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Defined as the ability to recognize, express, and regulate one’s own emotions, emotional intelligence is an important skill for children to develop. You can nurture this ability through the use of stories and illustrative examples of how to react to different emotions. Check out these seven children’s books that teach emotional intelligence.
1. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
In this gorgeously illustrated story, a girl feels self-conscious on her first day of school. She doesn’t want the other kids to know that her favorite food is lima beans. Bending over backward to fit in, she starts changing color, sprouting feathers, and morphing into different objects as she loses her identity trying to impress others.
In the end, the cure is eating lima beans — a metaphor for being herself — and realizing that it’s okay to be nervous or stand out from the crowd. She can be happy without other people’s approval of her.
2. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
It’s hard enough having an enemy, but even worse when he moves into the neighborhood. What’s a boy to do?
This book teaches children the value of making amends with people you don’t like, and how to show kindness despite being upset. Ultimately, the secret to making enemy pie is to treat others the way you want to be treated.
3. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
This is a classic illustrated story. It’s about a fish who is very beautiful but derives his entire sense of worth from his appearance. His haughty behavior drives everyone away. This leaves him lonely and confused, until a wise octopus teaches him the value of sharing and making genuine connections with others.
The takeaway is that appearance alone won’t get you far. Being kind to people will bring a deeper sense of fulfillment.
4. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
A girl and her dog — ahem, assistant — set out to invent something. She tries again and again to bring her vision to life, growing frustrated as she repeatedly fails to create what she has in mind, until she explodes in anger. Taking a walk calms her down, and finally, she perfects her invention.
This cute story teaches children the importance of persistence, anger management, and seeing things from a new perspective. It emphasizes having a growth mindset, which is an important component of emotional intelligence.
5. You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders
If you see someone in distress, you can put yourself in their shoes because you, too, go through difficult moments sometimes. That’s the message of this children’s story that emphasizes kindness and empathy toward people. A young boy shows the reader the ways in which he helps others when they’re sick, hurt, or feeling lonely.
6. What I’m Feeling is Okay!: A Book About Emotions by Laura Shiff
This is less of a story and more of a set of example situations in which a boy gets emotional, then learns that his emotions are OK. The drawings are cute and relatable to kids. Plus, they’re perfectly illustrative of different moods, including sad, scared, excited, silly, and more. This children’s book teaches emotional intelligence in a straightforward way.
7. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
A classic illustrated book consisting of only ten sentences, Where the Wild Things Are is lushly drawn and fun for kids of any age to read. When young Max wears his wolf costume and misbehaves around the house, his mother sends him to bed without any supper.
In response, he throws a tantrum in which he imagines yelling at monsters until he tames them. He metaphorically tames his own anger and learns to process it. He then misses his mom, so he returns to reality and finds that his dinner is waiting for him. It’s a great example of a child acting out emotions in a healthy way and calming himself down.
Teaching Emotional Intelligence
Books are a great way to show children how to process different moods. Plus, as you read these children’s books that teach emotional intelligence with your kids, you might just realize that you, too, are learning a little more about what it means to be emotionally intelligent. That’s a win-win.