22 Mental Health Books Every Kid Should Read

Mother reading book to boys while lying on bed at home

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It can be difficult to ask a four-year-old to describe their feelings. They might be able to tell you they’re happy or unhappy but what about everything in between?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to perceive, express, evaluate, and manage emotions. It is a set of skills that allows a person to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.

Research has shown that helping children develop their emotional intelligence has been associated with many benefits. Some of the benefits include:

  • Stronger relationships: Kids who have higher emotional intelligence are able to resolve conflict better and connect with others on a deeper level.
  • Protective against mental health issues: A higher emotional intelligence has been shown to improve kids’ mental health and lower their risk of experiencing depression, loneliness, and other mental illnesses.
  • Improved lifelong success: Children who have stronger social and emotional skills are more likely to obtain postsecondary education and be employed full-time by the age of 25. 

Children who have the skills and abilities to manage difficult feelings can stay calm during heated situations and express their emotions healthily. In turn, they can make friends easier, navigate interpersonal conflict better, feel more confident in social situations, and cultivate strong relationships with others.

This article provides a round-up of 22 kid-friendly books that parents, teachers, and caregivers can use to help kids make sense of their feelings.

Books to Help Kids Express Their Emotions

These books will help encourage kids to express their emotions by identifying their feelings and normalizing how they communicate them.

1. In My Heart: A Book of Feelings

Written by Jo Witek

In My Heart

Google

In this book suitable for kids ages 3 to 6, a little girl talks about how her heart is full of feelings. It helps kids explore and identify emotions such as anger, bravery, sadness, and happiness by describing how they could feel physically. For instance, “Some days my heart feels as heavy as an elephant. There’s a dark cloud over my head and tears fall like rain. This is when my heart is sad.”

2. My Many Colored Days

Written by Dr. Seuss

My Many Colored Days

Google

This book helps kids learn about their colors and identify their feelings through the colors. It provides young children ages 3 to 5 with the foundation to describe their emotions while normalizing how they can communicate about the way they feel. 

3. Ping

Written by Ani Castillo

Ping

Google

This book uses the metaphor of the “pings” we send out and “pongs” we receive in our digital communication and how we cannot control what, when, and how others respond to us. "Ping" helps kids ages 4 to 8 improve their social-emotional awareness, learn about what their feeling and why and help inspire them to express themselves without fear.

4. Where Oliver Fits

Written by Cale Atkinson

Where Oliver Fits

Google

In "Where Oliver Fits," Oliver is a puzzle piece who is trying to figure out where he fits. He tries to fit in with all the cool puzzles but they say he’s not round enough or red enough. He begins to change the way he looks so he can fit in but no matter what he does, the other puzzles still don’t accept him. This book helps kids aged 3 to 7 learn the importance of expressing themselves authentically and not being afraid to hide their true thoughts and feelings.

5. Kevin the Unicorn: It's Not All Rainbows 

Written by Jessika Von Innerebner

Kevin the Unicorn

Google

Everyone assumes unicorns are always happy and perfect. However, this book shares the story of Kevin’s bad day. He tries to stay positive but everything keeps getting worse as his day goes on. This book helps kids learn about how it’s okay to not be okay, the importance of expressing their emotions, and that they are not alone in their feelings as everyone struggles, even unicorns.

6. How Are You Feeling Today, Baby Bear?

By Jane Evans

How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear?
https://twitter.com/janeparenting2/status/1214856339035447296.

Jane Evans

This book was written to help children aged 2 to 6 who have lived with domestic violence at home. The story follows Baby Bear who experiences a stormy night at home with Big Bears. In the morning, Baby Bear experiences big and difficult emotions. The book teaches children to explore, name, and discuss difficult emotions. It includes notes, fun games and activities for adults to use to start conversations about expressing their feelings with their kids.

7. The Way I Feel

Written by Janan Cain

The Way I Feel

Google

This is a simple book that introduces kids to what feelings are and when someone might feel that way. It is suitable for children as young as 2 years old. The book includes notes in the back that aim to help parents open the conversation about feelings with their kids. The book helps children describe their emotions and emphasizes that feelings are a normal part of life.

8. Glad Monster, Sad Monster

Written by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda

Glad Monster Sad Monster

Google

This book provides a fun and interactive experience for kids to identify the emotions they’re feeling and express them. There are foldout pages that the adult or the child can “wear.” Each mask is of a different monster displaying a different emotion. 

9. Listening to My Body

Written by Gabi Garcia

Listening To My Body

Google

"Listening to My Body" helps kids understand that their bodies can feel differently depending on the situation. It makes the connection between identifying emotions and the body sensations that accompany them. The book was written by a licensed professional counselor and it helps children learn how to self-regulate, develop emotional resilience and practice mindfulness.

Books to Help Kids Understand Anxious Feelings and Worries

These books aim to teach kids how to face their difficult feelings such as anxiety and nervousness and that it's okay to feel them.

10. Grumpy Monkey Party Time

Written by Suzanne Lang

Grumpy Monkey Party Time!

Google

This book follows Jim Panzee, who is invited to a party but feels anxious about going because he can’t dance. However, with the help of others and some courage to express himself, Jim Panzee is able to face his fears and speak his truth. It teaches kids that social anxiety is normal and that people can feel nervous about different things, but it’s essential to speak up when things feel uncomfortable.

11. When Molly Drew Dogs

Written by Deborah Kerbel

When Molly Drew Dogs

Google

The story is set on the day before Molly starts her first day of school. She’s feeling anxious and the anxiety is portrayed as a bunch of stray dogs inside her head, cluttering her thoughts. Molly begins to draw dogs everywhere to feel better. This book teaches kids about how expressing themselves through art can be a helpful coping mechanism when they’re feeling anxious or nervous.  

