Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer: Which is your favorite book about Thanksgiving for ages 3 to 7?

Q: What's your favorite book about Thanksgiving for ages 3 to 7?

A: Any question that begins with "What is your favorite..." is hard for me to answer, because my moods change, my tastes change, and new things are constantly coming into my consciousness. Also, it's my job to imagine what might be someone else's favorite.  cover of Circle of Days by Lindbergh

Having said that, I do have a favorite Thanksgiving book! It is Circle of Days by Reeve Lindbergh - every time I read it, it puts me in the mood to be thankful for the total experience of living on a planet that is full of wonderful as well as terrible things. The text is from Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Sun; as a secular humanist, I choose to change a couple of words when I read it aloud. It is a beautiful and meditative book. 

cover of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by RobertsonA book that has recently come into my consciousness is Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson - this one has even more darkness in it, but is a vision for love and unity. Over the past year, many children have witnessed the turmoil in the world, and I am thankful that some authors and illustrators have crafted stories that bring us from fear and hate toward love and unity. I am also thankful that we have alternatives to the mis-portrayals of Native Americans that are ubiquitous at this time of year. If you'd like to read more authentic stories from the native people of North America, look to this blog.

cover of Our Community Garden by Pollak

The harvest feast with my family is the best thing about having a few days off of work and school in my opinion. I really appreciate books that show growing and eating food as a fun, beautiful, community endeavor. One great example (among many books on this topic!) is Our Community Garden by Barbara Pollak, which puts the focus on children's contribution to the harvest, and includes foods from a variety of cultures - plus it is set in the Bay Area!    

 Lado a Lado by FullertonCalifornia's Central Valley is home to dramatic episodes in the historical struggle for the rights of farmworkers, and people who (like me) make an annual trip down I5 will especially want to know this history. If you grew up here, you know about the grape boycot, and you might already include farmworkers in your thankful thoughts. Here's a book short enough to read at the rest stop when you're driving down to your SoCal relatives' dinner: Side by Side : The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (Lado a Lado : La Historia de Dolores Huerta y César Chávez) by Monica Brown


If you are looking for a book about Thanksgiving history, try 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, which presents history alongside many commonly held myths about this holiday.  It may be a little beyond your 3-7 year old, but it is a nice text to pull and learn from.

It's easy to search a library catalog for "Thanksgiving" - it's more complex to find books that will help your family make meaning of the holiday. I hope my suggestions lead you to a favorite book to read when you are eating your favorite foods - and it doesn't have to be turkey, either.

Now it's your turn to submit a question. Click on the button, or leave a comment.  Thank you!

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. Where do you keep your Level K books?

Q: Where do you keep your Level K books?cover of a reading primer called I Know a Secret

A: The short answer is that Oakland Library doesn't label books with reading levels using any of systems associated with proprietary testing...

...however, we do have areas of the library that gather a range of reading levels together. This allows readers to browse an area that encompasses their reading level and includes choices of subjects, visual presentations, genres, and writing styles. Our hope is that (without too much effort) readers will find books that appeal to them and are close enough to their reading level. 

So, when you ask us for leveled books, let us show you to the section that includes the level you need. At that point, many readers decide to get any books that look interesting and seem close enough to the right level.

We basically have 4 categories; Readers, Moving Up, Fiction (I like to call these Chapter Books), and finally Picture Books, which often means books meant for an adult to read aloud to a child, but includes many different reading levels.  Also, we have Non-Fiction Readers, Regular Non-Fiction, and Picture-Book-Non-Fiction at most library locations, so a person can find informational books at different reading levels, too.  Photo of a family all reading in bed together

However, if we have time and you're committed to finding the specific suggested level, you can get any book that looks good, and we will look it up online to find out its reading level.  The process of looking up each title is time consuming, but it is very likely that you'll get a feel for the level after a dozen searches or fewer, and then you can guess the level yourself. We would use these sites to search by title; Scholastic, AR, or Lexile

The owners of these sites do not enter every book ever published, but between them, we can usually find your title. You can also use these sites to find other titles at the same reading level. In fact, trying that sort of search a few times will give you some perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of leveling books.

Colorful chart comparing systemsQ: What does level "R" mean, anyway? How do I make sense of those "proprietary" leveling systems?

A: Ah, you want the long answer!  At my last count I found three systems that use the alphabet ("Fountas & Pinnell", "Reading A-Z ", and "Basic Reading Inventory" or "BRI"), four that use a numbering system ("ATOS" or "Accelerated Reader", "Reading Recovery", "Developmental Reading Assessment" or "DRA", and "Lexile"), and two that use terms ("Seedling" and "PM Readers").  Occasionally we find a chart or two that compares them to one another. However, another system could be invented while you are reading this blog!

