Books to read with young children about big feelings

Posted by:

Even the Smallest Will Grow, by Lita Judge

This book is about growing up. For many young children, it is hard waiting to grow up. It feels like it is taking so long and they feel so little and powerless. The mother in this book explains to her daughter that all things grow up. An acorn grows into a tree and a tiny flower seed turns into a beautiful flower and the little girl will grow up too. It helps children to know that they won’t always be small.

A Place for Ben, by Jeanne Titherington

Ben’s little brother’s crib is moved into Ben’s room. Whereever he looks, Ben finds his baby brother’s things. Ben is feeling like he needs a space of his own. He finds a space in the garage and then he waits for visitors. No one comes and he starts to feel a little lonely. He then welcomes a visit from his little brother. Often children have two-way feelings about their siblings: They don’t want them around but they also enjoy their companionship.

When I Feel Worried, by Cornelia Maude Spelman.

This is another in the series of The Way I Feel books.

Grownups and children worry. Children worry about going to the doctor or dentist. They worry about being in crowds and going to new and different places. This book helps parents talk to their child, about the worried feelings. Having someone to talk to about the worry doesn’t make the feeling go away. Talking to someone can make the worry feel not so big and overwhelming. There are other ideas of things that parents can do to help their child with a worry, too.

How to pick a great children’s book

The selection of books is as important as the selection of toys. Young children have incomplete information for understanding the world around them, which results in what we often refer to as “magical thinking”: explanations for things that don’t make sense to adults. Magical thinking can make it difficult to know what’s going on in a child’s mind, and may lead to unexpected reactions of fear or stress.

Here are some thoughts about selecting appropriate books:

  • Look for pictures that may be scary to a young child. Is there a fire? Do the animals have long sharp teeth? Are there depictions of things that you know are troubling to your child specifically?
    Noreen Acierno


  • Is the vocabulary suitable? Are the words scary, like yelping, snarling and hissing sounds. Are there references to violence or antisocial behavior – fighting or throwing things?
  • Is it developmentally appropriate? Books for young children should be uncluttered and simple with a clear presentation of the important concepts. The first words that children learn are nouns – the objects of everyday life.

For more insights about selecting books and reading with young children, look at our original list of 100 great children’s books.

Book links go to Amazon and generate a small donation to Hanna Perkins Center when used to make a purchase.

Add a Comment