It's no secret that reading to young children on a regular basis can help increase their vocabulary and aid in their cognitive development. In fact, children who read with their parents are more likely to achieve in all school subjects, not just English. However, did you know that literature can also help children understand emotions and develop socially?
According to the American Psychological Association, a child's mental health plays an immense role in his or her ability to interact with others, perform physically, and succeed in various areas of achievement. Teasing, a lack of self-confidence, childhood depression, and many different psychological issues can take a toll on young minds.
As parents, the best way to help your children understand what emotions they're coping with is to discuss mental health in a kid-friendly context. That's often easier said than done. So, to help you work with your child on understanding the human mind, many authors have written children's books that tackle mental health struggles in lighthearted but effective manners. Here are a few great options you can check out.
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Little Vanessa's sister, Virginia, has been in such a strange mood. She's howling fiercely, and nothing Vanessa does seems to cheer her up. Still, Vanessa keeps trying, and before long she's transformed their bedroom walls into something fantastical. The book is supposedly based on the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. Maclear presents an uplifting story that helps children understand empathy and anger, as well as how people use art as an emotional outlet.
Hey Warrior: A Book for Kids About Anxiety by Karen Young
Young believes that children can do amazing things if they're only given the right information. That's why her illustrated book tackles the powerful symptoms of anxiety and how kids can feel empowered. She explains the subject without talking down to children, but the book is still easy for children to understand at a young age.
The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Fox lives in a frightfully dark forest, but a beautiful Star lights the sky and his adventures in the rain. When the Star suddenly disappears, Fox feels incredibly cold and alone. He embarks on a wondrous journey in search of his missing Star, and he meets a few new friends along the way. The story is told through gorgeous animations, and children can learn about being brave even when you feel entirely alone in the world.
Catch a Falling Star by Gayle Grass
This book is a beautiful introduction to the world of mental health through the story of a boy named Fish and a fantastical dragon. Grass tactfully addresses a variety of symptoms that could be considered red flags in a child's emotional development. Her story also helps children understand the importance of communication with others and social sharing.
The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones
Jones has created a child-friendly novel that tackles an extremely difficult and abstract concept: depression. The Princess had everything she could ever want and was happy... until the cloud rolled in and took her happiness away. The vibrant artwork and carefully-chosen words can help children struggling with depression relate to the young princess. Additionally, the book comes with an essential guide for parents and caregivers that was developed by clinical psychologists.
Mile High Apple Pie by Laura Langston, Illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner
Moving and poignant, this kid's book tells the story of a little girl who loves her grandmother very much. Unfortunately, Grandma is having more and more trouble remembering things as she ages, and the little girl doesn't understand why. Langston describes Alzheimer's disease in a way that young readers can understand while also capturing the magic of a granddaughter and grandmother's relationship.
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer
Sometimes, you don't know why you're grumpy. It's just a grumpy day, and Penguin is having one. No matter what he does, he can't shake the nasty feelings. Messer's simple text and fun pictures can help children learn about dealing with grumpy moods, even when nothing is really wrong. The best thing to do? Just wash the grumpy day away!
Up and Down the Worry Hill by Aureen Pinto Wagner, Ph.D.
More than one million children and adolescents in the United States suffer from OCD. The disease can be extremely debilitating, especially for a young child who doesn't understand the mental struggle they are facing. Dr. Wagner attempts to help children deal with their anxiety and OCD through a heart-warming tale about Worry Hill. She addresses treatments and emotion in a child-friendly manner, and she also created a companion book for parents.
Do you know of other children's books that address mental health? Leave suggestions for other parents in the comments below!