The easiest one for me to make sense of is ATOS, because the numbers correspond to the grade level and the month of the school year. For example, ATOS level 3.5 means your child is reading at a level most commonly seen among students in the fifth month of third grade. It's tidy because there are 10 months in a school year – Yay for decimal systems! For that reason, I use ATOS as my benchmark to which I relate all the other leveling systems. You don’t have to, though.

1965 cover of Fun With Our Friends Dick and JaneEach proprietary system uses some kind of algorithm to calculate the level based on either the entire text or a sample of the text, some with a differential for the length of the book. For fun, paste something into this ATOS analyzer.  For example, this text is level 8.9, but the vocabulary is only 3.5, that means it was challenging, but well-worth reading, right?  

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians are standing by to answer your questions! 

Click here to Ask a Question

Q&A Patrons Ask: Do I have to read to my baby?

Q: I'ma keep it 100%.  I love my baby, but I really don't want to read to her every night at bedtime. And I don't want to feel pressured and called a bad parent! 

A:  I'm a momma too, so I got you. I'd never call anyone a bad parent. I understand all the well-meaning advice about what you "should be" doing with your children and how to "do it right" is unwelcome and unnecessary.  That's why I'm not gonna add to it – much. 

Reading to your baby is very important, we all know that. So as a professional I can't say “don’t read to your child."  But I will say, reading is supposed to be a fun way to bond with your child. In short, your baby needs words, not a nightly ritual you dread. So if you don't want to read tonight don't stress about it; sing to her. If you don't want to sing, play with her. If you don't want to play, talk to her.  Talking, reading, and singing are all equally important for your child's language and vocabulary development. But I am a children's librarian, and I promote reading to children, so you know I can't let this post be published without at least one book recommendation right?  I'll recommend my oldest son's favorite book: 

I love read this story because it's short; and gives me encouraging words when I am tired and reading to my boys feels like one more chore to complete.  I hope you find the words encouraging as well.

Read To Your Bunny, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Photographs of families in the Eastmont Branch, and a few shameless photos of my own family.

Read to your bunny often

It's 20 minutes of fun


It's 20 minutes of moonlight

It's 20 minutes of sun

It's 20 old favorite minutes

It's 20 minutes brand new


Read to your bunny often and

Your bunny will read to you.

I'll admit I don't follow the recommended time of 20 minutes at home.   I don't bother to watch the clock, I just read a story. If the book takes 5 minutes I read for 5 minutes. Some of your babies favorite books will take less than 5 minutes to read aloud.  Don't feel pressured to read for a set amount of time.  And sometimes, when I am really pressed for time, I just put a bunch of books on the floor and let the boys "read" to themselves. (touching books counts)

Hey mom, I get it. I'm busy, you're busy,  who has time sit down and to read to babies? Well if you wait for that perfect television inspired moment with the kids all snuggly in the pajamas in their bed you will never have time to read with them. So look for unconventional moments to read to your baby.  For example: when my boys where younger I'd read to them while they played in the bathtub. Multitasking at its finest!

Now, I read paperback romance novels out loud to my one year old and library textbooks to my cat (fur babies count right?)

Why?  My baby doesn't care what I read to him. As long as I am engaging with him he's happy; and I need adult level reading in my life!  A bonus, he falls asleep on my lap while I am reading him a story I enjoy.

So relax and have fun with your baby as you talk, read, play and sing to her. Don't stress over what you "should be" doing, and please don't feel pressured to "do it right." As they say "just do you Boo."  You and your baby will be just fine. BTW: I think you are an awesome parent!  

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Feelings About Starting School

Q: School is starting in a few days...we’re excited and anxious – both!  Do you have any book suggestions to calm our anxieties? 

Poster from the movie Inside OutA: It sounds like today you’re looking for ideas about the emotions you & your child are feeling, rather than the facts of what will happen the first week of school.  You can read about either, or both…This time of year gives parents and children a great opportunity to practice recognizing your own & others’ feelings, identifying them, expressing them, and responding to them. 

When children read books or watch movies that have any emotional content, they learn about those emotions. Even if it's just one feeling, they learn how to identify it, express it, and some possible ways to respond to it. Even if the characters in the story respond badly, children can learn what not to do! 

