The best books about trauma in early childhood and what to do to raise a healthy, happy child

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent most of my professional career as a therapist and educator, working with children who have experienced trauma and parents who want to do a better job. Trauma affects every aspect of human development and relationships. With support and understanding, trauma and its impacts need not be permanent: change and healing are always possible. The sooner the process begins, the better. The first five years of a child’s life are so important, and most parents are both overwhelmed by a glut of information and missing out on the most important parts of parenting. My hope is to make this information available to everyone who might benefit from it.

I wrote...

Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years -- Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful

By Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, Roslyn Duffy

Book cover of Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years -- Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful

What is my book about?

Positive Discipline for Preschoolers offers parents (and early childhood educators) practical, science-based information about how to build a healthy connection with a young child, as well as how to encourage the development of critical social and emotional skills, which are essential to healthy relationships and academic learning later in life.

You will learn to understand your child’s development and temperament, why children behave the way they do, and how to respond in ways that teach character and life skills. And you will learn the value of connection and encouragement in raising a capable, confident young person. Positive Discipline is trauma-informed, has been translated into several languages, and is being taught in more than 70 countries.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

Cheryl Erwin Why did I love this book?

What Happened to You? is both profound and easy to understand. Bruce Perry, one of the leading experts on early childhood trauma, has been a frequent guest of Oprah Winfrey, who has spoken many times about the trauma she experienced and the impact it had on her life. In this “conversation”, they explore what constitutes trauma, the effect it has on a person’s life, and how to find healing. Simply put, we need to change the question we ask of anyone who is struggling (especially a child) from “what’s wrong with you” to “what happened to you?” If you’re searching for understanding about your own behavior or that of someone you love, you may well find it here.

By Bruce D. Perry, Oprah Winfrey,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked What Happened to You? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Our earliest experiences shape our lives far down the road, and What Happened to You? provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand.

“Through this lens we can build a renewed sense of personal self-worth and ultimately recalibrate our responses to circumstances, situations, and relationships. It is, in other words, the key to reshaping our very lives.”―Oprah Winfrey

This book is going to change the way you see your life.

Have you ever wondered "Why did I do that?" or "Why can't I just control my…

Book cover of The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

Cheryl Erwin Why did I love this book?

This book distills volumes of science about how the human brain develops into practical tools that parents can use on a daily basis. The Whole-Brain Child also includes information (often in the form of drawings) that can be shared with children, so they too can understand why they sometimes feel and do the things they do. How we raise and relate to our children matters; this book will help you understand just why, and give you concrete tools for enhancing your child’s emotional development.

By Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Whole-Brain Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this pioneering, practical book for parents, neuroscientist Daniel J. Siegel and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson explain the new science of how a child's brain is wired and how it matures. Different parts of a child's brain develop at different speeds and understanding these differences can help you turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child's brain and raise calmer, happier children.

Featuring clear explanations, age-appropriate strategies and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child will help your children to lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives using…

Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Cheryl Erwin Why did I love this book?

You will never forget this book. Tara Westover experienced heartbreaking trauma as a child and young adult growing up in an isolated, cult-like family, yet this book is anything but a downer. Westover’s story of hope, curiosity, growth, and healing is inspiring, and provides a real-life story of how one young woman, with little or no outside support, overcame huge obstacles to create a rewarding life. Absorbing and beautifully written, Educated will inspire you to be the best you can be, regardless of what might have come before this moment.

By Tara Westover,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Educated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



'One of the best books I have ever read . . . unbelievably moving' Elizabeth Day
'An extraordinary story, beautifully told' Louise O'Neill
'A memoir to stand alongside the classics . . . compelling and joyous' Sunday Times

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the end of the world. She was never put in school, never taken to the doctor. She did not even have a birth certificate…

Book cover of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity

Cheryl Erwin Why did I love this book?

Dr. Harris is a world-changer. In her pediatric practice in an at-risk neighborhood in San Francisco, she saw young patients suffering challenges and illnesses that did not appear to be linked to any physical condition. She dug deeper, and discovered Adverse Childhood Experiences and the deep impact they can have on young lives. It is now her mission to educate doctors, who have not typically been trained in trauma or social and emotional challenges. Her book (and her TEDtalk on the same topic) is fascinating, exacting, and hopeful. Nadine Burke-Harris is now the first-ever Surgeon General of the State of California, and continues to educate parents and professionals about trauma and healing.

By Nadine Burke-Harris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Deepest Well as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An extraordinary, eye-opening book.”—People
2018 National Health Information Awards, Silver Award
“A rousing wake-up call . . . this highly engaging, provocative book prove[s] beyond a reasonable doubt that millions of lives depend on us finally coming to terms with the long-term consequences of childhood adversity and toxic stress.”—Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego—a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual assault—who galvanized her journey to uncover the connections between toxic stress and lifelong illnesses.

Book cover of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing

Cheryl Erwin Why did I love this book?

Despite its sobering title, this book is both uplifting and inspiring. Bruce Perry has worked with traumatized children for most of his professional career, and has trained hundreds of therapists and other professionals. These stories are both fascinating and hopeful, and provide a template for helping children who have been wounded by life and by those they trusted—and unfortunately, there are many such children in this world. Whether you’re a parent, a professional, or simply someone who wants to understand what happens to us along the road of life, this book is a valuable read.

By Bruce D. Perry, Maia Szalavitz,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What happens when a young child is traumatized? How does terror affect a child's mind-and how can that mind recover? Child psychiatrist Bruce Perry has treated children faced with unimaginable horror: homicide survivors, witnesses to their own parents' murders, children raised in closets and cages, the Branch Davidian children, and victims of extreme neglect and family violence. In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Dr. Perry tells their stories of trauma and transformation. He explains what happens to the brain when children are exposed to extreme stress and trauma and reveals his innovative (non-medicinal) methods for helping to…

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Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

Book cover of Return to Hope Creek

Alyssa J. Montgomery Author Of A Spanish Seduction

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Australian USA Today bestselling romance author who writes contemporary romance and uses the pen name Alyssa James to write medieval romance. I think the makeover trope resonates with me because although I’m no beauty queen now, I was definitely an ugly duckling in my teens. For reasons best known to him, my father insisted on close-cropped hair, and financial circumstances dictated out-of-style hand-me-down clothing. After university, I found my own style, but it wasn’t until I was accepted as an international flight attendant that I believed that I couldn’t be all that ugly if Qantas employed me!

Alyssa's book list on makeover romances

What is my book about?

Return to Hope Creek is a second-chance rural romance set in Australia.

Stella Simpson's career and engagement are over. She returns to the rural community of Hope Creek to heal, unaware her high school and college sweetheart, Mitchell Scott, has also moved back to town to do some healing of his own.

Mitchell, a former NFL quarterback, doesn't need the complication of encountering Stella again so long after the messy end to their relationship, but as each tries to build a new life, they are drawn together and find their chemistry is just as strong as ever.

Will their love be stronger the second time around?

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

What is this book about?

When two old flames come back to their home town, sparks are bound to ignite. A rural romance from USA Today bestselling author Alyssa J. Montgomery.

A horrific car accident ended former world number-one Stella Simpson’s tennis career, and a betrayal ended her relationship with her fiancé/coach. When a family friend offers to sell her half of a property in the rural community where she grew up, it seems like the perfect place to escape, heal and begin the next phase of her life. Until she discovers that the man who broke her heart ten years ago has bought the…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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