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Suggested children’s books that can support your child’s social and emotional skills

Parents, guardians and other family members are often looking for ways to promote positive behaviour and support their child’s mental health. 

One area of learning that research has shown will make a significant impact on a child’s success and well-being throughout life is called social-emotional learning.  

Social-emotional learning is how we develop a range of skills. You can think of these skills as creating a foundation for mental health because they help us start and keep relationships, work well with others, complete tasks and problem solve, feel good about ourselves and stay positive when we face stress or adversity.  

Childhood, and especially the early years (age 0 to 6), is an ideal time to nurture social and emotional skills—but we can keep working on them throughout our lives! As a bonus, when your child sees you working through challenges positively, they learn from you. 

The Ontario school curriculum includes six social-emotional learning areas. They are: 

There are many opportunities in day-to-day life to help your child build their social and emotional skills. Something as simple as reading books with your child that focus on different skills can lead to learning and great conversations.   

12 children’s books that can support your child’s social and emotional learning 

We asked school mental health professionals, early childhood educators and parents to help us put together a list of book suggestions that can support social-emotional learning for young children.  

We included some reflection questions you might find helpful as you read and discuss these books with your child. Look for these books at your local library.  

Stress management and coping 

Yes, children experience stress too! Things like changes in routine and learning to share are possible stressors for young children. Here are two books that can help your child learn about coping with stress. After reading, try asking your child one of these questions: 

Zach Gets Frustrated 

By William Mulcahy 

Zach gets very frustrated when everything seems to go wrong on a trip to the beach, so his father teaches him some strategies to deal with difficult feelings. The book features additional notes for adults on helping children develop these skills.

Zach Gets Frustrated

How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear?  

By Jayneen Sanders 

Little Bear finds ways to deal with his worries and stress by talking to Mama Bear, thus showing the value of talking about feelings and finding strategies. The book also features discussion questions for adults and tips for supporting children.

How Big Are Your Worries little Bear?

Identification and management of emotions 

Your child’s ability to identify, understand and express feelings will help them cope positively with their emotions and can increase their positive feelings. Here are two books that can help your child learn about their emotions. After reading, try asking your child one of these questions: 

How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods 

By Saxton Freymann and Joost Elfer 

An exploration of the world of feelings, using the “faces” of different fruits and vegetables.

How Are You Peeling?

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day 

By Jamie Lee Curtis 

Charming verse and illustrations help to describe the different feelings that a young girl experiences, and the experiences that led to them. 

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day

Positive motivation and perseverance

It’s vital for children to learn the importance of maintaining a positive outlook, to develop ways to remain positive in a variety of situations and to feel hopeful about the future. Here are two books that can help your child learn about positive motivation and perseverance. After reading, try asking your child one of these questions: 

And Here’s to You! 

By David Elliott 

Children share their love of all kinds of different animals, as well as people. This book celebrates the power of sharing positive messages with others, as well as diversity and inclusion.

And Here's to You!

Awesome is Everywhere 

By Neil Pasricha 

Exploring the wondrous beauty of the earth reminds us that every place and moment are special and that there are always positive things to focus on and appreciate. 

Awesome is Everywhere

Healthy relationship skills 

Relationships skills include cooperation, sharing, understanding others’ feelings, solving conflicts and being respectful to others. Developing friendships and healthy relationships with others encourages a sense of belonging, inclusion and overall well-being. Here are two books that can help your child learn about relationship skills. After reading, try asking your child one of these questions: 

Giraffe and Bird 

By Rebecca Bender 

Giraffe and Bird are always getting on each other’s nerves, and one day they walk away from each other. But only then they realize that they need each other in different ways and return to each other. The book celebrates the power of friendship bonds, which can sometimes be hidden behind conflict.

Giraffe and Bird

The Sharing Circle  

By Theresa “Corky” Larsen-Jonasson  

When two red foxes have an argument which breaks apart their community, a gentle buffalo decides to take a braid of sweetgrass to a local elder and asks her to help with a sharing circle for all the animals.Using a talking stick helps all of the animals open up and share their feelings.

The Sharing Circle

Self-awareness and sense of identity  

Children can reach their full potential when they have a positive sense of self. This means that they are capable and comfortable expressing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and they feel like they matter. Here are two books that can support your child’s sense of identity. After reading, try asking your child one of these questions: 

 I Like Myself 

By Karen Beaumont 

The book celebrates the value of liking many different aspects of ourselves. A child lists off different aspects of who they are, or could be like, and affirms that they like themselves regardless. It also emphasizes that we don’t have to worry about what others think, if we are sure about ourselves and our likeability.

I Like Myself

Unstoppable Me!: 10 Ways to Soar Through Life 

By Dr. Wayne W. Dyer 

10 important life lessons are offered to children, for the sake of building self-confidence and moving through life and its challenges.

Unstoppable Me 10 Ways to Soar Through Life!

Critical and creative thinking (executive functioning) 

By supporting your child’s critical and creative thinking, they’ll learn to pay attention, focus, plan, control impulses and follow rules. Critical and creative thinking helps us solve challenges—so you can imagine how much this skillset can support your child through their life!    

Here are two books that can support critical and creative thinking. After reading, try asking your child one of these questions: 

Why Should I Listen? 

By Claire Llewellyn 

Children may not listen sometimes to important information – not because they don’t want to, but because they are distracted and caught up in the moment with something else. Why Should I Listen? aims to show them why it is important to switch focus and tune into what others are saying.

Why Should I Listen?

Waiting Is Not Easy!  

By Mo Willems 

Gerald the elephant has a hard time waiting for a surprise that Piggie has promised, but in the end it is worth it. This book thus offers a valuable lesson about managing difficult feelings, self-control, being patient, and waiting. 

Waiting is not Easy!

Little things can make a big difference 

Something as simple as reading with your child has a lot of value. It’s quality time together, and when you pick books that focus on specific topics, there’s a chance for more learning and conversation.   

We hope you enjoy reading some of these books with your child and that you find the questions helpful. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t respond right away, or you feel they do not have the “correct” answer- it’s not a test, but a time to learn together. 

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