Reading can help your child understand emotions
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
1. How can reading help battle loneliness?
2. How can reading improve self-esteem?
3. What if I don’t read that well or that often?
The famous TV personality Fred Rogers won over children on his series, “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” because he acknowledged their deep, complex feelings and gave them ways to cope.
“When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary,” he is quoted as saying. “The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we’re not alone.”
If you’re struggling with how to help your children express themselves, that help may lie within the pages of a book.
1. HOW CAN READING HELP BATTLE LONELINESS?
One strategy is to help your child develop seven strengths by connecting to the characters in their books, including friendship and kindness, says Kelly Gilbert, certified educator of K-5 Reading Intervention for the School District of Palm Beach County. She trains literacy volunteers to nurture students who embrace reading, known as super readers.
“The seven strengths help children access their emotions through connections to texts they read or that are read aloud to them, and in conversations with you,” Gilbert says. “You can use these questions to prompt those conversations.”
For friendship, parents can ask their children, “When have you felt a connection to another person? When has a friendship from a book inspired you?” For kindness, questions can be, “When have you reached out to others? What books are you reading (or are we reading) that show kindness?”
The answers can help parents determine whether the child is feeling isolated, which can open the door to more discussions about making friends, talking to new people or being kind.
2. HOW CAN READING IMPROVE SELF-ESTEEM?
Reading also can connect children to characters who have confidence and courage – or not – and parents can use the story to jump-start a conversation about self-esteem. Questions could include, “When have you felt bold?” For courage, parents can ask, “What makes you feel brave?”
“I think story books are the best ways to help children deal with hard emotions,” says Megan Richards Bob, Education and Family Literacy director for the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County. “It’s easy to find books that deal with anger and sadness at the appropriate age level. Sites such as Brightly allow you to search book titles by topic for readers from pre-K to teens.”
And children can feel more confident simply being better readers because it improves self-esteem.
“When a student is able to read and understand in a variety of ways and contexts, the learning that can happen increases exponentially,” Gilbert says. “He or she will be able to better respond to prompts and questions from the teacher and also participate more in the classroom conversations around texts being read and content being discussed.”
3. WHAT IF I DON’T READ THAT WELL OR THAT OFTEN?
In building super readers, these educators often work with students whose parents don’t read books in English. Their parents may speak a different language or prefer watching films or TV.
If language is a barrier, Richards Bob suggests using picture books with illustrations that tell the story. That way, the parents and child can interpret in their own words. Parents can use the same question technique about emotions while following the character’s plot.
• Kelly Gilbert, certified educator of K-5 Reading Intervention, School District of Palm Beach County
• Megan Richards Bob, Education and Family Literacy director, Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County
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