Cover of CD Free to Be You & MeEducators and psychologists expressed enthusiasm for the movie Inside Out - not solely for its entertainment value, but as a tool to explain how human being process emotions. Younger children might still like to listen to Rosey Grier singing It's Alright to Cry - from the early 1970s! - or the whole album 

Like any life transition, starting school can bring up strong emotions. Helping your child understand her thoughts and feelings -- and explore the thoughts and feelings of others -- helps her grow and understand. Reading books together gives you a way to start a conversation and find out how you can support your child.

Children each have their own point of view, and their own inner thoughts to sift through. The themes within back-to-school stories often include important life lessons about some or all of the following:

    • Being a friend
    • Getting along with new peoplebook cover of How to be a friend
    • Accepting differences
    • Mending relationships with difficult people
    • Protecting yourself from dangerous people
    • Calming general anxiety
    • Conquering specific fears
    • Facing new situations
    • Accepting separation from loved ones
    • Celebrating accomplishments (your own & others')


  • Being ready for and open to learning 

So, here are my updated lists of school stories, categorized roughly by the level of school your child is attending. You can print a list in order by author to make it easy to find, or come in and ask one of us to help you find the right book for your family: 

cover of book Feelings by Aliki       Preschool  cover of A Kiss Means I Love You


       Elementary School  

       Middle School     

Even if the book you read together doesn’t match your own thoughts and feelings, it could spark a discussion that helps clarify your observations, or helps your child relate to the other students she meets. The most important thing is to make time to talk to and listen to your child. 

In the Comments below, would you share your feelings about the First Day of School – one you remember, or one you anticipate?  And if you have a question you'd like us to address, click on the button: 

                                                    Click here to submit a question for our blog.

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. How do you know if a person is cheating on the Summer Reading Challenge?

Q: How do you know if a person is just cheating by filling in all the stickers but not reading?A volunteer (unnamed) looking sneaky with her reading log.

A: We don’t know!

Of the approximately 500 kids who have signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge at my branch library, only 3 have had the audacity to ask this question.

However, at the beginning of June, when I visited classrooms at a number of Oakland Public Schools (all the children's librarians do this every May & June) to tell kids about the Summer Reading Program, another dozen kids asked the same question. At every school, there is always at least one person, usually in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, who asks me, "What if someone cheats and fills in all the stickers without reading anything at all?"

So I've answered this question a LOT. Here is what I say:

Bookshelves at Oakland LibraryWe use the honor system, which means we trust you to read a little every day (we count days; not time, not books). We are confident that it's more fun to read something than it is to lie about it and then skulk around feeling like a cheater. 

However, if you are one of the people who can't find anything you want to read for 15 (or even 5) minutes a day, you need to come talk to me!  We have over 30,000 kids books at my branch alone, and it's my job to find the 1 book you really, really, really want to read this summer. (Maybe that is why we call it the Summer Reading Challenge!)

Everyone needs help finding the right book sometimes. If you haven't yet found the book that makes you want to read, it's could be because you haven't yet asked your librarian for help. Come talk to me, and I will do everything I can to find the best book - the greatest book - the most fantastic book for you! 

You know what else? This is your summer vacation! We want you to be able to relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy yourself. You get to pick whatever you want to read, so the 15 minutes a day should be 15 minutes that please you. If you hate fiction, pick up some non-fiction. If you had a bad experience with a fantasy that all your friends loved, try some science fiction, or a mystery. If you are sick and tired of comic books, read some history - or vice-versa!

If we can't find a book that looks like fun for you to read, then probably what we need to do is find a book that looks like fun to hear read aloud. (I wish we had 20 copies of The True Meaning of Smekday - a patron recommended it to me and it's the best.) It's my opinion that kids who don't like to read should sit back, close their eyes, and listen to a wonderful story reader. Usually, it's your mom or dad, a grandparent, or a sibling. If they are all busy, then there are professional story readers who make recorded books that you can listen to on CDs or as downloadable audiobooks.

I'm not worried about you cheating, but it will break my heart if I missed the chance to help you find a good book.

If your librarian never seems to be available when you come to the library (waiting in line is SO hard for kids), try our new online service called Book Me! to ask for help finding a book, or call your local branch library to find the best time to ask for personalized help.

As always, if you have a comment, leave it below, and if you have a question you'd like us to answer online, click the button below.

Button; Ask Your Question here

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: How old do you have to be to get a library card?

Q: How old do you have to be to get a library card?

A: Five years old, or in Kindergarten.

Chloe (age 5): [beaming at her mom] I am five!

