Books can be a warm route into moments of connection. If your child is facing issues, from separation anxiety, to tantrums or sibling rivalry, snuggling up with a relevant book can be a great way for both of you to connect and explore what's happening, in words or simply in unspoken comfort.
Your child might see similarities in the chosen story, or find a difference in perspective. Books can lead into or extend Playlistening. By acting out a main character's fears using a stuffed toy, for instance, there's space for a child to take the lead and direct new (often improved) outcomes. When a book deals with a situation using humor, your child could offload his own tensions through laughter – you might even find him repeating the funny lines a character uses to deal with a tense situation.
Books that back connection give empathetic responses to character's concerns. In them, characters are listened to and supported while they work through their reluctances and fears.
This list features some of the best picture books that our Hand in Hand instructors have found. They have been listened to and enjoyed in their own families as well as with students in classes and each one promotes connection parenting ideals.
We hope you enjoy these warming, winning books as you add them to your library, and we would love to hear recommendations that you have to share.
Connection Building Books
Bring a warm sense of love, safety and understanding into your home with these picture books.
Hand in Hand Instructor Laura Minnigerode suggests Janell Cannon's Stella Luna for it's warming story of a lost bat, who in trying to adapt to live with a new family, wins the love and support of new siblings and two moms. Debra Frasier's On the Day You Were Born serves to warmly welcome each member of your family in bright, cheering imagery.
Maryann Cusimano Love's You Are My I Love You features a heart-warming rhyme that reinforces a mother's love for her child even as she recognises his differences, and is recommended by Muftiah Martin. She also praises Robert Munsch's Love You Forever.
The line “A person's a person, no matter how small,” underlines the themes in the Dr. Seuss tale, Horton Hears a Who!, that reinstates the idea that little people are just as deserving of caring and respect as big ones.
Children often question whether their off-track behavior might drive parents away, or if they were even wanted in the first place. Explore what love is and it being unconditional with these titles.
I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt is a “fun, sweet bedtime book,” according to HIHP's Program Director, Michelle Pate, and shows “a child creatively testing her mother's unconditional love.”
Also in this category, I Love You Because You’re You by Liza Baker shows “Reassurance of love, despite behavior,” says Suzy Heltzel. A mom responds calmly and sympathetically to her child's tests of independence in Mama, Do You Love Me, by Barbara M. Joosse, suggested by Marilupe de la Calle, while Don Freeman's classic, Corduroy, is a good reminder that love wins out despite seeming imperfection. And, no matter how far the Runaway Bunny in Margaret Wise Brown's story says he will go, his mother always has an idea of how she can stay with him – there's no running away from this kind of love!
“A monkey wants a hug, but only from mama,” and that's okay, says Sarah Charlton, about her recommendation, Hug, a three-word picture book by Jez Alborough and great for even the smallest members of the family.
The mom's kind understanding and caring solution in Audrey Penn's The Kissing Hand is reassuring and can be used for inspiration as your family prepares for a child going to school. While the “You knew I'd come back,” line by the owl mom in response to her anxious babies in Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is no nonsense but 100 percent certain, and is one that could be repeated to your own worried tribe.
Routine-loving Peggy, a chicken that gets swept in a gust of wind to the big city, has to readjust her appetite for adventure in Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure, and might be an inspiring heroine for kids making their intrepid first steps into the wider world.
Is there enough love for me? Should I do more to get noticed? Am I as good as my brothers or sisters? These are all insecurities that children can feel about their siblings. Try these three reads to address those fears.
A young koala tries everything she can to feel seen and loved when new siblings threaten to over-shadow her in Mem Fox's lovely Koala Lou, another good read offered by Laura Minnigerode, while Ame Dyckman's Wolfie the Bunny is a touching take on the intricacies of life with an (adopted and imposing) new sibling where loyalty and love win out in the end. You’re All My Favorites, by Sam McBratney poses the question, “Do you like my other siblings better than me?” (Never!)
Tantrums, Staylistening and Compassion
Listening to tantrums and supporting a need to cry, vent and rage is a core theme in connection parenting, and these books offer support of the process. Images in Deborah Blumenthal's The Chocolate-Covered Cookie Tantrum shows the intensity of a tantrum in action, and “captures well the spirit of Staylistening,” says Susan Derby, who has read this book to adults and well as children.
Even though the little llama is mad, mad, mad, his mama remains patient and calm in Anna Dewdney's Llama, Llama Mad at Mama, and only one character, the very overlooked sheep, can see what has made the bear so cranky in Nick Bland's enchanting rhyming tale, The Very Cranky Bear. Her understanding solution shows him he has been heard.
And in Tough Boris by Mem Fox, suggested by Kirsten Nottleson, a feisty pirate learns that crying is okay.
Kindness and Empathy
Read these books to reinforce ideas of kindness and understanding of others – qualities that build good listeners!
Numbers become characters in Kathryn Otoshi's books One and Zero, and learn their own value and the power of standing up for others, while caring in a small community is highlighted in the magical Something About Hensley's, by Patricia Polacco, a book much loved by Hand in Hand founder Patty Wipfler‘s grandchildren. Suzy Heltzel says that B.G. Hennessy's Because of You demonstrates how each new child brings more kindness into the world – someone to love and be loved – while Jon J. Muth's Zen Shorts is a beautifully-illustrated, peaceful tale that asks the child characters in it to reconsider their world from a different perspective.
For more ideas on building connection read A Powerful Way to Make Sure Your Child Feels Loved
If you are new to connection parenting and would like to know more, read about Hand in Hand's The Five Tools, What They Are and How They Work
For books that follow this philosophy read 15 Connection-Building Books for Parents