Reading For Your Child’s Emotional Well‐Being

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We have all heard of the multitude of benefits that reading provides. Even as parents, these are somewhat drilled into us by schools and parenting networks. So why make a case for it again?

The year of the dog? Rat? Or flux?

2020 has been a year of tremendous uncertainty. As adults, most of us have been gripped by anxiety, fear, and stress. Now, what about the little humans amongst us who are bubbling with all sorts of unexplained feelings too? After the enthusiasm for endless holidays has died out, a scary reality has set in. These aren’t regular breaks. There are no restaurant visits and celebrations. No birthday parties, as we know them. Suddenly our hands aren’t clean enough, our floors aren’t clean enough, and even delivery packages and groceries need scrubbing! If that weren’t enough to deal with, children are face to screen with the school. Friends can be heard but are unable to hold hands, pat your backs or fight you for that last piece of a block in class.

The Facts

According to the NGO Save the Children, one in four children are dealing with anxiety. Over half are worried about a loved one falling ill. Almost two-thirds are struggling with boredom and feelings of isolation. Reading books greatly reduces stress levels and has been proven to be more effective than listening to music or going for a walk. According to a recent UK study, children reported feeling relaxed and happy after reading. They welcomed the distraction books provided during these times. Children as young as pre-schoolers can benefit from the assurances books offer. They can provide them with a vocabulary to verbalize and address varied emotions. Seeing relatable characters in a story share similar experiences can be a wonderful reassurance.

The List

This curated list of picture books covers multiple themes related to mental well-­‐ being. The stories can offer solutions in a child-friendly manner and also act as springboards for further conversations. These are best suited for children 3 years and older.

For Anxiety and Isolation

Ruby Finds a Worry

Ruby's Worry Author: Tom Percival Illustrator: Tom Percival This is the story of a happy girl who unexpectedly finds a worry. This strange  creature-­‐like  worry is only visible to her and follows her everywhere! In the end, she takes comfort in knowing that she isn’t the only person who feels that way and also that there is a great method to eliminate it. A personal favorite, the book is an excellent tool to hold dialogues with little introverts struggling with these feelings.

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Under the Love Umbrella

Under the Love Umbrella

Author: Davina Bell

Illustrator: Allison Colpoys

The narrator paints a lovely picture with real and imaginary umbrellas that reach out in childhood’s challenging times. These are warm reminders that children are always loved, no matter what. Impressively, all types of families, genders, and races find representation in the bright illustrations.

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The Invisible String

The Invisible String

Author: Patrice Karst Illustrator: Joanne Lew-­Vriethoff The gentle story, much like the love umbrella, reminds us that we are never alone. We may be separated physically from friends and family, but there is an intangible connection that keeps us together -­‐ the string of love. “Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it in your heart.” Can the string reach best friends, pets, astronauts, even the heavens? Absolutely! Buy Now

For Mindfulness

Breathe Like a Bear

Breathe Like a Bear   Author: Kira Willey Illustrator: Anni Betts Breathe Like a Bear is a collection of breathing exercises. The instructions are simple and concise. They generally reference an animal or something appealing like hot chocolate to get the little ones excited to try.

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Here and Now

Here and Now

Author: Julia Denos Illustrator: E. B. Goodale This charming story is an invitation to be aware of the present moment. In contrast, to Breathe Like a Bear, the text takes our focus outward rather than inward. The soothing watercolors shift from cozy close-ups to panoramic views of the world. Somewhere, something is growing, some healing and even “a friend you haven’t met yet is sitting down to dinner.” An infinite much happens in one moment. As two characters in the story hug, the text follows, “unseen work is being done”. How magical!

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For Lessons in Gratitude and Happiness

Last Stop on Market Street

For lessons in gratitude and happiness

Author: Matt de la Peña Illustrator: Christian Robinson In this touching story, we follow a boy and his grandma on their weekly journey on the bus to the soup kitchen. CJ has pertinent questions. He wants to understand why his world is the way it is. “Nana, how come we don’t got a car?” “How come it’s always so dirty over here?” Nana’s wisdom teaches him that we can make what we will of our situation. Happiness is around if we choose to see it. The book does not present a perfect glossy world; instead, it offers us the potential to find beauty and wonder in the ordinary.

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Layla’s Happiness

Layla's Happiness

Author: Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie Illustrator: Ashleigh Corrin Where can we find happiness?  7-­year-­old  Layla makes a  tally of all things that make her happy. These include simple acts like eating spaghetti, planting a seed in the community garden, and listening to her father’s stories. Hopefully, young readers will be inspired to find joy in the world around them as they make their own happiness list.

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For Weariness

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Harold and the Purple Crayon   Author-­ Crockett Johnson Illustrator: Crockett Johnson This children’s classic is about an observant boy who draws his “reality.” Simple yet profound, it reminds us that all we need to flex is our imagination to go on an adventure! Like Harold, you can even make it a sensible one -­“He didn’t want to get lost in the woods. So he made a very small forest, with just one tree in it.”

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The Boring Book

The Boring Book

Author-­Shinsuke Yoshitake Illustrator: Shinsuke Yoshitake Cleverly illustrated, this hilarious story vividly takes a popular childhood complaint and turns it into something of a paradox. Can boring be fun? Who invented the word anyway? Here, we have life lessons on creative thinking without preaching.

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My Sister’s Super Skills


Author: Lauren Mossback Illustrator: Chiara Savarese Children’s counselor Mosback’s sibling story is a marvelous compendium of simple child-friendly coping mechanisms. As David struggles through big emotions like frustration, anger, and sadness, big sister Lily comes to his rescue with tricks to make him feel better. Children learn how to identify and name their feelings and how to navigate through them with animal-themed activities!

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