Recently I wrote a post on the Slow to Warm Up child. I looked for some books that might help them to feel seen and also feel inspired to try new things.
Lots of books and videos are about the bold, brave extroverts. But, there are some great stories about slow to warm up kids who overcome their caution and go on big adventures or take on challenges that scare them. Look for stories where a shy or quiet or cautious or worried child tries something new or finds their voice but doesn’t have to change who they are. These stories can help these kids know they’re not alone and give them more confidence about trying new things.
When No One is Watching by Spinelli. (Read-Aloud.) The narrator talks about all the bold, brave, fun things she does when no one is watching. But then she hides all that when any one is looking at her. Until she finds a special friend who she feels comfortable with, and can do everything with.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Lovell, illus Catrow. (Read-Aloud.) Molly Lou is short, and has buck teeth, and an unusual voice – all things that might make people judge her but her grandmother teaches her to love all the unique things about herself. When she starts at a new school, she stands up for herself and finds her place.
Too Shy for Show-and-Tell by Bracken, illus Bell. (Read-aloud) Sam is a quiet boy who feels like no one knows anything about him. But he’s afraid to do show and tell. In the end, he does and makes friends. I would not read this to a child who wasn’t scared of doing show and tell (we don’t want to create a fear!) but it would be great for one who was.
The Invisible Boy by Ludwig, illus Barton. (Read-aloud.) This tells about a boy who feels invisible until a new friend notices his drawing skills. Good for an elementary school child who is feeling left out.
Willow’s Whispers by Button, illus Howell. (Read-aloud.) Willow’s voice always comes out in whispers – her teacher can’t hear when she asks for apple juice and gives her orange; a student can’t hear when she says “I’m playing with that” and takes the toy. Willow’s dad supports her, and she finds her voice. Good for 4 – 7 year olds who can’t find their voice.
Mary Wrightly, So Politely by Bridges, illus Monescillo. (read-aloud.) Mary is always polite. But she’s also so very quiet that many people don’t hear her. She learns to speak up loudly (but still politely) when she needs to in order to get a special present for her brother. For 4 – 7 year olds who need to learn to speak up.
What do you recommend?
These books are specifically written for kids who are challenged by their shyness, their worries, or their tendency to make themselves small. There are also quiet kids who like to observe before jumping in – not because they’re shy or worried, just because that’s how they like to do things… I’d love recommendations for books about those kinds of kids – please add comments!
Note: this post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on those links, then purchase an item on Amazon, I do receive a small referral bonus.
If you live in King County, Washington, you have access to one of the best public library systems in the entire country! And it’s all FREE of charge. Here’s an overview of the services they offer for parents with young children, both in person and online.
Going In Person
There are LOTS of library locations. (Click on that link for directions AND hours.) You may choose a favorite one to go to over and over, or you go on a grand tour to see them all! (When my kids were little, I did a weekly field trip that would include a different library and park each week.)
When you arrive, you can go to the children’s section – if you don’t see it right away, just ask someone to point you there. You can choose any book on the shelf and read it to your child then and there, or you can choose to take it home. If you want to check it out, you’ll need a library card. Just go to the information desk and they’ll help you set up an account. You can check out up to 100 books at a time! You can keep videos for up to 7 days and books for 28. You can often renew for longer. (More details on borrowing.) When you’re done with materials, return them to any branch of the KCLS library.
When my children were little, ee went to the library once a week. I allowed them each to have ten library books out at a time. We kept them on a special shelf at home. Before we went, they could choose which books they were ready to return, and which they wanted to keep a while longer. If they brought 3 back, they could get three new ones. If they brought all 10 back, they could get 10 new books that week.
On their website at https://kcls.org, you can search for any book you want. The results will look something like this:
You can choose a physical book (and sometimes a book with a CD of the book read aloud); an ebook that you can read on a browser or download to a device; or a downloadable audiobook.
