Books to read with young children about getting along with others

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Daniel Plays in a Gentle Way, adapted by Alexandra Cassel Schwartz

From the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood series.

Daniel makes an obstacle course and asks his little sister Margaret to play on the obstacle course with him. Daniel is a little too rough. His sister gets frightened and starts to cry. Margaret does not want to play with Daniel anymore. Daniel asks his dad why Margaret doesn’t want to play anymore. Dad says, “Sometimes you need to play in a gentle way.” All young children need reminders to be gentle when they play together because they can get excited. Some children get frightened when things get loud and rough.

Fiesta, by Ginger Foglesong Guy

Three children are planning a party with a piñata. They have to go to the store to buy party favors and candy for the piñata. They count four airplanes and six pieces of gum, and much more. Three-, four- and five-year-olds enjoy helping to plan for a party, especially if it is their party.

A bilingual Spanish-English edition of this book is also available.

Bear Has a Story to Tell, by Philip Stead

Bear was getting sleepy because it was almost winter but first he had a story to tell his friends: mouse, duck, frog and mole. Mouse, duck, frog and mole did not have time to hear Bear’s story because they were getting ready for winter. Bear kindly helped his friends get ready for winter. Then the snow came and bear fell asleep. When spring came, all his friends gathered together to hear the story, but bear couldn’t remember the story. His friends try to help bear remember his story.

Bear was kind to his friends and his friends returned the kindness. Patience and kindness go a long way in helping young children blossom and grow.

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.

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