Picture Books for Children’s Worries and Anxieties

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. Each child copes with worries in their own way. Sometimes kids feel ready and even appear overly confident but find out that feeling scared is just part of trying something new. Jabari Jumps is a relatable and straightforward story. Jabari practiced and passed his swim test but stalls when it’s time to climb to the top of the diving board. When Jabari finds the courage, the author shows how proud he feels and even excited to try more difficult tasks.

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Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna. From the author of The Journey, Sanna continues the beautiful story of immigration, as a young girl settles into a new country and school. This book shows a type of courage and anxiety that not every child will experience, but each can relate to in some way. If you haven’t read The Journey to your children, I encourage you to do so. It is a beautiful and moving book about a refugee family and the sacrifices they make for safety and security.

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What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom. From the creators of What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Chance? this book is helpful for all ages. I recently read it to a group of 6th graders who were creating academic goals for the school year. The author shows how opportunities lie in every part of our lives, even the difficult ones.

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How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear? by Jayneen Sanders, Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear? is one that can help the child who is always thinking of the next thing on the agenda. Little Bear is a thoughtful and helpful read for parents and children and comes with discussion questions for each age group.

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Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival. Ruby is, in fact, a happy child, as most kids with regular worries are. Yet when she meets her first worry, she realizes it’s hard to make it go away all on her own. Something about this book reminds me of the way that Headspace presents worries and anxieties. I’ve been using the kid’s modules in the Headspace app in my classroom. Meditation is making a huge difference in my students’ ability to focus.

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The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. This book provides the vital message that you don’t need to be great at everything or anything to try out a new activity. We just need to have fun trying new things!

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The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken. The illustrations and colors in The Book of Mistakes make it a beautiful gift for both a child or an adult. If I’m being honest, I like this book more than my kids do. The author shows how an artist can turn splotches and ink splatters into beautiful works of art. The author and illustrator also recently presented an exercise in Kazoo magazine for young girls in an article, Finding Beauty in Blunders.

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After The Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat. Ever wonder why Humpty Dumpty was sitting on the wall in the first place? He’s a bird watcher, of course! This adorable book shows what happens after Humpty’s fall and highlights the courage and resilience that is within all of our children.

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It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr. It seems Todd Parr is the Chicken Soup for the Soul messenger for children. He has a way of explaining the most relevant and complicated topics in the simplest manner that has all children nodding and agreeing. Also be sure to check out the I’M NOT SCARED Book.

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Picture Books to Teach Sight Words

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Sight words make up over half of all the words children are reading. I love teaching sight words in creative ways because it can be a lot of fun and helpful, but overall, any new concept we learn is most easily retained when we discover it within context. In other words, it's more meaningful when we read the word in a book rather than simply write it a few times. One easy way to do this is to utilize rich and interesting picture books that repeat sight words. Try reading these books at night for bedtime or when your child is practicing sight words.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers. "Like the bird, I'm here to fly and soar high over everything. Like the trees, I'm here to grow. Like the mountains, I'm here to stand." Besides teaching the sight words, I, am and like, this book has a powerful, necessary message for all children and adults. 

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I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. This silly story is rich in sight words and repetition. A great place to start is to teach the word 'seen' before reading the book. Children can read this story over and over again to practice fluency. After reading it a few times independently, they will grasp the humor.  

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Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, Illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls. This picture book can provide very deep conversations with older children, and also simple but necessary teachings for younger children. The story asks the question, "Why am I me ...and not you?... Why is everyone who they are?" Examining humanity, children develop empathy for others through guided conversations. 

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Home by Carson Ellis. The sight words home, are, and is are repeated throughout this book. It's a visually stunning book that reminds us we don't come from the same places or surroundings, yet love can make a home anywhere. It's also a great one to read when preparing your kids for a move. 

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When's My Birthday? by Julie Fogiliano, Illustrated by Christopher Robinson. I mean, who doesn't love planning their birthday? This book is perfect for children who already have a few sight words under their belt. I'm also a sucker for all Christopher Robinson books. If your child can read short phrases, then they might enjoy When's My Birthday?

