includes emotions. After reading, have children create art showing different emotions and be sure to display that art along with quotes about what makes them feel what they showed in their art.
Have a boy (or girl) who doesn't want to show their emotions? Read Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley to help them see that is OK to have and show feelings. This book reminds me of Tough Boris by Mem Fox, and the two are must haves, particularly for any school or child care program.
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain is a bit of a sillier look at emotions, and children love it. Bright illustrations attract and keep children's interest while exploring different emotions. Ask your child or each child in your classroom to make faces showing the different emotions, and take pictures to use to create your own book about feelings.
Use all of these books to show different emotions and a slightly different perspective on emotions. Taken together, these books are an excellent way to talk the different things that make us happy, sad, or angry. Using the examples in the book, ask the children to talk about what makes them feel a certain way and make a chart. Count up what is the most common, but note how something may upset (or make them happy) one person and not others.
I don't generally recommend toys, but some of my favorites are Kimochis. Kimochis are small to medium sized stuffed creatures that come with small emotion bean bags that you can put in them and discuss. After reading these books, Kimochis are the perfect way to start an emotion conversation with your child.
With all of these books and the Kimochis, provide children time, both in large and small groups, to discuss their experiences and encourage them to listen to each other. Younger children will need this done more in small groups. For more ideas on how to teach social, emotional skills access the Center on the Social Emotional Foundation for Early Learning's websiteand their Book Nook (once on their page scroll down to reach it).
As always, I hope you enjoy these recommendations. Feel free to share with credit to Words Reflected and Kim Bogren Owen on Facebook, your website, or in your newsletter.
Please add your favorite book or activity about emotions in the comments!
The next few weeks I will recommend more books with social/emotional topics, including mindfulness and yoga, anger, and problem solving. Keep up with the blog by subscribing!
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