Teaching Kids To Help And Share Through Reading

emotional management intentional parenting parenting tips Sep 08, 2022
Teaching Kids Empathy Through Reading Books

As parents we all know that reading to our children is important, but did you know that you can help your child develop empathy for others and learn other lessons through reading?  Studies have been done with children as young as 18-24 months, finding that parents were able to help teach their children about helping and sharing through reading.  To teach your kids to help and share through reading, the key isn’t what you read to your kids, it’s how you read to them.

Researchers found there wasn’t a significant difference in how much children helped or shared when parents labeled the emotions of characters in the book or pointed out how the characters in the story were helping, sharing, or caring as they read to their children.  

But when parents asked their children to focus on, recognize, and think about how the characters in the book were feeling, the children were significantly more likely to help and share.  As parents, we can help our children develop and master complex social awareness, understanding, and empathy, by asking questions about what the main and supporting characters are feeling and why they might feel that way when we read books to them.

This is particularly helpful for preschool-age children when helping them to develop an emotional vocabulary as well as learn how to self-regulate so they can calm themselves down.  I often recommend books like Roaring Mad Riley, An Anger Management Story For Kids, by Allison Szczecinski, to parents that are struggling with a child that doesn’t know how to manage their anger.

The book gives so many opportunities to discuss what Riley might be thinking, what it is that is making Riley so mad, what the other characters in the book might be thinking and feeling when Riley is so angry, and then the various tools that Riley learns to calm down and stay calm.  You can also ask questions about what Riley could do differently to stop the anger spiral sooner.

When you start asking your child questions about what the supporting characters are thinking and feeling, you help them make the association between their actions and other people’s feelings — which helps to develop their social awareness and understanding, as well as their emotional vocabulary.

Books are one of the best tools that you can have in your parenting toolbox.  Just remember that your kids will get the most out of reading with you, and learn the lessons that you want to instill when you actively engage your child and ask questions to raise their awareness about what the characters are thinking and feeling. 

September 8th is National Literacy Day.  I invite you to think about what you’re reading to your kids, and how you can make the most of your reading time by talking to your kids about the character’s feelings.

Do you have school-age kids that are getting back into the routine of school?  Are you happy to get back to a routine but not looking forward to the stress of mornings or homework?  If so I have just the thing for you!  I just released the Parent’s Back To School Survival Guide, 3 Steps to Avoid Miserable Mornings and Homework Headaches.  Grab your copy here to make parenting and communicating with your kids easier this year.

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