Bibliotherapeutic Library Resources for Kids: Improve Empathy and Socio-Emotional Learning at Home

Shanna Kim, Children's Librarian, Children's Literature Department,
Collage of bibliotherapeutic books for kids

The Los Angeles Public Library has excellent bibliotherapeutic resources for kids from birth to fifth grade!

What is bibliotherapy, you might ask? Bibliotherapy is the use of reading materials to help with personal problems or other therapeutic purposes. These days, whether because of COVID-19 or the myriad of issues that we face, it can be challenging to feel happy. Many of us are experiencing isolation, anxiety, anger, grief, and hopelessness.

Maybe we could all use a bit of bibliotherapy right now, I sure do, so I invite you to check out the library resources listed below, all accessible online. While bibliotherapy is not a substitute for professional help, it can provide comfort, open up space for difficult conversations, and make us feel less alone.

We've got recommendations to help you and your child bond, talk about feelings, cry, laugh, and everything in between. We hope these resources will help to ease the fear and worry in your children's lives, and yours, too, during these strange, uncertain times.

Ages 0-3

Book cover for Baby Bedtime
Baby Bedtime
Fox, Mem

There are lots of baby bedtime books out there, but this is a special one! In pastels echoing the colors of early evening, a mama elephant tenderly puts her baby to sleep—but not before lots of kisses and snuggles! This is a great way to build your baby's vocabulary and familiarity with parts of her body, and also a lovely way to bond and raise both of your serotonin levels.

Book cover for Breathe
Magoon, Scott

Breathing exercises helps us to reconnect with ourselves, self soothe, and regain calm. Try breathing in and exhaling deeply along with the lovable whales in the story. Your little one (and you) will enjoy the illustrations and the sparse text.

Book cover for Show Me Happy
Show Me Happy
Allen, Kathryn Madeline

Worried that your baby isn't getting enough social interaction with other babies? Babies love seeing photographs of other kids, so check out these titles featuring large photographs of little ones. Make exaggerated facial expressions along with the kids on each page—your little one will love it, and improve their skills at identifying facial expressions! 

Book cover for A Kiss Means I Love You
A Kiss Means I Love You
Allen, Kathryn Madeline

Book cover for Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Cabrera, Jane

Tired of singing the same songs over and over? Me too! These books will offer a welcome respite with a twist on these classic songs. Sing along with the words, or if your little one's attention span doesn't span the length of the book, just make animal noises or point out interesting things on the page to build up their vocabulary.

Book cover for Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Cabrera, Jane

Book cover for The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions
The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions
Llenas, Anna

A little girl helps her monster friend to identify feelings by aligning them with different colors. A good choice for ages three and up to talk about the range of emotions they feel. Also, if you'd like to borrow a physical copy, this pop-up book will delight kids of all ages.

Book cover for Songs For Carmella: Lullabies & Sing-A-Longs
Songs For Carmella: Lullabies & Sing-A-Longs
Perri, Christina

Christina Perri wrote this album when her baby daughter was born. If you're looking for an alternative to traditional lullabies or nursery music, check out this sweetly ethereal collection of lullabies and original songs. Also features instrumental versions so you can sing along, too.

Book cover for Bedtime
Mister Rogers

Did you know that you can stream music from the library for free (and ad-free)? I dare you not to shed a tear while listening to this compilation of tender, humanistic songs by the inestimable Mister Rogers. Start playing it in the background as you get your baby ready for a nap or sleep.

Kindergarten to Third Grade

Book cover for Ruby Finds a Worry
Ruby Finds a Worry
Percival, Tom

Ruby finds a Worry one day. It gets bigger, and bigger, and BIGGER until she doesn't know what to do with it! Then along comes a little boy with his own worries, and Ruby discovers that everyone has them—and that by sharing them with someone, she can make them go away. This could be a good springboard for discussing your child's worries.

Book cover for They All Saw a Cat
They All Saw a Cat
Wenzel, Brendan

This selection may seem strange, but hear me out! Sometimes it helps to get out of your own head by considering the lives of othersin this case, how other creatures perceive a cat. This book will spark fascinating conversations about how you and your child see the world.

Book cover for The Don't Worry Book
The Don't Worry Book
Parr, Todd

I would list every book by Todd Parr if I could, and if you do decide to check out his other works, you won't regret it! His books achieve the perfect balance of humor, comfort, and get right to the heart of matters. Uplifting and reassuring.

Book cover for Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning
Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning
Ricketts, Amadee

Twelve new songs based on well-known tunes for little ones to express their feelings, better understand them, and advance their journey to becoming their best little selves!

Book cover for The Rabbit Listened
The Rabbit Listened
Doerrfeld, Cori

A gentle, poignant reminder for our little ones (and ourselves) that sometimes, the best thing we can do for our loved ones is to listen. Taylor is sad and doesn't know what to do. One by one, various animals come to "help" Taylor by giving suggestions to get angry, or talk it out. Nothing helps until finally, a rabbit comes—and listens.

Book cover for Why Do We Cry?
Why Do We Cry?
Pintadera, Fran

Ever wondered why we cry? Turns out it can be because of a lot of different things! Above all, it's something that comes naturally and something that we just need to do sometimes, whether it's because we're happy or sad. Back matter includes information on the science of tears and even a couple of activities.

Grades 3-5

Book cover for Small Things
Small Things
Tregonning, Mel

A wordless graphic picture book about a boy who feels very alone. He doesn't fit in at school, his grades aren't good, and he's sad and worried all the time. These things begin to eat away at his sense of self until he realizes that everyone has these experiences and is able to begin to rebuild himself. A beautifully keen portrait of isolation with a light at the end of the tunnel.

Book cover for Abel's Island
Abel's Island
Steig, William

Abel is a genteel mouse used to a comfortable life. One day he's washed away by a flood to an uninhabited island, and he has to change and learn in order to survive. If he is ever able to return home, will he ever be the same again? Does he want to be the same again?

Book cover for Esperanza Rising
Esperanza Rising
Ryan, Pam Muñoz

Esperanza thought she'd always be taken care of. A sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee from Mexico to a farm labor camp in California. Esperanza faces grueling labor and the financial struggles resulting from the Great Depression. When Mama falls ill, Esperanza has to find a way to rise above her circumstances to save Mama—and herself.

Book cover for The Best At It
The Best At It
Pancholy, Maulik

Rahul is a gay Indian American boy heading into 7th grade in a small town in Indiana. Nervous, he decides to follow his grandfather's advice to find one thing he's good at and be the best at it. A compelling, funny story about identity and navigating changing social dynamics. A journey towards self-love, which we can all use right now!

Book cover for The Science of Breakable Things
The Science of Breakable Things
Keller, Tae

A coming of age story about Natalie, whose botanist mother is suffering from depression. If Natalie wins the egg drop competition, she'll be able to fly her mom to see a special orchid and cure her depression. Luckily, she has good friends to help with her well-meaning but improbable plan...A moving, delightful story that will resonate, especially with those who have experienced depression or know someone who has.

Furthur Reading Resources

Book cover for Bear Came Along
Bear Came Along
Morris, Richard T.

Book cover for What Do You Do With a Problem?
What Do You Do With a Problem?
Yamada, Kobi

Book cover for When Sadness is at Your Door
When Sadness is at Your Door
Eland, Eva

Book cover for Fred's Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers
Fred's Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers
Renauld, Laura

Book cover for The Day You Begin
The Day You Begin
Woodson, Jacqueline

Book cover for A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love
Edwards, Michelle

Book cover for My Heart
My Heart
Luyken, Corinna

Book cover for I'm Worried
I'm Worried
Black, Michael Ian