3 Ways Books Teach Kids to Cope With Negative Emotions Like Frustration

The right read soothes nerves and helps your child feel seen.

Aug 12, 2022



3 Ways Books Teach Kids to Cope With Negative Emotions Like Frustration

Aug 12, 2022

When anger and frustration strike, books can help kids feel understood and assure them that they’re not alone in their feelings. Whether it’s a disagreement with friends or a shakeup in routine, children turn to their favorite characters for comfort and to see how relatable struggles are resolved on the page. 

For example, some parents whose children are returning to in-person learning and activities after time away may find their child acting out in the classroom. Many children who have grown accustomed to having their needs met at home are finding it stressful to spend the entire day at school; they also face new social challenges. 

“Many children feel anxiety about their academic skills, about navigating peer groups, and about separating from their families,” 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.

Here, she explains how books can help your child regulate their emotions, in and out of the classroom.

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1. Books Can Ease Anxiety

Steady routines — like reading for 20 minutes a night — can ease anxiety in children who are experiencing periods of transition or developmental shifts.

“There are strategies for calming children who are being flooded with chemicals related to stress," Baicker says. "A book can be one useful tool in self-regulation.” 

Whether you read aloud to your child or read independently in the same room, these sessions serve to calm and soothe. 

“Reading together with a family member can help co-regulate and calm both parties down, as well as reinforce a close bond,” Baicker says.

2. Books Are Mirrors for Children’s Experiences

Teachers and experts agree: The best kids’ books are those that make their reader feel seen. For every feeling your child experiences, there’s a just-right book that will help them navigate their emotions — and give them a boost of self-esteem when needed.

“Books can be so helpful to children of any age,” Baicker says. “Make sure your child’s home library contains books that reflect diversity and allow them to see themselves in the characters.”

It’s important to provide a variety of books so your child can choose what interests them. According to the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report, almost 90 percent of kids enjoy the books they choose themselves.

Book content should be comfortably accessible and within the child’s reading abilities, “so that the act of reading is not itself an additional stress,” Baicker adds.

If your child loves a book so much that they want to reread it several times, that’s OK! Rereading a book builds fluency — the skill of reading at a proper pace and smoothly — so your child can focus on the meaning of the story.

3. Books Show How to Be Supportive of Others

Beyond seeing themselves in books, children can discover what it means to support one another through hard times. 

 “You want to look for other characters who model supportive behaviors, so that children can learn to turn to their network of teachers, friends, and families — and learn to be that trusted friend or family member for others as well,” Baicker says.

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