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The Importance of Picture Books in Understanding Emotions

This week is Children's Mental Health Week with Place2Be, and its theme this year is 'Let's Connect'. It is a significant opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of mental well-being for children. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it's never too early to start teaching children about their emotions and how to navigate them. One of the best ways to help children understand emotions can be through picture books.

Picture books are a powerful tool for helping children understand and process their emotions. They not only provide a safe and accessible way for children to explore complex feelings and concepts but can also help children understand their own emotions and those of others, which in turn helps them develop empathy and emotional intelligence.

Reading picture books together is a great way to start a conversation and provide a safe and comfortable space for children to explore and understand their emotions. Children are sometimes more willing to talk about their feelings if they have a picture book as a starting point.

The National Literacy Trust has a wonderful toolkit: Parents as partners: How to get families reading together in the early years, and has conducted several studies on the relationship between reading and children's mental health. These findings highlight the important role that reading can play in supporting children's mental health and well-being. By encouraging children to read for enjoyment and providing them with access to age-appropriate and engaging books, we can help them develop essential life skills and foster positive mental health:

  • A study by the National Literacy Trust found that children who read regularly are more likely to have good mental health and well-being compared to those who don't read.

  • The study also found that children who read for enjoyment are three times more likely to have high levels of well-being compared to those who don't read for enjoyment.

  • Reading has also been found to have a positive impact on children's emotional literacy, empathy, and understanding of mental health.

  • Reading has also been found to have a calming effect on children, reducing stress and anxiety. This is especially important for children who may be struggling with mental health issues.

Children's Mental Health Week is an excellent opportunity to talk with children about emotions and mental well-being, and picture books are a wonderful tool to help children understand and process their emotions, and to foster open communication and empathy. So why not grab a book, snuggle up, and start exploring emotions together?

We’ve put together a list of picture books that our family have found are great for helping young children understand emotions and mental well-being. The links below are for our shop; however, we’d encourage you to order from your local library which means the whole community gets the benefit.

The Calicolour Cat by Curtis Ackie & Sydney Jackson - A joy-to-read-aloud adventure which is a perfect introduction to how all our emotions are essential.

Barbara Throws A Wobbler by Nadia Shireen - A brilliant and hilarious book about having a "wobbler" or a "sulk", or a "seethe" filled with humour and empathy.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers - This book tells the story of a young girl who locks her heart away after a loved one dies. She discovers that by letting others in, she can heal and find happiness again.

The Hug Machine by Scott Campbell - This book tells the story of a young boy who loves to give hugs and helps spread happiness and comfort to those around him.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman - This book is a celebration of diversity and inclusiveness, and promotes the message that everyone should feel accepted and loved, no matter what.

We're All Wonders by R.J. Palacio - This book is based on the popular novel "Wonder" and encourages children to embrace their differences and treat others with kindness and respect.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees - This book tells the story of a giraffe named Gerald who learns to embrace his differences and find his own rhythm.

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang - This book tells the story of a grumpy monkey who learns to let go of his negativity and embrace joy and happiness.

*Information from The National Literacy Trust's studies on the relationship between reading and children's mental health comes from various reports and studies published by the National Literacy Trust, a UK-based charity focused on improving literacy levels in the UK. The specific studies and reports can be found on the National Literacy Trust's website:

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