Inspired by National Library Week (April 10-16), we’ve compiled a list of 10 books that help children understand their feelings and emotions. Social-emotional learning is critical to student development and their overall well-being. Learning to understand and cope with their feelings will help ensure students achieve their maximum potential in school and beyond.
Whether you use these selections during story time, for independent reading, or part of your SEL curriculum, they’re sure to help your students gain greater awareness of their feelings and how to handle them.
1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Awarded the Newbery Honor in 1945, The Hundred Dresses has never been out of print since. This is a story about a girl who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. One of her classmates ultimately decides that the bullying is wrong and vows to never stand by silent again.
2. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
We waited more than two decades to see this Dr. Seuss manuscript in print. Husband-and-wife team Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher’s stunning, expressive paintings reveal striking images such as a bright red horse kicking its heels, a cool and quiet green fish, a sad and lonely purple dinosaur, and an angrily howling black wolf.
3. The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
Swim along with the pout-pout fish as he discovers that being glum and spreading “dreary wearies” isn’t really his destiny. Bright ocean colors and playful rhyme come together in Deborah Diesen’s fun fish story that’s sure to turn even the poutiest of frowns upside down.
4. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
This is a touching tale of Gerald the giraffe, who wants nothing more than to dance. With crooked knees and thin legs, that’s harder for a giraffe than you would think. Gerald is finally able to dance to his own tune when he gets some encouraging words from an unlikely friend. With light-footed rhymes and high-stepping illustrations, this tale helps children understand that being different is OK.
5. Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis has starred in many movies, but she says that the children’s books she has written mean more to her than any of her films. This tale follows a little girl with curly red hair through 13 different moods. The narrative helps children learn to recognize their different moods and how to deal with each emotion.
6. Love, Hugs, and Hope: When Scary Things Happen by Christy Monson
Written after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, this book helps children identify feelings that may overwhelm them with anxiety and despair. Author Christy Monson guides readers through emotions of fear, sadness, and anger, then lends constructive and practical ideas for how to manage such feelings and seek comfort.
7. Focusing and Calming Activities for Children by Deborah Plummer
It is never too soon for children to learn the process of peaceful conflict resolution. This book teaches children how to calm themselves, state the problem, listen, think of solutions, try one, evaluate results, and even agree to disagree when a solution isn’t possible. Included are skill-building games and role plays for adults to use with children.
8. Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg
Stanley Birdbaum couldn’t be more excited. He has rolled and wrapped and dyed his hair. He has dipped it and sprayed it and made it, well, perfect. He is ready to celebrate Crazy Hair Day at school. But when Stanley saunters up to the classroom, he learns, to his horror, that Crazy Hair Day is…next week. To make matters worse, today is School Picture Day, and everyone is expected to line up for the class photo! What is Stanley to do? This heartwarming tale is a great lesson on compassion and anti-bullying.
9. Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein
Gold Medal winner of the 2013 Mom’s Choice Awards, this story invites children to sense, explore, and befriend any feeling with acceptance and equanimity. Children can explore their emotions with their senses and nurture a sense of mindfulness. Gaining this objectivity allows space for a more considered response to the feelings. Practicing mindfulness can also enhance many aspects of well-being, help develop insight, empathy, and resiliency.
10. When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang
A little girl’s anger and emotions are illuminated by color in this story. Sophie’s temper flares when her sister demands a turn playing with a favorite stuffed gorilla. To make matters worse, Sophie’s mother seemingly takes her sister’s side. Sophie lets her anger rage in a healthy way and is able to come back to the situation calm and relaxed.
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