Building Confidence in Children With SEL Books

Books with relatable characters help children feel less alone and empower them to solve problems in their everyday lives.

Jan 13, 2023



Building Confidence in Children With SEL Books

Jan 13, 2023

If you’re helping your child navigate complicated feelings, books are a great resource for allowing your child to unpack what they’re going through. Books with characters who mirror their feelings not only remind your child that they’re not alone, but also equip them with confidence to tackle problems.

Reading about feelings also creates a safe space where your child can set their stress and anxiety aside even if for a few minutes. (Learn more about how to make reading fun for your child.)

Here, a Scholastic expert breaks down how books about feelings can help boost your child’s confidence — plus, tips for finding the best reads for processing emotions.

Find Characters Whose Experiences Mirror Your Child’s

Through social and emotional learning (SEL), children learn the skills they need to engage with others successfully and form healthy relationships. You may not realize it, but many of the books you read together during your nightly read-aloud promote SEL concepts: building self-esteem, regulating emotions such as anger, showing kindness to others, and learning how to be empathetic toward others’ emotions and experiences. 

By reading SEL-themed books about feelings, your child sees that everyone experiences — and must process — the same emotions. Children learn that it’s OK to feel this way, and that the emotions are just temporary. Without feeling shame for their emotions, your child becomes empowered to take control of them. 

Children can see how much relief a character gets from identifying, sharing, and accepting their feelings. This inspires them to move forward with tackling their own problems. 

So when you’re choosing books about feelings, look for books that allow children to view a problem through multiple perspectives, says Karen Baicker, Executive Director of the Yale Child Study Center–Scholastic Collaborative for Child & Family Resilience, and Publisher for Family and Community Engagement (FACE) at Scholastic Education Solutions.

“Multiple perspectives can mean the perspectives of different characters, or through the main character’s shifts in perspective throughout the book,” she says.

After you’ve finished a story, be prepared to talk about the steps each character took to resolve their problems and how your child feels about the ending.

“Let your child talk through those different perspectives, and add their own perspective as well,” Baicker says. “The ability to understand multiple perspectives is important not just for SEL, but for creating an empathetic society.”

There are also many benefits of reading and talking about feelings.

Build Relationships With Both Early Readers and Independent Readers

The simple act of reading together gives the youngest readers a confidence boost.

“The read-aloud offers a shared experience through literacy: You are building relationships and community by coming together around a book,” Baicker says. “The read-aloud builds confidence, too, by offering the rewards of a literacy experience regardless of reading level.”

Older, more independent readers will find an opportunity for deeper reflection. 

“Independent reading about feelings builds a child’s confidence by allowing them to see themselves and think about others more closely as they read,” she says.

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Confidence and Self-Esteem