Librarian: Great! You can get your first card today! You can fill out the registration form on paper, or online, at the computer right next to the desk or at home.

Mom: Should we do it right now?

Chloe: Yes! Let's use the computer! Can I help you type?

Mom: Sure!

[After some interruptions from little brother, Leo, who just turned 3, they have completed the form, visited the Circulation Desk to get the card, and had a discussion about whether it would be better to put the "Now I have a library card" sticker on her shirt now, so her friend could see it, or tomorrow, so her friend AND her teacher could see it. Chloe couldn't decide, so she tucked it into her new blue wallet (comes with the card) to decide later.]

Mom: What book do you want to check out on your new card?

Chloe: Do they have more Charlie & Lola books? 

Librarian: We might, let's look! ... Here's a list of all the Charlie & Lola books that you can get at Oakland Libraries. [Everyone crowds around the computer screen, while the librarian reads the titles aloud.] Which ones do you want to read? 

Chloe: I want to read Snow is my favorite! 

Librarian: Okay. That one isn't here today, but we can put a hold on it for you so you can pick it up here next week. In the meantime, let's see which ones are here today for you to take home right away.

[There are 3, but she has read one of them already, so she takes the other two. Leo gets excited about a Dora book, and a few items from the Picture Book Non-Fiction section are tossed in Mom's bag - a book about dogs and a book about creatures in the garden, along with a number of other picture books and a few beginning readers. Finally, the family comes back to the desk.]

Mom: Are there any other books about getting a library card, or libraries in general?

Librarian: There are a few, let's see... [Again, we crowd around to see the list of titles. There are a lot! They decide to look for a few of them, and we jot down the authors of the picture books and the readers. The librarian shows them the shelves where they are kept.] If you can't find any of these, come get me, and I'll help you track them down. Don't forget to come back to put a hold on that one book!


[Again the family comes back to the desk.]

Librarian: Okay, so we're going to place a hold on a Charlie & Lola book, which will get here in a week.  

[After some discussion, Chloe generously offers to check out books for her little brother on her new card.]

Librarian: That is very kind of you!  How about today, you pick out two books for yourself on your brand-new card, and Mom will check out the other books for herself and for your brother. Then in 3 weeks your books will be due. After you return them, you can check out up to 40 items, and some of them can be for your brother.

Chloe: Okay. [She shrugs.] Wait, did you say FORTY BOOKS?  [Mom & the Librarian nod YES.]

Librarian, to Leo: Your sister got a sticker today with her new library card. Would you like your own sticker?

[Leo sorts through all the stickers in the box, and picks out a Dora sticker. He immediately puts it on his shirt. The family then settles in with some coloring sheets, and Chloe happily gives the librarian any markers that have run out of ink. This is an important job that young people often help accomplish at our branch.]

Librarian: By the way...Did you know this week is National Library Week?

Mom: We did not know that! That's pretty special!

Librarian: I'm curious; What made you decide to get a library card today?

Chloe: I was talking about library things and mommy said, "Speaking of the library, I think you could get a library card now."

Librarian: I'm so glad you came in today!  See you again soon.

And speaking of library things; Did you know...

...There are about 3,500 Kindergarten-age children in Oakland who have a library card!

...Oakland Public Library issued first library cards to 6,764 children (people under age 13) in the past year!

...A total of 35,000 children (people under age 13) currently have an active Oakland Public Library card.

If you don't yet have your own library card, click here, or come talk to us. Whether you paid taxes or got a refund this year, library workers appreciate your participation in the economy, and want to reciprocate by providing you with the best service, all throughout the year.

As usual, we'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, or ask us your question in person, or online.

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Antidotes to teen romances for my precocious pre-teen?

Q: My daughter is in 6th grade, and she’s an avid reader. She’s choosing teen stories that seem to actually be romances - vampires, warriors, rebels, detectives - they all seem to focus on the love interest in the end! I feel Twilight is one of the books the 6th-grader had it might be influencing her behavior toward the boys in her school - in a way that to me seems vulnerable. Do you have any good stories about strong female characters without the romance? Akata Witch - See below for details.

A: As your child continues to develop her individual identity, it would be nice to have a steady supply of role models in literature that show a variety. We can find plenty!

As to her current reading choices; while romance is a real option for older teens, if younger people believe they should emulate it before they actually feel it from within, it could get confusing for them.

You could talk to her to figure out what those romantic scenarios mean to her - at her age, she may be very interested in them, or she may be skimming those parts. Aim to keep the lines of communication open in both directions. She is still at the age where your opinion matters, and she may have questions for you if she can trust you to be open and nonjudgmental.

