With winter on its way, you might be spending more time indoors and looking for activities that allow you to stay cozy and warm! Reading with kids can be an excellent way to strengthen adult-child relationships, develop literacy skills, as well as attend to children’s social-emotional development (Sheldon-Dean, 2023).
Aside from the many benefits of reading in the cognitive domain including the building of language pathways, effective language use, literacy development, building vocabulary, understanding of grammar, and being exposed to a broad base of background knowledge - reading with children can have several other benefits for their emotional intelligence and social competency (Sheldon-Dean, 2023).
Reading with children may help them with foundational skills such as building emotional awareness, managing their own feelings in healthy ways, and developing empathy for others (Sheldon-Dean, 2023). Books that are fiction or narrative-based can help children develop theory of mind (or the ability to see both their own and other people’s perspectives and mental/emotional states) as well as elicit emotional reactions and empathic connections (Batini et al. 2021). Reading books with characters from all different backgrounds, situations, and who are dealing with their own challenges or emotions can also help children appreciate other cultures and perspectives, and teach them how to handle their own emotions and empathize with others (Batini et al., 2021; Sheldon-Dean, 2023). Talking with children about the stories, the character’s emotions, and their own emotions can also foster empathy development and emotional understanding (Batini et al., 2021; Sheldon-Dean, 2023).
In addition to the content of the books themselves, reading with children may help them in their social-emotional development through the modeling of emotions adults do with their facial expressions and tone of voice as they read (Santos et al. 2012). Providing children with reading experiences may also make them less likely to develop behavioural problems (Batini et al. 2021).
There are so many amazing books that have social-emotional concepts within them, but it might be difficult to figure out where to start! We have compiled a list of a few suggestions to get you going:
Ruby Finds a Worry, written by Tom Percival (recommended for ages 3-6 years old)
Stop and Smell the Cookies, written by Gibson Frazier (recommended for ages 4-8 years old)
The Invisible String, written by Patrice Karst (recommended for ages 3-10 years old)
Listening to my Body, written by Gabi Garcia (recommended for ages 4-10 years old)
The Boy with Big, Big Feelings, written by Britney Winn Lee (recommended for ages 4-8 years old)
Good Night Body, written by Britney Winn Lee (recommended for ages 4-8 years old)
A Little Spot of Empathy, written by Diane Alber (recommended for ages 4-10 years old)
We wish you a warm and cozy start to the winter season. Feel free to let us know if you read any of the books on our list, or if you have other recommendations you’d like to share with us. Happy Reading!
Batini, F., Luperini, V., Cei, E., Izzo, D., & Toti, G. (2021). The association between reading and emotional development: A systematic review. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 9(1), 12-50. https://doi.org/10.11114/jets.v9i1.5053
Mendelsohn, A. L., Cates, C. B., Weisleder, A., Berkule Johnson, S., Seery, A. M., Canfield, C. F., ... & Dreyer, B. P. (2018). Reading aloud, play, and social-emotional development. Pediatrics, 141(5). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3393
Santos, R. M., Fettig, A., & Shaffer, L. (2012). Helping families connect early literacy with social-emotional development. Young Children, 67(2), 88-93.
Sheldon-Dean, H. (2023, January 19). Why is it important to read to your child?
The benefits go far beyond literacy. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/why-is-it-important-to-read-to-your-child/