If you choose an ebook or audiobook, and a copy is available now, you can download it right away. (Learn more about downloading e-books.) If a copy is not currently available, put it on hold, and you’ll get an email notification as soon as one is available to borrow.
If you want a physical book, then place a hold. You’ll then choose a library branch to have it delivered to for pick-up. There are lots of locations all over King County.
If no one else has requested it, you’ll typically have it within a week. If you see that there are something like 83 holds on 12 copies, you know it will be longer. When your book arrives, you’ll get an email. You can go to your library to pick up the book during business hours any time in the next week.
Once you’ve checked out a book, you have it for 28 days (21 days for e-books). You’ll get an email when it’s due. If you want it for longer, you can renew online, unless someone else has placed a hold on that book.
KCLS has books available in over 20 languages. You can do an advanced search that limits your results to books in that language. Learn more at: https://kcls.org/world-languages.
Online Resources available through KCLS
There are several libraries of online children’s e-books. We can access, for free:
If your family speaks a language other than English at home, they do have storytimes in some other languages, or the English storytimes offer a great opportunity for children (and parents!) to get more familiar with English.
In winter 2023, King County libraries are offering several story-times every single day at various branches across the county. For example, on Wednesdays you could attend story-time in Burien, Issaquah, Kirkland, Maple Valley, North Bend, Redmond or online. There are 8 online story-times every week, including ones in Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Tigrigna, and one that focuses on LGBTQ pride themes. Find the current schedule at https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/events.
There are several sections of this page – here’s what you’ll find:
Making Life Easier: tip sheets on how to turn events that are often challenging for parents into something more manageable or even enjoyable. Covers: Bedtime / Naptime, Diaper Changes, Going to the Doctor / Dentist, Holidays, and Errands.
Visual Schedules: how to use this powerful tool for teaching routines and expected behaviors: first you do this, then we’ll do that.
Backpack Connection Series: a way for teachers and parents/caregivers to work together to help young children develop social emotional skills and reduce challenging behavior. Handouts on four topics:
Emotional literacy includes being able to understand other people’s feelings, understand your own feelings, and know appropriate ways to express those feelings. One way to teach these skills to young children is by reading books about emotions. Here are some books that are suggested for 1 – 4 year olds.
These are all good books, well worth reading. Personally, rather than buying just one or two of them, I might get several from my library or find them online so we could learn the different lessons that different books have to teach. (Look here for more thoughts on Choosing Books for Children and resources for finding books online.)
When you read any of these books, read them with feeling! Use your voice, your facial expressions and your body language to illustrate / echo the feelings being described on the pages. Stop and discuss some pages with your child: “Have you ever felt that way?” “Remember yesterday, you felt like that… how do you feel today?” “I feel that way sometimes. When I feel that way, I ____.” “If you felt that way, what could you do?”
The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings by Llenas. Video. Great attractive illustrations that pop up! Monster’s feelings are all jumbled up, and they sort them out into jars. “This is sadness. It’s gentle and blue… when you’re sad, you might want to cry or be alone. This is anger. It blazes bright red. When you’re angry, you want to roar and shout… this is calm… all your feelings are in their places now. They are easier to understand when they’re not all mixed together.” It’s a nice approach to understanding the different types of feelings, and could be a good companion to some of the ideas about helping children understand the different intensities of feelings and zones of regulation, as I discuss in my Big Feelings post.
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr. Video. Colorful goofy illustrations. Each page shows one feeling: “Sometimes I feel brave… sometimes I feel like making mud pies… sometimes I feel lonely… sometimes I feel like trying something new…. No matter how you feel, don’t keep them to yourself… share them…” It’s just a nice sampling of all the different ways we can feel and how our feelings change and move on all the time.
When I Am / Cuando estoy (Bilingual) by Rosa-Mendoza. (Video) Nice illustrations of diverse children. Each page addresses an emotion and an action: “When I am angry, I stomp my feet… when I am sad, I hug my bear.” Nice simple overview – I would use it as a springboard to discuss other options for things they could do when they have those feelings.
