Using Children’s Books to Create Teachable Moments

By Rebecca Perlman Coniglio

There are so many teachable moments that occur on any given day in the lives of parents and their children. An effective way of capturing one of these moments is by finding just the right story to read together—one that provides an opportunity to explore a specific topic that arises. There are plenty of wonderful children’s books available to choose from, and books can be found in many places, such as the library, the bookstore, online, your local toy store, and even some supermarkets.

When selecting a book to read with your child, it is important to find characters that he or she can identify with. Then you need to pick a story that demonstrates a positive example of how you would like your child to behave. For example, if your child is having difficulty saying sorry, you can locate a children’s book about a character who apologizes when he hurts his friend’s feelings.

Here are some strategies to implement when reading with your child with the purpose of teaching him or her a skill or life lesson. First, I recommend that you find a cozy spot. You can set up pillows or blankets, or even a bean bag chair. Once you are both settled, you can introduce the book by saying something about what you would like your child to listen for, such as, “I know sometimes it is difficult to say sorry, but let’s listen to how the characters in the story say sorry.” This is a way to stay positive and loving without making your child feel bad about the struggles he or she is having with the issue at hand.

Once you read the story, you can ask your child the following questions: 1. How did the characters in the book handle the issue, e.g., saying sorry? 2. How did the characters involved feel? 3. How did the story make you feel? 4. When and how can you practice the lesson/skill in the book? These questions should lead to a conversation about the topic you are working on with your child and open up the possibility for further exploration.

Another practical application of doing this exercise is, if this issue surfaces again, you can refer back to the story and how the characters acted. This can serve as a reminder to your child of how you would like him or her to respond. It will help trigger your child’s memory in a fun, gentle way.

Books are an incredible resource for dealing with many of life’s challenges. There are children’s books on almost any topic you may need, such as why not to bite, sharing, and even feeling lucky. As we head back to school, I encourage any mother of an anxious little learner to find a great book about school and read it with your child. It will help both of you feel more confident and ready to face the fall. I wish you good luck and happy reading.

Rebecca Perlman Coniglio received her master’s in social work from the Columbia University School of Social Work. She is a certified School Social Worker. Currently, Rebecca is in private practice specializing in children and adolescents. She is the author of a new children’s book series, Lily’s Little Life Lessons.