In this video, an inspiring early childhood educator with a Strong Start Early Learning Centre demonstrates how reading stories with young children is a wonderful way to help them explore and learn about feelings.
Emotional literacy is an essential skill that children need to develop in order to manage their feelings. Learning an emotional vocabulary helps children to express how they are feeling, and being able to correctly identify and label their feelings, has a very real impact on the brain. For example, if a child is frustrated and can find the correct word to describe that feeling, his/her brain will squirt soothing neurotransmitters to help calm down the brain. Neuroscientist Daniel Siegel calls this Name it to Tame it. According to research children who understand their own and other's feelings and learn to manage their emotions have been shown do better in their lives in several ways. These skills are important for getting along with others, staying alert and engaged in activities, and for solving problems peacefully.
Exploring picture books with adults gives children opportunities to identify feelings they may not have yet identified in themselves. Children may learn to identify emotions from the facial and body language cues of the characters in stories and also learn how those characters manage their different emotions. This process can help children begin to recognize these emotions in themselves when they surface in real life situations, as well as normalize their feelings.
In this video the educator reads the children’s book Banana! a funny and entertaining book about two monkeys who share a banana. There are only two words used throughout the book- “banana” and “please” -and with the help of colourful graphics, facial expressions and punctuation each word conveys a range of emotions that include intense desire, confusion, disbelief, frustration and joy.
In a touching scene where the educator comes to the page where the banana is taken away from the monkey, he pretends to cry and holds out his long purple cape, gesturing towards the children, and a few children run up to wipe away his tears. Here he is not only helping children recognize other's emotions but also providing an opportunity for children to respond with empathy in a compassionate way.
Each child has a different capacity to be attentive and stay engaged with the storytelling process. The educator in the video is mindful of this and endeavours to create a safe and secure environment conducive to these young children’s learning. It is in the context of a safe environment and a secure relationship with an adult that a child can best develop Heart-Mind well-being skills that include being alert and engaged, paying attention and being able to focus.
Rather than requesting children comply and sit still on the floor, this educator creates a fun and engaging classroom environment which has the effect of gently encouraging children to become curious and fascinated with learning more about the story. Dr Stuart Shanker, an expert in self-regulation, describes how children learn by becoming fascinated and in this case, the educator in the video provides children a safe space to learn and be attentive at their own pace and in their own way. By firing their curiosity he captivates their imaginations resulting in their motivation to learn and explore their and other's feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
Book Suggestions about Feelings
According to a meta-analysis, conducted by CASEL in 2017, of 82 school based SEL interventions, teaching children to recognize and understand their emotions can improve educational outcomes and well-being while reducing anxiety and behavioral problems.