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Book Roundup: Making Sense of Emotions

Nurture your child’s emotional literacy with these librarian-approved books.

October 6, 2017

Helping your little one recognize and respond to the tumult of emotions they may be experiencing at any given time is no easy task, especially during the full wrath of a grocery-store tantrum! Taking time to name your child’s feelings or, better yet, providing them the space to name their feelings themselves, is just one aspect of your child’s emotional literacy development. These recently-published picture books for young kids can help you talk with your child about all those valid and complex feelings bouncing around inside.

My Heart Fills with Happiness

By Monique Gray Smith, Illustrated by Julie Flett
Recommended for ages 0+

This beautiful board book reminds kids to reflect on those everyday moments that bring joy to their lives. It may very well be a welcome reminder for older readers, too.

When the Anger Ogre Comes to Visit

By Andrée Salom, Illustrated by Ivette Salom
Recommended for ages 3+

We can all recall a moment of anger when something didn’t go our way — it may have been more recent than we’d like to admit. That “anger ogre” can quickly grow out of control unless we know how to tame it. You’ll enjoy this book for more than just the cute story because it introduces practical calming strategies to help kids reshape their anger into something more gentle.

How It Feels to Be a Boat

By James Kwan
Recommended for ages 4+

A person can feel a variety of emotions all at once, which can be bewildering to experience. Author and illustrator James Kwan artfully uses the metaphor of a boat to show young readers that it’s okay when feelings are fuzzy, weighty or conflicting.

The Sound of Silence

By Katrina Goldsaito, Illustrated by Julia Kuo
Recommended for ages 4+

In this meditative story, a little boy searches for the sound of silence in his daily life and struggles to find a place that is completely quiet. He finally discovers it in between the sounds he hears in the world, a Japanese concept known as “ma.” Share this story with your child to reflect together on mindfulness and how to create space for inner calm in a busy world.

Sing, Don’t Cry

By Angela Dominguez
Recommended for ages 4+

Inspired the author’s grandfather and the popular Mexican song Cielito lindo, this book is about sadness and optimism. It’s a simple story with a soothing refrain that repeats throughout, introducing the powerful idea of taking action to care for your soul in times of melancholy or grief.

Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

By Shelly Becker, Illustrated by Eda Kaban
Recommended for ages 4+

Why not learn about those messy emotions from a superhero and have a little fun while you’re at it? We all know that when a superhero teaches something, an otherwise mundane lesson can become a compelling mission to change the world! And let’s face it, if your kiddo gets better at regulating his or her emotions, it will certainly change your world.

Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall
Recommended for ages 4+

Even though pool season is coming to a close, you should still check out this book about little Jabari who is scared to jump off a diving board. With the loving support of his family, he musters the courage to make the leap. The rush of fear at trying something new is a feeling that may recur again and again in a lifetime and it’s important to know that you can always turn to your loved ones for help.

Niko Draws a Feeling

By Bob Raczka, Illustrated by Simone Shin
Recommended for ages 5+

Niko feels misunderstood after he shares his unique drawings. For instance, he draws how he feels when he hears the ring-a-ling of the bell, but is met with confusion when people don’t see a literal bell in his drawing. He eventually meets a friend who understands his drawings and it is like a “window opening in his brain.” This book illustrates the sometimes undefinable, isolating nature of feelings and how creative expression builds connections to the people around you.



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Ashley Braun

Ashley is a children’s librarian at the Seattle Public Library, where she is busy making customized reading lists for kids through Your Next 5 Books! Get a hand-selected reading list for yourself today (adults, too!). 

More stories by Ashley Braun

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