Books That Promote Emotional Intelligence (Updated Frequently)

In the last several years, there seems to have been a shift in parenting and teaching styles that includes instruction and promotes conversation surrounding a child’s emotional intelligence and emotional capacities. There are countless books that instruct adults on how to give children room to express their emotions in a way that allows them to understand their emotions more completely. I certainly advocate for this kind of awareness, particularly when it is in service of one’s neighbor and of one’s self. Understanding our emotions is a long and complicated journey, and one that needs multiple tools and strategies for parents and teachers to utilize as they seek to build such characteristics in children. If you are on this endeavor, below you will find a list of books that serve this purpose. Personally, I tend to stay away from books that are overtly directed toward this cause, like a “Sharing is Caring” type of story. I don’t gravitate toward these kinds of books because I feel that they eliminate the important job of the adult when they read to children: to model a level of engagement with the book that is thoughtful and attentive. Essentially, books with such a simple purpose allows the adult to disengage and not properly mediate the story for the child. Instead, I usually look for books that ask me, as the adult reader, to engage with the book through questions, observations, and connections.

In My Heart by Jo Witek

This book is a great one to start with when working toward teaching emotions. It will begin to build the language and vocabulary surrounding the many emotions a child may experience. Though it certainly falls into a more simplistic approach in regards to emotions, I believe it is an important tool to utilize when working to build a foundation in which to build off.

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The Perfect Birthday Recipe by Katy Hudson

This may be an unlikely choice for a list like this, but I believe this book can prompt rich conversations about expectations and how to pay attention to and understand a friend’s perspective. This is a book driven by narrative that approaches a variety of emotions through specific circumstances. Because of this, it allows for more natural conversations to occur when you are engaging a child with this book. It is a great read for early readers who understand emotions in a slightly more complicated manner.

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If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

The illustrations in this book along with its simple, thoughtful narrative is a great tool to use when approaching conversations about selfishness and generosity. It is a story that relies heavily on a strong metaphor, making it a great candidate for interesting conversations and connections. Use this book with a student or child to understand the consequences of actions through the story and help them make connections from the characters to their own lives. 

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