Cultivating Emotional Intelligence Through Children's Literature

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Why is it Important?

EI is the ability to understand your emotions, listen to and empathize with others, and express emotions in ways that are assertive (I am in control of myself), without being aggressive (I want to control others). Basically, EI allows us to use our emotions to improve our relationships, engage in cooperative work, and feel a sense of community...all things we want for ourselves AND for our children.

How can we promote EI in our kids?

There are many ways we cultivate emotional intelligence in our children, including modeling emotional intelligence through our everyday responses to them, our responses to others, and the stories we bring into their lives, including social stories about our own lives, audio stories, and children's literature.

When we express our own emotions in healthy ways as parents (without shame or blame), we not only model emotional regulation for our children, we also create opportunities for our children to connect with us emotionally. This is important because it is through deep emotional connection with us that our children’s learn emotional intelligence - EI is about the connection between what we feel in our bodies and what we think in our brains, and connection is key.

Social stories help children understand emotions in themselves and others. They can help empower children as they face different life experiences, such as arguments with friends or what to expect at the doctor's office. I use use social stories anytime we’re away from home or when I don’t have a children’s book specifically related to whatever my daughter (or my client) is facing. You can create your own social story any time!

How is Cultural Literacy related to EI?

The term “cultural literacy” was coined by author and educator E.D. Hirsch. He wrote an entire book, but in short, cultural literacy helps us better understand each other. There are many cultures with similarities and differences. When we learn about our differences, we can better understand them. And when we better understand our differences, we can respect and celebrate them, and then move forward with respect, collaboration, and a sense of community.

Below you'll find the books I use in my home and in my practice because they either address specific experiences, or help us understand differences between peoples and cultures. Many of the books fit several categories, but I've done my best to use topics many families face.


 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerfeld is about how to comfort and heal the people in your life, by taking the time to carefully, lovingly, gently listen.

Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia (author) and Ying Hui Tan (illustrator) reminds us of the importance of friendhips, empathy, kindness, and being friends to ourselves. Includes mindfulness and self-compassion activities.

Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein and Shelly Hehenberger invites children to sense, explore, and befriend feelings with calm acceptance. 

Ruby’s Sleepover by Kathryn White and Miriam Latimer is a story about courage in the face of fear, and the power of friendship, creativity and ingenuity to ward off  scary sounds and shadows of the night.

Listening to My Body by by Gabi Garcia (author) and Ying Hui Tan (illustrator) helps kids (and adults) understand the connection between their body sensations and feelings so that they can get better at figuring out what they need.

Brave Bitsy and the Bear by Angela McAllister and Tiphanie Beeke is a story of how courage and friendship look, even when we’re small and afraid.

The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy (Author) and Niamh Sharkey (Illustrator) is a funny, repetitive counting book with a message on the importance of working together and valuing the efforts of even the smallest around us.

Shrinking Sam by Miriam Latimer helps adults and children understand what it feels like when no one listens to us in this beautiful story about the woes of a middle child in need of a little attention.

Emily’s Tiger by Miriam Latimer addresses feelings of anger with humor, and emphasizes intergenerational relationships. It helps reinforce the message that big feelings are OK and normal, and offers a way to deal with this emotion without letting it interfere with your relationships.

Up & Down the Worry Hill by Aureen Pinto Wagner Ph.D.
Offers children and families tools to gain mastery over OCD using powerful storytelling and practical tools through the eyes of a child.

Little Meerkat’s Big Panic by Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Teaches children easy ways to calm their body and brain when they feel anxious. It also includes a guide for adults on the neuroscience behind the strategies, and how they can use the book to help children.

Don't Feed the Worry Bug by Andi Green
A clever, rhyming adventure to discover how to keeping worries from getting monstrous.

 

 

Herb the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass  (Author) and Debbie Harter (Illustrator) is a book about staying true to your values and standing up for others, even in difficult situations.

The Faery's Gift by Tanya Robyn Batt  (Adapter), Nicoletta Ceccoli (Illustrator), and Niamh Cusack (Narrator) is an Irish fairy tale about the push and pull of making decisions that benefit the good of everyone.

What's This? by Caroline Mockford illustrates the beauty of caring for a seedling, and the joy of sharing with friends. This is an excellent book to help children get outside and care for Mother Earth.

 

Found You, Little Wombat by Angela McAllister and Charles Fuge is a story about fun, friendship, getting lost, being found, and all the feelings in between

Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer and Kerry Lee MacLean introduces the practice of mindfulness in a simple, illustrated story to help children and parents learn how to have a calmer and more attentive mind.

The North Star by Peter Reynolds
A story about the journey of life, and how it may be difficult to know which path to follow. This book encourages readers to observe, wonder, and even consider verging off the beaten path to follow their own dreams.


Lin Yi's Lantern by Brenda Williams (Author) and Benjamin Lacom (Illustrator) encourages children to try their best and empathizes with the struggle to buying what we need versus something we may want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COOPERATIVE GAMES are a great way to promote emotional intelligence, create connection, and build a sense of community. The Peaceable Kingdom Games are among my most favorite. These cooperative games encourage children and families to work together, and in working together they either all win or all lose...and no matter what, they can all have fun. You can purchase Peaceable Kingdom Games in many places. Hoot Owl Hoot is one of our favorites.

 

Sparkle Stories (https://sparklestories.com/) is another great a resource for emotionally intelligent audiostories for children. They offer a variety of audio stories that inspire children to play, marvel, laugh, and be kind.

Cooperative games are a great way to promote emotional intelligence, create connection, and build a sense of community, and  Hoot Owl Hoot is one of our favorites. Peaceable Kingdom Games encourage children and families to work together, and in working together they either all win or all lose...and no matter what, they can all have fun.

Sparkle Stories (https://sparklestories.com/) is another great a resource for emotionally intelligent audiostories for children. They offer a variety of audio stories that inspire children to play, marvel, laugh, and be kind.

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