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Five children’s books to support emotional health on World Book Day

World Book Day offers all parents and educators an opportunity to celebrate literature and story with young people.

When I was a teacher, World Book Day was a real highlight of the year and a true celebration of creativity, literature and story.

The connections that children had made with their favourite characters were so evident as they paraded into our classroom dressed as everything from Harry Potter to a Dr Seuss character.

The connection that children had with the characters in books extended well beyond just dressing up.

Children have such strong emotional connections to literature, and we know that through story they learn a great deal about their own emotional world.

From broadening their emotional vocabulary, to understanding emotions in others; and from learning how to problem solve, to finding strategies to manage some of the more difficult emotions, stories are a very powerful tool to build emotional health in young people.

For this World Book Day, we want to offer five books that can help young people learn about their emotions. These recommendations come from the staff at Family Links and The Nurturing Schools Network.

One by Kathryn Otoshi

One is a story of friendship, assertiveness and repairing relationships. Colourful, creative and charming, this book is one of our favourites. I have used this book with many classes, both primary and secondary, and the subsequent discussions have always been rich and reflective. It is a useful story to discuss issues around bullying, the role of the ‘by-stander’ and resolving conflict.

Key Social and Emotional Competencies: Empathy, assertiveness, social awareness, conflict management.

Badger’s Parting Gift by Susan Varley

Grief, loss and death are dealt with in a beautiful and gentle way in this story that follows the death of Badger. It offers adults and children alike a way to think about those we have lost, and to remember and cherish their memory. One of the most helpful elements of the book is that it seeks to normalise the difficult feelings that surround death, and share approaches we can take to manage them.

Key Social and Emotional Competencies: Managing difficult feelings, empathy, appreciation

The Red Beast: Controlling Anger in Children with Asperger’s Syndrome by K.I Al-Ghani

While this book was originally written to help young people with Asperger’s Syndrome to understand and manage anger effectively, we know it is a firm favourite in many classrooms across the country. Children are captivated by the colourful story, and relate easily to the strategies and ideas that are shared to help manage feelings of anger.

Key Social and Emotional Competencies: Managing difficult feelings, self-awareness

A Quiet Place by Douglas Wood

In the more extrovert and hectic world of today, helping young people discover the power of quiet and silence is invaluable. A Quiet Place is a terrific read that inspires and empowers children to find the quiet place that is inside them. Both fantastical and practical, this book always prompts great discussions with children.

Key Social and Emotional Competencies: Managing emotions and self-regulation, reflection

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson

A beautifully written story about how small acts of kindness can change the world. I found this to be a wonderful book to use with a class at the start of the school year to think about what kind of classroom we wanted to create together. And for the mathematicians amongst us, there is a great lesson in exponential growth in there too.

Key Social and Emotional Competencies: Social awareness, empathy, helping others, and maths!

Thank you to all my colleagues for their suggestions for this blog.

(Also posted on the Huffington Post website)

Nick Haisman-Smith

(Former CEO of Family Links)

Director of The Institute for Social and Emotional Learning

#nickhaismansmith #emotionalhealth

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