When looking back on the education you received growing up, do you ever wish you learned more about things that were simply glossed over?
Things like how to have hard conversations, self-identity, or maybe even a nutrition class to save yourself all that money trying trendy diets.
You can’t go back in time, but you can determine the gaps in your own education and let that inform what you teach your children. These days, it’s even more important to teach children about the intricacies of life.
Just take a look at news headlines — fires, violence, political discourse, the list goes on. While these topics may seem like ones to avoid in conversation with your kids, it’s important to be prepared for them. Oftentimes, they’re already having discussions around these hard-hitting issues with peers.
You can’t control what your children hear while out in the world, but you can make sure they stay informed and empathetic, in an age-appropriate format.
Why not start with storybooks?
Books are a tried-and-true way to educate, inspire, and entertain children. And there are plenty of books out there to help give your children insight on experiences outside their own so they can be prepared for just about anything.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite books that help kids learn about tough topics. Help your children become even more confident, well-informed, and emotionally intelligent by adding them to your family reading list.
Best Books for Toddlers
Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer (Ages 1-3)
Toddlers are taught manners — don’t hit, wipe your nose with a tissue instead of your hand, the list goes on. But how often do we take the time to explore kindness and all the beautiful things it can lead to, including the joy of a supportive community?
Kindness Makes Us Strong follows kids like yours through everyday scenarios where they get the opportunity to give kindness a try.
Whether it’s comforting a discouraged friend during playtime, being patient when it’s someone else’s turn, or giving a pet a nice gentle pat, this book gives your kids ideas for how to use kindness in their everyday lives. After all, a kind community is a strong community!
My Food, Your Food, Our Food by Emma Carlson Berne (Ages 1-4)
Food is a universal unifier. Whether we eat with chopsticks or a fork, on the ground or at a table, one thing stands true — we all need (and love) food!
My Food, Your Food, Our Food takes your children on an exploration to learn about how different cultures and families make and eat food.
While they learn about the differences between everyone, they also learn about the things that we all share — like the need for a loving community and nourishing food.
The SlumberKins Resilience Book Set (Ages 0+)
As much as you’d love to be there any time your child encounters a hard situation, there are many times they’ll have to depend on their own instincts and education to problem-solve. What you can do is make sure they have the tools when those situations come.
The Slumberkins Resilience Book Set does just that. The books feature fun, fluffy characters that address crucial topics: self-soothing, dealing with big life transitions, tapping into creativity, self-expression, and grief.
You may not have the exact script for every tough topic your child will encounter, but these books are a great start!
Best Books for Preschoolers
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas (ages 3-5)
Racism can happen at any age, and it’s never too early to educate your children on it.
Our Skin is a part of a First Conversations series. The series is a collaboration of early childhood experts in order to create a safe place to examine tough topics with kids.
The book first examines what racism looks like — saying only people with white skin can play a game, or only blonde people can be princesses.
It then explains the consequences, and the damage it can cause for both individuals and communities.
Finally, it shares what kids can do about racism at any age, like naming it when they see it or learning more about other cultures and histories.
My Body Sends a Signal by Natalia Maguire (Ages 3-5)
How many times a day do you find yourself telling your toddler or preschooler to “use their words” instead of whining or throwing things? If it’s more than once a day, don’t worry — you’re not alone.
Sometimes, you need backup. This is where fantastic books like this come in handy.
My Body Sends a Signal comprehensively walks children through the process of feeling an emotion, recognizing it, then communicating it.
It even includes hands-on activities so they can practice in real-time. Next stop: emotional intelligence!
The World Needs Who You Were Made To Be by Joanna Gaines (Ages 4-8)
Best-selling author Joanna Gaines is at it again with another memorable children’s story. And let’s be honest — the title alone is enough to make you tear up, so have a box of tissues handy while you read.
The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be uses brightly colored illustrations and poetic yet accessible language to show children just how fantastic they are.
In learning to embrace both what makes them unique and what unites them with others, your children will learn to do the same for their community.
Books for Elementary School Kids
Ravi’s Roar by Tom Percival (Ages 5-8)
One of the keys to emotional intelligence is to be able to recognize the feelings you have and develop a formula for how to deal with them. Especially feelings that can cause you to hurt yourself or your relationships, like anger.
In Ravi’s Roar, children learn how to deal with anger by doing just that.
Ravi is having a tough time. Everything he wants to do seems to be too hard. He can’t reach the monkey bars, his friends are way too good at hiding during hide-and-seek, and he’s not allowed to go down the big kid slide.
Nothing seems to be working in Ravi’s favor, and that makes him mad. He decides to become a tiger. A mean, roaring one that won’t share. But is it really fun to be a big, mean tiger if you scare away all your friends?
Ravi needs a new way to share that he’s feeling upset. Maybe you and your child can help!
Don’t Touch My Hair! By Sharee Miller (Ages 4-9)
Don’t Touch My Hair, like other books on our list, highlights the magical things that make your kids unique. What makes the book extra special, though, is the added element of consent.
Aria loves her very special, curly hair. What she doesn’t like is having to dodge hands that are always trying to touch it — sometimes without even asking. Soon enough Aria just wants her space!
She tries a few different methods to escape all the unwanted touches. But hiding never works. No matter where she goes, she faces the same issue.
During a family party, Aria can’t take it anymore. She tells her family’s friends exactly how she’s been feeling. She tells them she’s tired of being pet and asks that they ask permission to touch her. They respectfully agree, and Aria can be at ease again when enjoying her adventures.
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf (Ages 8-12)
Your kids will feel an immediate bond with the main character in this story — an inquisitive, funny, and all-too-relatable young girl learning where she stands in social scenarios. She knows rich kids and not-so-rich kids, kids who are good at spelling, and others who are good at math. She’s fascinated by everyone’s differences.
One person who especially intrigues our hero is Ahmet, a Syrian refugee. Ahmet is quiet and shy, and often gets teased for it. But the narrator can’t help but want to learn more about him.
After learning what it means to be a refugee, the narrator decides it’s time to take a stand to help Ahmet enjoy his time in his new home, and make friends who care about him. She teams up with a couple reliable pals to help give Ahmet get the welcome he deserved all along.
The Power of Empathy for Kids
These wonderful books are an ode to what makes a caring person — self-love, education, communication, and at the heart of it all, empathy.
These lessons lead to healthier, more authentic connections for your children. Not only does it help them gain friends and become closer to family, but it helps them reap the health benefits of having a life filled with love.
Teaching your children healthy connections with themselves and others goes far beyond reading them books. You’ll need to make sure they have hands-on experiences, too.
Keep the lessons in empathy effective yet fun by enrolling your children in a gymnastics class.
Classes like dance and gymnastics can help your child:
- Build empathy by sharing experiences and goals with others in their class
- Learn healthy ways of self-expression
- Fight depression by connecting with others and engaging in activities that boost good-mood brain chemicals
Between these wonderful books, some fun classes with new friends, and all the love you show them, your kids are on a path to one fulfilling life.