The best books for littles with anxiety

Brenda Ponnay Author Of It's Not About You, Little Hoo!
By Brenda Ponnay

Who am I?

I'm not really an expert on anxiety other than being an adult who suffers from it. I thought I was normal and everyone felt the way I did until I started looking for books to help my daughter with her panic attacks and I realized I have it too! I've since been diagnosed and lead a pretty great life with the help of therapy and medication. What parents share with their children during nightly story reading or on the couch to read a few books is very bonding and intimate. I think that's the best time for kids to ask their parents questions and share their emotions. My goal is to help those conversations happen.


I wrote...

It's Not About You, Little Hoo!

By Brenda Ponnay,

Book cover of It's Not About You, Little Hoo!

What is my book about?

This is a story of a little anxious owl who thinks everything is his fault. His friends run off, he thinks they don’t like him, his bike doesn’t work, he thinks he’s a bad bike rider, he gets picked last for the soccer team, he feels rejected… but his father, Papa Hoo, tells him gently why each scenario is actually not about him at all. His friends had to go home for dinner, his bike needed a tune-up, and somebody has to get picked last. Not everything is personal. 

As an adult I was excluded accidentally from a group trip and it hurt my feelings. The more I sat with these feelings, I realized they came from childhood feelings of being left out. I wrote this children’s book to help other anxious people like me. 

The books I picked & why

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Scaredy Squirrel

By Mélanie Watt,

Book cover of Scaredy Squirrel

Why this book?

This book is adorable and hilarious. It takes worries to the nth degree which can help children realize they are not the only ones filled with anxiety. Scaredy Squirrell thinks about the pros and cons of taking risks and eventually figures out a way to get what he wants in spite of his worries. I think this is really helpful to teach coping skills. Anxiety doesn’t always go away but we can learn tools to deal with it. 

Both my daughter and I have issues with anxiety except I didn’t know I had it too until I started trying to help her navigate her fears. This book was a fun way to laugh about both of our aversions to taking risks.


What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

By Dawn Huebner, Bonnie Matthews (illustrator),

Book cover of What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

Why this book?

This workbook has a wealth of helpful tips on how to deal with overwhelming anxiety. It’s written simply with great illustrations that really help littles figure out the scary world that surrounds them. I love the example of worries growing like tomato plants. If we want the worries to stop growing, we stop watering them! At the time my daughter was four and we had a huge over-producing tomato garden so this was a perfect illustration for both of us. We set up a time to talk about worries and we kept to that time limit. It helped both of us go through the anxiety instead of getting overwhelmed by it. There is no cure for anxiety and medication is not really an option for small children so dealing with it head-on was the only way that worked for us. This book really gave us both tools. It’s practical and really well done. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with overwhelming fear.


Snaily Snail

By Chris Raschka,

Book cover of Snaily Snail

Why this book?

This is the sweetest little book. It’s super short with only 15 pages and only a simple sentence on every other page but the illustrations are adorable!! It’s about a snail and the narrator loves the snail. Each page reiterates their love and the illustrated snail is full of movement and character. I love the art style. It’s brushy and rushed but accurate and full of energy. I love the rhythm of the simple sentences. It’s fun and cute and perfect for reading aloud to a little. You can read it over and over and it never gets old.

When my daughter was afraid to go to kindergarten I would read it to her every day and tell her that I loved her like snaily snail. The last page says, “I love you when I work. I love you snaily snail!” and that really hit home for me because I was a single mom who had to work. It was very important to me that my daughter knew that when she was at school and I was at work I was still loving her. I even sent a little snail illustration in her lunchbox to remind her that I was at work I was thinking about her and loving her.


Yoko

By Rosemary Wells,

Book cover of Yoko

Why this book?

Yoko is a little Japanese cat who goes to school and encounters all kinds of fellow students who are very different from her. She brings a lunch packed with sushi and her classmates turn up their noses and make fun of her. Thankfully, Yoko has a great teacher and she uses this experience to teach the students about culture. They have a potluck lunch and everyone brings something. Even the bullies of the class bring something that might seem strange and unfamiliar to Yoko. In the end, they learn that we are all different and it’s our differences that make us fun.

I love this story because kindergarten can be very frightening to young children. Their brains are growing exponentially learning to count and read and sort colors etc… but they are also learning new social skills and that can be difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to food, the one thing that children usually have a strong opinion about! I loved this story because it highlighted different cultures and how they might seem funny or weird to others who are not used to them. It talked about being shy and dealing with bullies. That’s a lot for one book to cover but it’s done brilliantly with beautiful illustrations and useful accurate language.


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