12. I’m Worried

Written by Michael Ian Black

I'm Worried book

Google

The story is about a potato who is worried about everything. He shares his feelings with his friends and expects them to tell him everything will be okay; however, they don’t. Instead, they tell him that feelings can be good even when they don’t feel that way and that they’ll always be there for him to help him through those bad feelings. This book helps kids ages 4 to 8 understand how they can validate someone’s emotions and encourages them to share their worries with others.

13. Whimsy’s Heavy Things

Written by Julie Kraulis

Whimsy's Heavy Things

Google

This book is about a girl named Whimsy who has heavy things that weigh her down. She tries to get rid of them by sweeping them under the rug and sailing them out to sea. However, they always come back. Whimsy realizes she needs to deal with each heavy thing one at a time. This book teaches kids about how they can change things when they face difficulties in life.

14. Noni is Nervous

Written by Heather Hartt-Sussman

Noni is Nervous

Google

From playdates, her first day of school, to global warming, Noni’s worried about everything going wrong. Then she meets a friend who has a different perspective and helps her feel a little less worried. This book teaches 2 to 5-year-olds about how friendships can help us deal with our nervous feelings and anxious thoughts. 

Books to Help Kids Understand Sad Feelings

These books help kids learn that although sadness may be scary and uncomfortable, feeling unhappy doesn't mean they need to get over it.

15. What’s Up, Maloo?

Written by Geneviève Godbout

What's Up Maloo

Google

This book follows Maloo, a kangaroo who loves to hop. But on this day, he’s stepping instead of hopping. His friends help him bounce back. It introduces kids to feelings of sadness and depression and teaches them that friends can be there for each other during times of need.

16. When Sadness Is at Your Door 

Written by Eva Eland

When sadness is at your door

Google

In this book, sadness is depicted as a visitor with a face and shape. It helps kids understand that sadness doesn’t have to be scary and confusing when they are able to identify and name what it is. It offers various activities for the reader to do when they’re feeling sad without encouraging them to “get over it”. 

17. Taking a Bath with a Dog and Other Things That Make Me Happy

Written by Scott Menchin

Taking a bath with the dog

Google

The story follows a little girl who is in a funk. She asks around to see what others like to do when they’re feeling this way. This book helps introduce young kids to the idea of doing things that make them happy when they’re feeling sad and teaches them that they can find joy in the simplest things. 

Books to Help Kids Understand Angry Feelings

These books help kids identify how their body feels when they are angry, manage their frustration, teach them how to cope when they lose their temper, and how to feel less angry.

18. When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry…

Written by Molly Bang

When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry

Google

The story follows Sophie, who is really angry and wants to explode like a volcano. She kicks, screams, and roars. Then she cries and goes outside for a bit to feel better. This book helps young children understand that feeling angry and frustrated is normal, but it won’t always be like that.

19. Sometimes I’m Bombaloo

Written by Rachel Vail

Sometimes I'm Bombaloo

Google

Katie Honors is typically well-behaved but sometimes gets so mad she isn’t herself. She becomes Bombaloo. Instead of words, she uses her hands and feet to express herself. With the love of Mom and a time-out, Katie is able to get back to her regular self. This book teaches kids how to cope when they lose their temper and how their behavior can affect the whole family.

20. Mouse Was Mad

Written by Linda Urban

Mouse Was Mad

Google

Mouse is angry and doesn’t know how to deal with it. He tries to copy how others express their anger, such as hopping like a hare and stomping like a bear. However, he realizes that standing quietly still is the right way for him. This book helps young children understand that there are different ways to express their feelings and encourages them to find their own way to feel less angry.

Books About Boys and Their Feelings

Males are more likely to suppress their feelings because society has stereotyped the ideal man to be stone cold, tough, and emotionless. These books redefine what tough and brave mean for boys by teaching them to embrace their feelings and making them feel safe expressing them.

21. Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too)

Written by Keith Negley

Tough Guys Have Feelings Too

Google

This book shows different tough guys expressing their emotions. From ninjas, and wrestlers to knights and superheroes, everyone can feel sad, even dads. It helps young kids recognize their feelings and normalizes showing emotion.

22. Big Boys Cry

Written by Jonty Howley

Big Boys Cry

Google

The story follows a little boy who is nervous about his first day of school. His father tells him that big boys don’t cry. The boy tries not to but during the day, he sees many grown men crying and expressing their sad feelings. When he comes home, his father is waiting for him with tears. His father apologizes for giving him the wrong advice and admits he was feeling scared because he didn’t know how to comfort his son. This book helps reverse the societal messages that boys aren’t allowed to cry and encourages them to express their full range of emotions.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Davis SK, Nowland R, Qualter P. The role of emotional intelligence in the maintenance of depression symptoms and loneliness among children. Front Psychol. 2019;0.

  3. Jones DE, Greenberg M, Crowley M. Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. Am J Public Health. 2015;105(11):2283–2290. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302630

By Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
Katharine is the author of three books (How To Deal With Asian Parents, A Brutally Honest Dating Guide and A Straight Up Guide to a Happy and Healthy Marriage) and the creator of 60 Feelings To Feel: A Journal To Identify Your Emotions. She has over 15 years of experience working in British Columbia's healthcare system, leading patient safety incident investigations, quality and systems improvement projects, and change management initiatives within mental health, emergency health services, and women's health. Her expertise in facilitating, storytelling, coaching, and promoting tough and honest conversations provides the foundation for her site, Sum (心,♡) on Sleeve.