Top Ten Children’s Books with Mental & Behavioral Health Benefits

March 6, 2024
Hyesun Ahn

A recently published Ipsos research report on parenting, “What the Future: Parenting,” finds that mental health is now the top concern parents have as they’re raising children. Kate MacArthur, a research editor at Ipsos says, “Thinking about all the things that parents could worry about for their children, seeing that 40% of parents indicating that they are extremely or very worried their children will struggle with anxiety or depression is a key finding.”

At Children’s Institute (CII), the therapists that work with children are aware of the importance of addressing mental and behavioral health issues from an early age. Children are growing up in a time defined by one global crisis after another, on top of the everyday struggles of trying to be a kid navigating the world around them, which can magnify existing mental health issues.

Children’s Institute serves children that experience this in addition to having to cope with community violence and economic hardship. It may not be easy to talk about difficult emotions with children but there are books and resources that facilitate these conversations in safe, accessible ways.

The therapists, teachers and staff at Children’s Institute came up with a list of resources and books that facilitate these types of conversations between parent and child. Here are their recommendations.

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst

The Invisible String is a great book as it helps children cope with separation anxiety, loss and grief. The book can help a child when they experience the death of a family member and even in class, when they need support while missing home.

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek

This book helps children talk about their emotions and the issues they hold in their hearts. During the pandemic, I used this book to help kids verbalize their worries and anxieties, which helped facilitate those conversations.

Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean

The child in this book has a very bad day and his uncle, who is a sensei, teaches him about regulating his feelings. The book has important lessons to hold onto and it even includes a children’s activity to make a calming jar.

Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud

This book helps children develop empathy and kindness. My daughter’s school read this book and it became the basis for their school-wide program to help students empathize with their classmates.

El Libro de los Sentimientos (The Feelings Book) by Todd Parr

This beginner’s book illustrates the wide range of emotions humans – including children, can experience through the use of simple vocabulary and eye-catching illustrations. Instead of children bottling up their emotions, this book creates opportunities for your child to open up.

B is for Breathe: The ABCs of Coping by Dr. Melissa Munro Boyd

This book uses the ABCs in a way that helps children with coping skills to help manage their fussy and frustrating feelings. The story has fun illustrations which helps promote positive behaviors and self-regulating skills for children 2-5.

The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas

This story focuses on investigating feelings and introduces a method to help children identify their emotions. Children learn to identify their emotions by associating them with colors, helping them share how they are feeling.

The Bad Seed by Jory John

The Bad Seed introduces the concept of trauma and how it affects the way children think about themselves, behave and perceive others. Children can learn that positive changes are possible for each and every one of us.

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr

This book is helpful when children deal with heavy emotions such as grief and anguish. It’s a touching story that discusses loss and how it is okay to not know how to feel in those times while establishing a feeling of safety and support.

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

This Dr. Seuss book utilizes colors and animals to describe different moods and emotions. Reading this book helps children validate their emotional experiences and get back to their baseline.


Additional Resources for Caregivers:

Conscious Discipline

Social Stories – ABA Resources 

The Best Behavior Series

NASP’s Book List for Children Dealing with Trauma and Loss


*Many thanks to Dr. Brandi Eichstedt, Dr. Diane Elias, Odalys DeLeon, Ingrid Mürrle and Riley Solorzano for contributing to this list of books & resources.