Kimm Renaud is an Elementary School Counsellor at CIS, with over 20 years experience in Elementary Education.

There is no question that reading with and to our children has benefits to their learning. But did you know that reading has a demonstrated benefit to your child’s social and emotional well-being also?

Increased Comprehension

Quiet reading time provides a safe space to talk through challenges and emotions. Pointing out the emotional life of characters in stories helps comprehension, builds vocabulary and is a great way to understand what’s going on in your child’s life. It’s both a teachable moment and an opportunity for us to learn more about our children’s emotional and social development.

Many of the books in our CIS library have been purchased, not just because they are high quality books with excellent illustrations, but also because the stories reflect the whole range of human emotions and provide ways that we can better understand others and ourselves. They help to develop important social skills such as kindness and empathy and they provide a great way to broach difficult subjects with younger students.

For example: “Chopsticks” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Scott Magoon is a charming story about best friends who learn the importance of being an individual but sticking together. It also encourages creativity and contains some delightful puns that are entertaining for adults as well.

“Spoon” by the author and illustrator of “Chopsticks” continues the theme of embracing our differences and of not comparing ourselves to others. Spoon has always been happy but lately he’s feeling a bit sad: he thinks that Fork, Knife and Chopsticks can do all of these wonderful things that he can’t do. Life would be so much better if only he were more like them. Or would it?

“Square Cat” lives in a round world and feels left out and alone. Lots of things were difficult for Square Cat and she felt sad. With the help of friends and some creativity, Square Cat realized the benefits of being square and learned to embrace her difference!

“A Colour of Ones Own” is another story of embracing one’s difference and of learning to share our troubles with trusted friends and adults. We have used this book to complement our Social Studies program and help younger students to understand the importance of telling an adult if they have a problem.

Emotional Development

A book doesn’t have to be directly related to a child’s lived experience to lend itself to social and emotional learning. Through story we help our students to pay attention to how characters are feeling; to why they might be feeling that way; and to different ways the main character can engage their inner resources and trusted supports to negotiate difficult feelings. It also provides a great opportunity to build emotional intelligence and “emotional vocabulary”. “This person looks angry! But I wonder if it’s really because she’s frustrated. Let’s see what she does to solve her problem.”

Using illustrations and passages from the story to highlight emotions is called “emotional identification” and is a great way to reinforce emotional intelligence. Point out facial expressions, body language, behaviors and specific words. “Oh dear! I can see that he’s hanging his head. I think he might be feeling ashamed! What do you think? Let’s read on and find out.”

Ask Questions

When reading for social and emotional learning we want to ask open-ended questions and do a lot of listening. Questions like: “What do you think (character) is feeling now? What makes you think that? What did (character do) to make their problem smaller. What did the other characters do to help? If that were you what would you do? Have you ever felt that way? If you were (character’s) friend what advice would you give?

Bonding through reading has both academic and social emotional benefits. It’s like the chicken and egg: Does reading with your child promote academic achievement or do strong reading skills develop social and emotional learning? The answer is Yes!

Reading with and to our children sets them on a path to reading literacy and to social emotional literacy as well.

Enjoy The Shared Experience With Your Child

Remember! There are no right or wrong answers here. It’s just about enjoying the bonding experience and sharing moments of shared understanding and delight. You may be surprised at the wisdom of children and the interesting solutions that they come up with when you engage them in understanding the emotional life of characters in stories.

The CIS library contains over 15,000 books that promote social/emotional learning for your child to enjoy!

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