At Plenty, we are always on the hunt for great books for kids. Adventure and drama are wonderful, but when combined with opportunities to enhance emotional intelligence, we end up with something like hope between two covers.
The Feel Brave books by Avril McDonald are a series of five picture books (aimed primarily for 4-7 year olds) designed to help children increase their emotional awareness with positive psychology. The books present real-life issues which our kids might face, and the underlying emotions which our kids will almost certainly face. Protagonist Wolfgang is relatable as he must deal with issues of anxiety, confidence, bullying, fears, change, and loss in the five respective stories.
When I previewed the books before bedtime reading, I wasn’t sure whether they would resonate with my kids, but they did. I read them to my 6 year old daughter and 9 year old son, and both were highly engaged, and we naturally turned to discussing their themes, including exclusion, grief, and reconciliation.
I benefited from the Feel Brave Teaching Guide, a resource brimming with questions, craft activities, and other exercises stemming from the stories. Even without it though, it would still have been easy to talk about the stories, because the kids wanted to share their thoughts. I liked the resulting expansion of vocabulary of emotion, so instead of the catch-all feeling “bad”, we could chisel down to more specific emotions, like “upset”, “scared”, “worried”, and “frustrated”.
The stories display conflict and struggle, but in a non-threatening way that the kids readily digested. The stories are an effective gateway to discuss emotions with children for any parent; with the addition of the Teaching Guide, this would be a wonderful tool empowering any teacher or homeschooling parent. As we read through them, I mentally made a note to offer it to our own grade one teacher.
If I had to pick one trend that makes me feel so optimistic about the future, it might be the heightened emotional intelligence that teachers and parents and good people everywhere are trying to infuse into themselves and our young people. Invariably we learn more alongside the children, and gain tools to navigate the complicated world before us.