How Do You Feel? by Browne. Video. “Sometimes I feel bored…. I feel confident, but I can also feel shy.” I like that at the end, it asks “how do you feel” and shows images from all the other pages that allows you to review the feelings. The illustrations of an anthropomorphic monkey do a nice job of illustrating the feelings with color, body language, and other visuals – like on the lonely page, he’s very small.
Lots of Feelings by Rotner. Video. “We have lots of feelings. Sometimes we feel happy. Sometimes sad. We feel angry at times. Loving other times.” Each page has multiple photos of diverse children showing the facial expressions and body language of that emotion. I like the end papers on this book that are filled with feeling words: kind, furious, enthusiastic, perturbed, and many more.
A Little Spot of… by Albers. One of my students recommended: A Little Spot of Feelings: Emotion Detective. (Video) She said she thought there were a LOT of feelings covered and it’s too much to read all at once, but her 3 year old has been referring back to it and talking about the feelings it describes, so she says maybe it’s a good reference book. It is part of a larger series: A Little Spot of Emotions is 8 books and matching plushies: anger, anxiety, confidence, happiness, love, peacefulness, sadness, and scribble (tangled). Reviewers talk about how when their children are having a hard time explaining their feelings, they will fetch the plushie that represents how they’re feeling. A Little Spot of Feelings books cover: belonging, boredom, calm, empathy, flexible thinking, frustration, worry, and the emotion detective. (You can get plushies separately.) I like the … Frustration book It talks about what you can and can’t control, and when you get frustrated you can choose to “flip” the feeling around. Check out the video.
Book series Feelings for Little Children, which includes When You’re Mad and You Know It by Crary or If You’re Angry And You Know It by Kaiser (video). These books can be sung to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It, and each gives options for a variety of ways to express that feeling. ” “blow air out,” “shake it out” and “give a shout.”
The book series called Let’s Look at Feelings. Video. It includes books like What I look like when I’m Scared, which shows photos of people looking frightened. It very concretely teaches expressions – “when I am scared, I pull my chin in and frown.” This might be most appropriate for children who really have a hard time intuiting people’s feelings and need this to be very literal, such as autistic children.
The Way I Feel Books books, like When I Feel Sad (video), or Angry (video) talk about some of the reasons someone might feel that way, lets them know it’s OK to feel that way, and that the feeling will pass. They’re great for age 3 – 5.
A Is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet by Boynton. Video. Although I’ve read HUNDREDS of books to my kids, I own only a very few favorites. This is one of my favorites. “A is for Angry Anteater, B is for Bashful Bear… O is for Outraged Opossum.” So fun to read… with feeling! It just teaches words / moods – doesn’t provide info on what to do with your feelings.
The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning has a long list Books for Supporting Social Emotional Development. They also have a Book Nook section on their website, where they have a selection of about 20 books, where each has a companion PDF including rhymes, songs, games and craft activities to reinforce the SEL lessons in the book. For example, the lesson plan to accompany I Can Share by Katz talks about group time activities, a song, center stations and activities for snack time and outdoors to reinforce sharing.
There are lots more options, like Today I feel silly by Curtis; The Way I Feel by Cain, My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, and Glad Monster / Sad Monster by Ed Emberley. Find more ideas in this list from Zero to Three. And here are more videos from the Feelings Channel.
I have lots more recommendations for books, including: toddler favorites, “books that sing”, books about science, children’s books about autism, and more. Find all the links at the bottom of my post on Choosing Books for Your Child.
Note: In the list above, the book title is an Amazon affiliate link which will take you to all the info on the book. If you then purchase anything on Amazon, I do get a small referral fee, with no additional cost for you. The “video” links are to YouTube videos where you can see the book and hear it read aloud. Some of these videos were created by people with permission to do so; others may be copyright violations – I encourage you to purchase the books you like best and support their authors and illustrators.