Celebrate International Children’s Book Day with Wilma Jean the Worry Machine
Did you know that April 2nd is International Children’s Book Day? What a wonderful thing to celebrate! I still remember fondly so many of the books I read as a child and can see how strongly they impacted me. Reading books helps children in many ways. They develop language skills, of course, but they also learn a great deal about life, relating to others, the world, behaviors, experiences, etc. etc. etc. Through books, children are able to understand new concepts and in reading the stories of others, they are able to feel validated in their own stories and experiences. Children’s books are powerful and my list of the ones I love to recommend to parents is quite long! So, I’m going to highlight 3 favorites here in order to help recognize and celebrate International Children’s Book Day!
The three books I have selected off of my long list are books that I have used in my work with children and families over the years to help teach kids about feelings. One of the greatest challenges for children as they relate to others and experience many new things every day, is how to handle and express their feelings. Children’s feelings can be SO big and FEEL so big. It’s important that we provide them with a model for how to deal with and identify their feelings using relatable stories. That’s the first step — “feelings identification”. If we can help children learn how they experience each feeling in their body and name them, we are setting them up for strong emotional intelligence as an adult!
Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods that Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis is spectacular. And I use the word spectacular because that’s sort of the best word to describe the experience that the main character has throughout the book. Spectacular feelings, spectacular pictures, spectacular experiences. She has so many feelings each day, some joyful and silly, others harder like grumpy and mad, and she feels them all in a spectacular way. It is indeed a silly book that is very relatable to children and the ups and downs of their worlds each day. I appreciate the variety of feelings expressed by this amazing little girl and the way the author describes the emotions and each of the reasons, big and small, behind the many feelings.
Another favorite of mine, particularly when I am helping children who are struggling with expressing sadness is Tough Boris by Mem Fox. You would never ever ever think in a million years that Tough Boris the pirate would be sad or, even crazier, cry! But Tough Boris does indeed have a tender sensitive side, like all of us humans, and he expresses it well. I highly recommend this book for a child who is having a hard time expressing sadness. Sad can be hard for kids, especially when they think of being sad as a weakness or “uncool”. Boris helps show kids that they can be both tough and all kinds of cool and yet still be sad, especially when you face something in life worth being sad about. Just a heads up this one may get to you as well! Tough Boris is also a really helpful book for a child who has experienced loss or grief.
Now for your worriers……I have the PERFECT book…just look at her. Can’t you just relate?? The main character of this story has become so dear to me when working with parents of kids who struggle with anxiety. And her name is Wilma Jean the Worry Machine. This is the title of the brilliant book written by Julia Cook. Wilma Jean does a fantastic job of worrying. She worries about big things like getting called on in math class, not knowing the question, kids making fun of her, AND it all ending up in the school newspaper. She worries about little things like what if they are serving buttered carrots which she hates for lunch in the cafeteria. She worries about it all. Luckily, she has a great mom who jumps in and decides Wilma Jean needs some help managing her worries. Mom gets the school involved and Wilma Jean’s team of supporters are able to give her some coping techniques that make a huge difference in her life. The story helps kids not only identify what it means to worry but also how to sort through the worries they can control and worries they cannot control. I like that this story is helpful and relatable for kids, but also gives parents a couple of good ideas to try with their kids too. Plus, it’s just a ton of fun to say “Wilma Jean the Worry Machine”!
Reading books with your children can bring about an abundance of positive outcomes. It can expand their minds and build curiosity. Reading can help them cope with their own experiences and feelings. There are a multitude of studies that prove that reading with your children has incredible benefits, like this recent study that shows that reading can benefit your child’s behavior and attention. Reading books with your kids also builds your relationship. Books like the ones above, offer wonderful opportunities to help your child navigate their emotional world and engage in interactions with you on how to deal with it all. In my opinion this is one of the greatest gifts books can bring to children and parents…helping start the hard conversations and giving parents a way to use language and stories to engage in these conversations.
I have a background in child development and work with parents and caregivers of kids of all ages to build lasting positive relationships with their children. If you are a parent or caregiver who would like additional support and coaching, please contact me here. I offer free 15 minute consultations where I’ll try to get an idea of what you are dealing with and how I can help. We will get a good sense of each other and can decide if I’m the best fit for you. Together we will make a plan for the next steps.