Emotional Literacy

This refers to the skills of being able to identify, name, and understand one’s own feelings as well as others’. There’s a saying in the child therapy world, “To name it is to tame it.” Being able to recognize and name and understand feelings is an important strategy for emotion regulation and for effective communication with others.
Age range: 1st grade through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This is a good introduction to the feeling of frustration and how to manage it. It is applicable to children who blow up when they’re frustrated (e.g. kids who will smash apart a Lego creation if they’re struggling to get something right), as well as kids who are more inclined to quickly give up and avoid a frustrating situation.
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: 2nd grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: Children with a parent or caregiver who is experiencing psychosis (i.e., hallucinations and/or delusions) or is otherwise behaving very unusually. Parent diagnoses of Bipolar I Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Delusional Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder with psychotic features are all appropriate. This book is best completed in small doses with a therapist or a caregiver who is not symptomatic.

Grumpy Monkey

Written by Suzanne Lang
Illustrated by Max Lang
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book helps kids to recognize when they’re feeling grumpy (and maybe also sad, as is common with grumpiness), and it gives children permission to feel grumpy without needing to try to fix it right away. The story validates how annoying it is when everyone tries to give you unsolicited advice for how to feel better, and it ends with a sweet moment between friends who agree that “it’s a wonderful day to feel grumpy.”
Age range: Kindergarten through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a great read for a child who is feeling jealous of a peer/sibling’s accomplishments or attention and who has found themselves subsequently acting in ways that they aren’t proud of. It validates the feeling of jealousy and gently encourages a child to consider their values (e.g., friendship) and to act in ways that align with these values. It also includes a nice modeled apology at the end.

Jabari Tries

Written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
Age range: Preschool through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This is a fun, heart-warming book about a boy and his baby sister engineering a model plane and overcoming the frustration of crashes to find success. It’s a lovely book to read with a child who has a hard time managing frustration and/or who is disinclined to try again after an initial failure.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Recommended for: This book provides a developmentally appropriate explanation of what divorce is and how it might impact a child. The book is fairly dry but useful; parents may even choose to read this on their own and borrow the language when talking with their children.
Age range: 2nd grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This book is ideal for an older, verbally-oriented child who is scared of their anger and/or feels embarrassed or ashamed by their behavior when they’re angry. The book destigmatizes anger by presenting it as a valuable feeling that shows us when we’ve been hurt or that something is unfair. It teaches children strategies for managing the feeling in healthy ways (e.g. deep breaths, talking about it with someone they trust) so that they can use their anger to motivate positive change.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a really great introduction to anger management and would probably be best received by a child who has expressed some interest in getting a better handle on their anger (maybe they want to get in trouble less, or they’ve expressed sadness about hurting someone’s feelings while they were angry). Importantly, it teaches children to listen to their anger (e.g., maybe a child needs a rest or someone needs to stop being unfair) as well as to calm down using a handful of impactful coping strategies (e.g., taking a break, deep breaths, exercise, talking with a trusted person).

Wemberly Worried

Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade
Recommended for: A child with lots of worries will feel seen by this story and will likely feel reassured that despite their worries, they can still make friends and have fun. It’s ideal for children who have been criticized for worrying and/or who have started to criticize themselves for it and who need a reminder that this isn’t helpful or deserved. It’s also a great starter to a conversation between a child and their caregivers about what their caregivers can do to be helpful when the child is feeling worried (e.g., helping them to engage in something fun even if they’re worried!) instead of simply imploring the child not to worry.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Recommended for: This book is a calm, normalizing introduction to divorce and separation, and it provides recommendations for coping with upcoming changes. The illustrations include families of color and queer parents, so it is particularly well-suited for families looking for a book with representation beyond White, heterosexual parents. No specific custody arrangements are mentioned in the book.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Recommended for: For children, this book provides reassurance that even when their anger gets the best of them, their parents still love them, and a hug can really help. For adults, this book is a short, emotionally vibrant reminder that when children “flame” and destroy things, it’s a scary, lonely experience for them, and they often need a hug.
Age range: Preschool through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: This story is excellent for a child who feels ashamed of their temper and would benefit from a reminder that lots of very good, very loving children say and do things they regret when their temper gets the best of them. It ends with an understanding mother who gives Katie a hug and helps her to clean up the mess her temper made. This story doesn’t teach any specific anger management strategies, but it could be a start to conversations about what it’s like for a child when they turn into their own version of Bombaloo, which in turn could motivate a child’s openness to discussing anger management strategies.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book uses animal metaphors to help a child who doesn’t want to talk express their painful feelings about their parents’ divorce. It’s best for children who already have a basic understanding of divorce and the changes that will be happening or have recently happened in their family. This book is exclusively for families with divorcing/ separating parents who are planning to share custody.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book helps children to name the feeling of “missing,” which many children frequently feel following parents’ separation or divorce. It suggests journaling (drawing and/or writing) as a strategy to cope with this feeling. It’s best read after parents’ separation has already occurred and a child has a working understanding of separation/divorce. This book features a grandfather confidante and would be great if read with an extended family member or therapist, particularly if paired with a gift of a small journal or notebook.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This story is a good read for a child who is ambivalent about learning to manage their anger. For some children, temper can feel powerful (if also a bit scary), and they’re reluctant to give this up. This story walks a child through the consequences of their temper being in control, and it models an effective apology.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: Young children who lose their temper when something goes wrong will connect with this book and benefit from the anger-management strategies it teaches. The story normalizes and destigmatizes the feeling of anger, and it teaches several child-friendly skills to safely manage anger. Dinosaur lovers will particularly like this story.
Age range: 1st through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book is excellent to read with a child who is already able to label their feelings at least some of the time, and who will enjoy thinking more deeply about their emotions. It teaches children that anger is often the “crust” on top of a pie filled with other feelings that need to be noticed and expressed so that they don’t bubble up and explode. After talking with her Tia, Amaya realizes that she’s been getting angry a lot lately because she’s been feeling jealous of the attention her baby sister has been getting, so it’s particularly relevant for kids in a similar situation, but it’s certainly not limited to this scenario. The book also provides a convincing rationale for taking deep breaths and provides a nice visual for practicing this skill. It’s available in English and Spanish.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Recommended for: This book is really lovely for a parent to read to their child when their ex-partner starts dating someone new. Parents who are about to introduce their children to a new partner or who have recently introduced someone new may also find this book helpful. It reassures children that it is okay for them to like the new partner and have fun with them and that this isn’t a betrayal to their other parent (a concern many children have). It also normalizes complicated feelings that children often have when their parents start dating new partners, and it provides hope that the relationship will become a positive one for them too.
Age range: Ideal for preschool through 2nd grade. The animals in the story are approximately kindergarteners or even preschoolers (based on a brief mention of the school skills they are learning).
Recommended for: This book is really great for a young child who has experienced something very frightening. It’s applicable to children who have experienced complex trauma as well as specific events (e.g., a car accident). Caregivers can read this book with their children as a way to start talking about kids’ feelings and how they can cope with them; it’s also great for therapists to read with kids prior to starting trauma treatment.