Cognitive Restructuring

This is a core aspect of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It refers to the skill of recognizing patterns in thinking that are unhelpful and/or inaccurate (e.g., black-and-white thinking, catastrophizing) and learning to shift those thoughts to be more accurate and more helpful.
Age range: Preschool through 3rd grade. It comes in a board book as well as hard- and softcover, but the cognitive skill required to really appreciate this book doesn’t develop for most children until around age 4.
Recommended for: This simple, yet profound story based on the classic rabbit-duck illusion introduces the idea that two different perspectives can both be true at the same time. It’s great for children who tend to get stuck in arguments about the “correct” perspective (e.g., whether a sibling was being annoying or not) or opinion (e.g., which is the best food, sport, music, etc.).
Evidence-Based Practices: Cognitive Restructuring
Age range: 1st grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This workbook is a must-read for any child and their caregiver who are looking for relief from phobia(s). It’s an interactive book that teaches children gold-standard cognitive-behavioral strategies to reduce their fears, and it’s applicable to any and all phobias, including fears related to animals (e.g., dogs, spiders, bees, sharks), nature (e.g., heights, thunderstorms), injuries (e.g., blood, shots), small spaces (e.g., airplanes, elevators), and/or anything else (e.g., clowns, balloons, vomiting).
Age range: Kindergarten through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book will likely resonate best with a verbally-oriented child who will understand and connect with the book’s message that all endings are the beginning of something new. This message is actually quite profound and may be reassuring to a child who struggles with endings and transitions (e.g., leaving a playdate, getting a new teacher).
Age range: 1st grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This interactive workbook based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques helps children to learn cognitive restructuring and relaxation strategies to manage envy when something is “not fair.” It includes techniques to navigate situations when “someone else has something you think is better than what you have, or does something better than you, or gets more attention than you do.” This book is best for a child who has some insight into their thoughts (i.e., can name their thoughts about specific situations).
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book teaches the “Name It, Tame It, Reframe It” strategy of emotion regulation (i.e., name the feeling, use a relaxation skill like deep breathing, and then shift one’s thinking to be more helpful), which is useful for a child who has explosive reactions when something goes wrong or doesn’t go their way. It’s an effective trifecta of strategies, and it’s a moderately fun way to introduce this concept.
Age range: 1st grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This excellent interactive workbook empowers children to learn strategies to calm their temper. It reviews cognitive strategies (e.g., “cool thoughts”) and behavioral strategies (e.g., deep breaths, squeezing a pillow), and it touches on problem solving, compromise, flexible thinking, and avoiding “payback” escalation. It’s best for a child who is able to articulate their thoughts to some extent, but if a child isn’t yet able to do this, many of the other chapters on “anger-dousing” strategies will still be applicable and helpful. This workbook is great for a child who is ready to learn some strategies as well as a kid who is ambivalent about managing their anger or who doesn’t yet feel that it’s possible.