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Wait by Antoinette Portis. Every parent and child can relate to hectic mornings. This book tells the story of a mom who is in a hurry and a child who needs to stop to observe every single beautiful thing about their journey to school. The entire book consists of only two words, hurry and wait. Children can read it to themselves after being introduced. It would be fun to extend the reading with this sight word activity afterward. 

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Now by Antoinette Portis. Portis really knows how to present repetition in a beautiful way. Each page in this book begins with, "This is my favorite..." The book shows a girl going about her day and experiencing each moment as her favorite. A reminder to us all to be fully present.

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Egg by Kevin Henkes. Egg presents words in a systematic and graphically stunning way. The author repeats words such as wait and crack over and over again on a single page so kiddos can discover the word once and then practice it. Preschool students through first graders enjoy this book. 

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They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzal. This book delivers both repetition and a socially conscious message. Teach the word saw. Read the story to your child and stop when you come to the word saw, letting your child chime in. This practice takes some pressure off and helps to build confidence.  

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Picture Books on Being Mindful and Present

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As a working parent and a teacher, I'm often pulled in a million directions, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. I recognize the mounting and unnecessary stress this puts on my children and me. I'm attempting to be thankful for small moments, even the ones that make me feel like I’m going crazy or running in circles.  I'm not always giving thanks at 8:00 a.m. drop-off when my child dumps her lunch box out in the back seat, but I'm trying to seek out moments of gratitude with my family each day. I'm practicing modeling mindfulness and patience because, as a teacher, I see the many benefits when children are able to calm themselves and breathe in stressful moments. 

If you are in need of slowing down or resetting to gain perspective, check out the books below that will remind you how truly fortunate we are to be here and to know one another.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers. How we learn to grow and take in the world around us is a wonder. A book about a child's smallness in this universe, Jeffers provides some relief for parents as he points out that others will be here to take care of our children when we no longer can do so.

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Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby.  For any parent who is attempting to say yes more often, this book is a beautiful reminder of all the reasons we should do just that. Time is the one thing we can never get more of, and in this book, a child asks if we can stay a little longer–so maybe we should.

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Life by Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel. Cynthia Rylant does a fantastic job of keeping complex concepts simple. Life is no exception. "Life is not always easy. There will probably be a stretch of wilderness now and then. But wilderness eventually ends. And there is always a new road to take."

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All In a Day by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure. Another Rylant book because when paired with McClure’s die-cut illustrations, it’s too beautiful not to mention. “A day brings hope and kindness too…a day is all it’s own.” A sentimental reminder of how much connection we can share in a single day. 

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Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen. A Montessori teacher friend recently suggested this book. She said that she randomly grabbed it from the shelf on the last day of school when the children sit together and express their thoughts or feelings about the year. She is now using it as a yearly tradition. What a special find. "There's a quiet place in my head like an egg hidden in a nest. A place I go when the world is loud."

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Do you have any book suggestions or tips on being present with your children and family? I'm all ears. 

Back to School Books

The first day of school brings a wide range of emotions for the entire family. These books should help bring a little laughter and emotional support for first-day nerves. 

Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube. Every child (and parent) feels nervous on the first day of school. Fear of the unknown is difficult for us all. This book shows a relatable progression of a girl’s first day of school and how she transforms from nervous to excited and hopeful. 

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The World-Famous Book of Counting by Sarah Goodreau and The Greatest Opposites Book on Earth by Lee Singh and Tom Frost. These books are full of creative ways to engage a young reader from pop-ups to flaps. Kids love them and adults love the artistic designs and illustrations. This book is perfect for Pre-K children but also fun for Kindergarten and beginning readers who can retell the story themselves and feel they are reading to build a little confidence.

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Adventures to School: Real-life Journeys of Students From Around the World by Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Isabel Munoz. This nonfiction book is a refreshing way to introduce children to school. It shows thirteen different children's journeys to school from around the world. Children will also enjoy learning a little about each country, as the book highlights the country’s flag and some key details.

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The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh, Illustrated by Chuck Groenink. One of my favorite books of the year! Sometimes you are searching for true friendship or something new in life, while everything you need is right in front of you.

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School's First Day of School by Adam Rex, Illustrated by Christian Robinson. Everyone gets nervous on the first day of school, even the school building itself. Nothing goes as planned for the building on its first day with children, but all is okay in the end and everyone wants to try it again the next day. A unique take on first-day jitters.

