5 Books to Help Talk about Mental Health

Talking about mental health can be tricky but luckily there are books to help with that.


“Skippy Jon Jones” By Judy Schachner“Skippy Jon Jones” is one of the most delightful children’s book characters of the last 20 years, and kids who are especially energetic and imaginative will relate to Skippyjon. If your child sometimes gets in trouble for her or his energy, you can ask, “What do you think would happen if you did something crazy like Skippyjon? Would I still love you? (Of course!)” You can also comment on the ways his imagination makes everything more exciting and wonderful. In this way, you’re building confidence by expressing confidence in how much you enjoy your child and her or his personality.

“The Way I Feel” By Janan CainThis book with bright pastel pencil drawings helps kids identify and describe their feelings. It’s more of a child’s poetry book than a story, but many kids will enjoy the rhyme and rhythm. Kids (and people!) often struggle to feel “safe to feel” all of their emotions. Learning how to name your feelings goes a long way toward that safety.

“Swimmy” By Leo LionniThe story of Swimmy the fish who bravely shows his friends how to come out of hiding. Leo Lionni is a classic children’s book writer, and this story can be a great jumping off point for a conversation with your children about anxiety, bravery, and how relationships make life better. You can use stories like this one to teach kids how connection with others can help us feel more confident.

“I Like Myself” By Karen BeaumonetThis is a delightful celebration of everything that makes us human, even the messy hair and beaver breath. It’s a silly and serious way to build self-esteem in kids, and demonstrate that there are people who will always love us no matter what (even if it’s just our pet dog). Stories like this one can help children feel safe just to be themselves.

“Ira Sleeps Over” By Bernard WaberThis book helps kids feel safe to separate. One of the most critical moments in any kid’s life is the first-time overnight sleepover — and the resulting anxiety from being away from mom and/or dad. Parents can use stories like this one to have a conversation about feeling safe to separate and reassure children that the things they love will always be waiting for them when they come back.

The most important part of reading together isn’t just reading a huge number of books, or checking off the homework list. The most important part is that you sit and enjoy something together. This practice is also a great foundation for literacy and lifetime school achievement — children who have positive experiences bonding with adults over books are more likely to enjoy reading as they grow older.