Jabari Jumps

Written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Age range: Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Age range: Kindergarten through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: These books (there are two nearly identical versions–one featuring a girl, Lola, and one featuring a boy, Leo) are great for therapists to use with children with Selective Mutism (SM) as a way of destigmatizing the experience and of introducing the idea that there are different steps the child can take to work towards overcoming their SM. The books come with a website where you can print out paper dolls of the characters in the story, which I really love. Caregivers can read these books with a child at home, too, especially if they have a therapist they and their child are working with or if they’re already familiar with the techniques included in the books (e.g., making a worry box, diaphragmatic breathing). Also available in French.
Age range: Best for young children–preschool through kindergarten, maybe first grade.
Age range: Ideal for 1st through 5th grade, but much of the workbook is applicable to kids a bit younger with some extra parental support.
Recommended for: This interactive workbook is a good fit for any child experiencing sleep challenges. It’s appropriate for kids who resist going to sleep, who are struggling to sleep on their own, who have difficulty falling asleep, and those who wake up frequently during the night. It teaches pre-bed relaxation skills, helps a child develop a good bedtime routine, and addresses fear of the dark, nightmares, and scary thoughts that often arise at bedtime. This workbook uses a metaphor of a child being a sleep magician, and it teaches kids fun slight-of-hand magic tricks in each chapter.
Age range: Mid- to late-elementary schoolers, but much of the book is applicable to kids a bit younger with some extra parental support.
Evidence-Based Practices: Cognitive Restructuring, Exposure, Relaxation
Age range: Ideal for 1st graders through 5th graders.
Recommended for: Children struggling with too many worries who want to worry less will likely benefit from going through this interactive workbook with a trusted adult and practicing the recommended skills. It’s a collection of evidence-based practices for worry management, and for some kids, this workbook might be enough to help them learn to get their worries under control! For kids who need a little more support, this workbook could still be a great supplement to therapy. Also available in Spanish.
Age range: 1st through 5th grade, or even younger middle schoolers.
Recommended for: This interactive workbook is best for kids and tweens with OCD who have clear compulsions (e.g., tapping, reassurance seeking, hand washing) and/or “not just right” OCD (e.g., straightening, erasing and rewriting, repeatedly changing socks) and who don’t have hoarding challenges. It could be completed chapter-by-chapter in therapy sessions, between sessions as therapy “homework,” or alongside therapy as a supplemental intervention. A caregiver with some understanding of OCD treatment might feel comfortable working through this workbook with their child without the support of therapy; however, most children with OCD will benefit most from being in therapy while completing this workbook (or soon after).
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This beautiful book teaches about the power of “yet” when a child is feeling frustrated and discouraged (e.g., when learning a new instrument, soccer skill, math lesson, etc.). With a magical fairy-like Yet, this story teaches a child that “if you keep leaping, dreaming, wishing–waiting, learning, trying, missing/ With the Yet as your guide, along the way/ You’ll do all of the things you can’t do today.”

The Most Magnificent Thing

Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Age range: Preschoolers might enjoy and relate to parts of this story, but Kindergarten through 2nd grade is probably best.
Recommended for: This book is a great read for a child who is quick to get angry and/or to give up when something doesn’t turn out how they wanted. It’s especially relevant to kids who are makers/ crafters/ builders! The overall message of the story is that something doesn’t have to be perfect in order for a child to be happy with their work.
Age range: 1st through 3rd grade, or perhaps even 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book is exclusively for a child who has recently been diagnosed with OCD and is starting treatment with a therapist who is trained in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) . The book reassures children that they aren’t “crazy” or the only ones with OCD, and it teaches about ERP and the strategy of externalizing and talking back to OCD (the boy in this book calls his OCD thoughts “Mr. Worry”). It provides children with an analogy of medication being a child’s running shoes, the therapist being the coach, and the child being the runner (ERP is the “running strategy”). The book is a bit outdated but it’s still one of the best picture book introductions to ERP that I’ve been able to find.
Age range: Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Recommended for: I highly recommend this workbook for parents and children to work through together over many weeks or even months. It’s ideal for a child who would like to feel less anxious and who is ready to learn some strategies for getting their anxiety more under control. This workbook is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and is a comprehensive collection of evidence-based practices for childhood anxiety. Therapists may also be interested in using this book in session with clients as a way of structuring their treatment or as between-session “homework” for children and their caregivers as a means of reinforcing in-session content.
Age range: Preschool through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: Young children with separation anxiety will likely benefit from reading this book with a caregiver or therapist. It introduces the idea that practicing separations will help the anxiety, not make it worse, and that caregivers aren’t being mean if they don’t accommodate their child’s separation anxiety. It easily leads into a conversation about how a child can cope with separations and how they and their caregivers can start practicing small separations to build up to bigger ones (i.e., graded exposures).
Age range: 1st grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This story teaches children that they can practice flexible thinking to make it less likely that their days are ruined when something goes wrong (e.g., a rained out baseball game, a fire drill during freetime). It’s an empowering message, and it’s provided by a relatable protagonist. Kids whose days are easily ruined by small setbacks will likely feel understood by Braden and comforted by the idea that they might not need things to go perfectly in order to feel okay.