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The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, Illustrated by Zachariah OHara. A class bands together to help their teacher when his love for the class pet clouds his judgment. The tadpole grows into a hippo. The pet's size and needs are destroying the classroom. Kids love the idea of being in on a secret and knowing more than a teacher.

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The Smallest Girl In The Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts, Illustrated by Christian Robinson. This book reminds us that you can make a big impact on those around you by speaking up. Sally McCabe might be small, but she’s an observer of the world, and so one day she realizes she can make a difference despite her age or size.

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The I'm Not Scared Book by Todd Parr. I should probably just carry all of the Todd Parr books in my back pocket for every messy life situation. The author writes about the most complex topics and feelings and makes them simple for children. This book is a beautiful reminder that when we feel scared, we often can take a simple step to feel calmer or to laugh.  

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The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This book will resonate with perfectionists and worriers. It helps our children see the beauty in the process rather than the product. You might also want to check out The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes. 

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A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, Illustrated by Mark Lowery. This book is a cute story about the power of writing and getting started. You don’t have to know how to write everything or anything to create something beautiful.

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Books for Moms

Sometimes the best gift for a mom is an easy bedtime with a sentimental story or just actually having time to order a family portrait or jot down some notes about this stage of parenting before it changes again. Gifting one of these sweet books for mother's day, a baby shower, or her birthday could help create a meaningful memory.

If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden, Illustrated by Melissa Castrillon. This book is stunningly beautiful with intricate illustrations that resemble die-cut prints. The words are poetic and the story touches on the tiny treasures that make up our world, which children value and adults often overlook. Speaking of die-cuts, I must remember to ask for one of these amazing family portrait prints for mother's day next year! So cool, right?

 

Mom's One Line A Day: A Five-Year Memory Book by Chronicle Books. As someone who is still working on their oldest child's baby book (four years later), I find this memory book to be very refreshing. I don't keep up with it every single day, but it's easy enough to jot down thoughts each week and it warms my heart to look back and see some of the funny things my daughter was saying when she was only two years old. It's simple, very pretty and comes in either pink or blue. Perfect for moms who want to take the pressure off. 

Someday by Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynold. Fair warning: read it beforehand or bring tissues to bedtime. This book is a tear-jerker. What I love most about this book is it brings everything full circle and helps us gain perspective when we can often get lost in the tiresome day-to-day. The author even shares the perspective of a parent thinking about his or her own childhood. McGhee writes, "Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small."  

 

Love Is by Diane Adams, Illustrated by Claire Keane. We all thought we would be strolling through the park with an iced-coffee and a cute stroller, yet parenting looks a little messier now. While this book isn't about a traditional mother-child relationship, it touches on the realness of parenthood and reminds us to laugh through it. The little girl in the story takes care of her duck and realizes that "Love is tidying up, Love is messy baths." 

 

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin. With modern illustrations of hip families who decorate with zebra wallpaper and dress their kids in cool vintage wear, this book is perfect for a new parent. It captures the thoughts of mothers who are truly in awe with their child's uniqueness. "When you were too small to tell me hello, I knew you were someone I wanted to know."

 

If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond. Of all the books I've come across about parenthood, this one speaks to my heart in a specific way. Letting your children go is difficult for every parent, and this book reminds us that we aren't alone in the feeling, yet it's just part of the job. Richmond writes, "If I could keep you little, I'd push your ducky float. But then I'd miss you feeling the wind behind a summer's boat." "If I could keep you little we'd nap in our fort midday. But then I'd miss you sharing adventures from camp away."

How to Raise a Mom and How to Babysit A Grandma by Jean Reagan, Illustrated by Lee Wildish. This book is very funny and will make any preschooler or grade-school child laugh out loud. It's written from the perspective of two siblings setting out to make sure their mother gets proper exercise, a well-balanced diet and some rest time in her day. And for the grandmothers in your life, check out How To Babysit a Grandma

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How To Celebrate Everything by Jenny Rosenstrach. I added this to the list even though it isn't a picture book because it's simply heartwarming and can remind today's busy mom how to enjoy the little things of parenthood that make it all worth it. This book is highly sentimental and acts just as much as a parenting guide as it does cook-book. When I gift it to like-minded moms who read a little more than we cook, I always suggest reading the last page first.