Sabriel - see details below!In any case, it is best to not interfere with your child’s reading choices. Those books are not going to damage her, and as much influence as they have, her family, her friends, and all the other books in the world have just as much or possibly more.

So...your idea is perfect; have a couple of books on hand every time she finishes another one of those racy novels. Here are some ideas - these are stories that stay in the social & emotional world of middle school kids ages 10 to 13, have strong, self-aware, individuated female characters who focus on their mission, their interests, and their own strengths, and don’t chuck it all for the hot guy in the end.

Fantasy & Magic 

Kat, Incorrigible (Burgis), Princess Curse (Haskell), Howls Moving Castle (Jones), Kiki's Delivery Service (Kadono), Tale of Two Castles (Levine), Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Lin), Princess Ben (Murdock), Sabriel (Nix), Akata Witch (Okorafor), Wee Free Men (Pratchett), Golden Compass (Pullman), Thickety (White);  

Kat, IncorrigiblePrincess CurseHowl's Moving Castle - also a great Miyazaki movie!Kiki's Delivery Service Tale of Two CastlesWhere the Mountain Meets the MoonPrincess Ben Sabriel (First in Abhorsen series) Akata WitchWee Free Men (first in series of 4 books)Golden Compass (first book in His Dark Materials)Thickety

Science Fiction

Search for Wond-La (Diterlizzi), City of Ember (DuPrau), Skyjumpers (Eddleman), Wrinkle In Time (L'engle), True Meaning Of Smekday (Rex), When You Reach Me (Stead);

Search for Wond-LaCity of EmberSky JumpersWrinkle in TimeTrue Meaning of SmekdayWhen You Reach Me

 Realistic Fiction

Breadwinner (Ellis), Mare's War (Davis), Lady Grace Mysteries (Finney, aka Cavendish), Harriet The Spy (Fitzhugh), Journey to the River Sea (Ibbotson), Thing About Luck (Kadohata), From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg), Wild Girls (Murphy), Wonderstruck (Selznick), Counting By 7s (Sloan), At The Sign Of The Star (Sturtevant) Revolution (Wiles);

Breadwinner (first in series)Mare's WarLady Grace Mysteries (Assassin & Betrayal, bks 1 & 2)Harriet the Spy - see other editions tooJourney to the River Sea The Thing about LuckFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerWild Girls WonderstruckCounting by 7sAt the Sign of the StarRevolution 

Each of these books is a favorite of mine for a different reason. (Okay, there are 2 on these lists I haven't read, but I have on good authority they are worth reading...) Your daughter won’t like every one of them, so please ask us how to narrow it down. If you click on the book cover, you can see if the book is in the library today, and place a hold if you like.


Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians will answer questions on  this blog the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. We'd love to hear your ideas and feedback in our comments (below).  We also would love to answer YOUR question! Click here:   

Click here to submit a question!

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have books that explain about the birds & the bees?

Shocked dadQ: My eight-year-old son is asking me about how babies are made. I gave him a short-version answer, and now he has a lot more questions. I'm realizing that my older daughter (now 12) probably had a lot of questions she didn't ask out loud when I gave her the simple answers a few years ago. What books do you have for both of them?

It's Perfectly Normal - a book cover.

A: We have plenty of books on this topic for different ages. You will find it much easier to answer your children's questions with the help of some well-chosen books! Whether you read a book aloud to a younger child, give one to an older child to read herself, or simply read one yourself to get ideas of the best ways to respond to their questions, having some published information will help you teach your children about human development and reproduction.

Cover of a COMPLETELY inappropriate book for this blog post.You may not agree with every statement in all of these books – each family has their own set of values and perspectives. However, these books represent ideas that exist in the world, so responding to them either with agreement or disagreement will clarify for your children what you believe and what your expectations are for them, while at the same time sharing essential information they need to know.

Here are some books for kids to read on their own, or for you to read aloud to them:

    Sorry, this book (Asking about sex & growing up) is no longer available at the Oakland Library.              

As you can see, they range from those books that simply explain how babies are made to those that explain what changes a body goes through that enable people to have babies! Those questions come up more as a child grows.

Here are some books written for adults that give tips for talking about reproduction and sexuality, and about setting boundaries as they grow up:

Children of every age have questions, and it's never to early to present an age-appropriate answer to any question they have. (See the blog post from last month for books about how babies are made that are best for preschool-age kids.) If your kids see you as a neutral and reliable source of information, you will have the basis for continuing communication as they become teenagers.

