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Educator Well-Being
begin to ECSEL

Emotionally-Minded Books to Share with Your Child this Holiday Season

December 20, 2019

At the Housman Institute, we recognize the profound importance of building the foundation for emotional intelligence in children from birth. Our begin to ECSEL program helps children recognize, understand, regulate and express their emotions in a healthy way that sets them up for a lifetime of well-being, mental health and success. Within our program, we promote the acquisition of these emotional competencies with the use of various proprietary tools such as the begin to MakePeace Table, Our Emotions Board, calm down bottles and puppets. But major tools not listed here that our teachers use daily are children’s books.

Children’s books are important because of how readers interact with them, especially the read-aloud experience. Some parents try to rush their children out of picture books into chapter books because they believe that reading text-heavy books will help young people prepare for academic challenges, and ultimately standardized testing, not realizing that picture books alone are an extremely valuable resource and that they are in fact later into childhood as well, even up through high school. Beyond simply introducing children to the concept of reading, picture books can also help them develop critical thinking skills. “To some degree, picture books force an analog way of thinking. From page to page, as the reader interacts with the book, their imagination is filling in the missing themes”. Picture books are a comprehensive learning tool that has the potential to teach children far more than what is simply written or depicted on the pages.

The experience of having a book read aloud to children prompts conversations about what’s happening in the story, what the characters are feeling, meanings of words and especially how what’s happening in the book might relate to the child. In a world where there seem to be so many things that they aren’t allowed to do and where adults have the final say, a children’s book offers an opportunity for kids to feel as though they are a part of the story -- or even more compelling -- a part of the greater world. Because of the impact that books have on children, it is especially important to consider the content of these books. 

Young children need caring adults to help them construct a positive sense of self and a respectful understanding of others, as from a very young age, children are exceptionally aware of facial expressions, tone and body language. Emotionally driven books provide a wonderful opportunity for leading children toward a more understanding and empathetic worldview. 

This holiday season, we are sharing some of our favorite empathy-encouraging books along with those curated by the editors of Parents Magazine:

Ages 0-2

  • Baby Faces by Margaret Miller
  • Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
  • Moo, Baa, La La La! By Sandra Boynton
  • Sport Goes to the Farm by Eric Hill
  • Baby Faces Peekaboo! By DK Publishing
  • Alphabreaths by Christopher Willard

Ages 3-4 

  • Little Elliot, Big Fun by Mike Curato
  • Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
  • Moo! By David LaRochelle
  • A Hate for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards
  • The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm by Levar Burton
  • The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
  • In My Heart by Jo Witek

Ages 5-6 

  • Ivan: the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate
  • Stevie by John Steptoe
  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
  • The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
  • When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

Ages 7+ 

  • Fly Away Home by Even Bunting
  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
  • Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
  • Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

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