The best books for helping kids become themselves

Who am I?

In college, I majored in Human Development and Family Studies and found my calling – to work with kids and create SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) content for them. While still an undergrad, my first book was published (People Are Like Lollipops - a picture book celebrating diversity.) Throughout my career, I’ve continued writing books and creating multimedia content for kids and teens while helping parents support their kids’ character development in the digital age. I read a lot of parenting books, but I don’t always learn something new that opens my heart and mind. Each book I’ve recommended here did that for me. I hope the books on my list will help you on your parenting journey.

I wrote...

Teaching Kids to Be Good People: Progressive Parenting for the 21st Century

By Annie Fox,

Book cover of Teaching Kids to Be Good People: Progressive Parenting for the 21st Century

What is my book about?

We live in a world suffering from empathy deficit disorder where a viral culture of cruelty shapes opinions and behavior. Now and in the future, we desperately need more good people. But where will the next generation of good people come from? From parents who know their job includes teaching kids resilience and compassion. When we help kids develop a moral compass and the social courage to do the right thing, we help make the world a safer, saner, more accepting place for all of us. 

In Teaching Kids to Be Good People, Annie Fox has written a very personal, step-by-step guide to teaching our children to make healthy choices (online and off). Because being good is not enough. We have to do good.

The Books I Picked & Why

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Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World

By Rosalind Wiseman,

Book cover of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World

Why this book?

By the time our children reach middle school their choice of friends (for better or worse) becomes increasingly beyond our reach. Queen Bees and Wannabes (a non-fiction book that inspired the feature film Mean Girls), was the first to blast wide open the dark, dirty secret of girls’ relational aggression.

This book offers a deep dive into what many of our daughters have experienced or are currently in the thick of. Rosalind Wiseman, a parenting educator and NY Times best-selling author, helps parents better understand the queen bees in their kids’ lives – why these girls manipulate their peers and how we can help our daughters manage their emotions and social expectations in healthy ways so they neither fall victim to a queen bee nor put on the crown themselves and victimize others.

Carly's Voice: Breaking Through Autism

By Arthur Fleischman, Carly Fleishman,

Book cover of Carly's Voice: Breaking Through Autism

Why this book?

Like the best memoirs, this one reads like a novel in that Arthur Fleischman and his wife and children are drawn with so much honesty and detail you’ll feel as if you know them, or know people like them. Daughter Carly, however, is less knowable, because her childhood diagnosis of autism, cognitive delay, and oral motor apraxia (difficulty easily coordinating and initiating movement of the jaw, lips, tongue, and soft palate) had left her unable to communicate.

Carly’s Voice was one of the early books to explore, first-hand, the challenges of living with autism for the autistic individual as well as her family. Through the determined efforts of her parents and therapists who refused to stop helping Carly reach her full potential, Carly learns to type! That changes everything. Readers are privileged to peek inside the thoughts, feelings, and quirky sense of humor of an inspiring young woman who has dreams to follow and plenty to say.

The Immortality of Influence: We Can Build the Best Minds of the Next Generation

By Salome Thomas-El, Cecil Murphey,

Book cover of The Immortality of Influence: We Can Build the Best Minds of the Next Generation

Why this book?

Written by Salome Thomas-El, a parent and a nationally acclaimed educator, The Immortality of Influence nails a parent’s job description: We’re here to help kids recognize and realize their full potential. Simply put, that’s our legacy to our kids, grandkids, and any young person we take under our wing. I loved how the personal stories throughout this book demonstrated, again and again, the positive and lasting impact a consistently caring and responsible adult can have on a child’s life. Having had the honor of visiting Principal El’s school, I can attest to the fact that he walks the walk in a special way that’s immediately apparent to every child he encounters.

Teach Resilience: Raising Kids Who Can Launch

By Deborah Gilboa, MD,

Book cover of Teach Resilience: Raising Kids Who Can Launch

Why this book?

Dealing with disappointment and rejection is part of growing up. But our kids also face unique challenges and social stressors that did not exist when we were their age. That’s why it can be hard to give them the kind of help they really need in those moments when they feel particularly vulnerable. Dr. G, a family physician, international speaker and mom of four boys, has written a book to help us help our kids in compassionate and practical ways. Her goal ought to be a top parenting goal for everyone: Teach kids resilience – i.e., the ability to move through and beyond your emotions and figure out what your next best move will be. With resilience as a life skill, kids have what they need to rebound in the face of any setback.

Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

By Katherine Ellison,

Book cover of Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

Why this book?

Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter. When she and her pre-teen son were both diagnosed with ADHD in the same year it became her personal and professional mission to find out as much as she could about this increasingly common diagnosis. Anyone who knows and loves someone who’s been diagnosed with ADHD would do well to read this book as a guide through the often bewildering landscape of ADHD treatments. As serious and personal as Buzz is, Ellison is a great writer and her memoir is equal parts science, expert interviews and analysis, parenting angst, and humor.