We'd love to answer your question next! We assure confidentiality. Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month.   

Button to push to submit a question!

Parenting a Baby Part 2: Parenting Collections @ OPL

Is your baby having trouble sleeping through the night?  Is breastfeeding not going well?  How and when do you introduce food to babies?  What are the appropriate developmental stages babies go through and when should babies go through them?  Can babies learn sign language?  And, of course, a topic close to my heart, how do you read to a baby?

Raising a baby is hard work and we are here to help.  Last month I highlighted  some of the programs we offer babies and their families.  This month, we look at some of the materials we offer.  All of Oakland's libraries have parenting books, magazines and DVDs that can help you figure out how to best care for a baby and answer any questions you might have.  In fact, we have parenting materials for all ages of children and all kinds of families.   Just go to our home page at and key in your search topic or ask a librararian for help.

Here are some of our favorite parenting books about babies.  What are some of yours?

Book Cover

      Book Cover     Book Cover   

 Book Cover     Book Cover     

The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep /Harvey Karp

Feeding the Whole Family/Cynthia Lair

The Nursing Mother's Companion/Kathleen Huggins

The Read Aloud Handbook/Jim Trelease

What to Expect the First Year/ Heidi Murkoff et al.

My First Signs/Annie Kubler

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Can picture books fix my kid’s behavior problems?

Q: Is there a Berenstain Bears book about not biting people? My daughter has been biting other kids at preschool. Her teachers say it’s getting worse! Is there a book I could read to her showing how wrong this is?

A: Yes! Your question is a profound one. Children’s authors, publishers, teachers, parents, therapists, and children themselves have been seeing books as bibliotherapy for generations. As a result, there are a variety of books both silly and profound that could help in this siNo More Biting for Billy Goattuation. How can bibliotherapy help?Among other things, kids realize...

  • It's okay to have feelings

  • It's okay to talk about it

  • Other people have faced similar problems

  • There are different solutions available

  • Kids can solve problems 

So, where to start? The easy answer is to look up your preschooler’s particular issue in our online catalog. (...type in biting – or any other behavioral issue – and limit to children's books.) If nothing comes up, we'd take a look at A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books. It has picture books indexed under 1,215 subjects, including 53 different behaviors, from “animals, dislike of” to “worrying,” although, biting is not there – but we can look through the 35 books about “fighting.” A cool online resourcehas a few more titles. The Berenstain Bears books often have a clear behavioral message, and kids like to hear stories about characters they know and love. Since there isn’t one on biting, you might take a look at this one; The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends

Berenstain Bears & the Trouble with Friends

I am often asked for books to help a child overcome a particular problem – biting, hitting, whining, lying, stealing, teasing or bullying others, fears, sucking her thumb, screaming or throwing tantrums, etc. Practically every kid does something, sometime! misbehavior a universal experience?

When I was a new parent, I read several parenting books that put forward the view that all children's negative behavior is an attempt to communicate. (Like the 3 below.) These authors proposed that when the behavior annoys, angers, scares, or hurts others, it's very likely an indication that the child has some strong or negative feelings. Therefore, the solution – to all irksome behavior – is to teach the child how to effectively communicate negative feelings & whatever caused them.


An adult who spends a lot of time with a child teaches this vocabulary simply by saying aloud what they observe and guess about the child's feelings – but some things just don’t come up until a moment when the parent isn't there to interpret.

Books provide extra scenarios to absorb or to discuss feelings – the characters’, your own, and your child’s – so you don't have to wait for something to surprise you. Any book that shows characters having any feelings can start a conversation. The language of feelings is complex and may take a lifetime to fully explore. Here are my favorite books on the general topic of expressing feelings, in order from those for the youngest kids (2 years) to the oldest (about 9+ years):


In addition, the popularity of some rather uncomfortable books illustrates how negative feelings are human and common– it really is a comfort when someone else (even a character in a book) struggles through similar feelings. Here are a few that are wonderful to read to a child. They convey that you will love her and take care of her, even when she has so-called bad feelings, and even when she makes mistakes:


All these books (and many others on unrelated topics) show characters feeling something and being heard – by the reader if not by the other characters in the story!

You may not need a book about a biter, a hitter, a screamer, a liar, a thief, or a tantrum thrower. Children's books, by providing a wide range of situations and responses, build the child's repertoire of familiar life experiences. Each book, on any topic, can build understanding, empathy, and self-awareness, and allow your child to witness or imagine possible responses.