Family to Family Iowa

Book Reviews

Read up on some of the best books and information in these book reviews.

Most Recent

By Mary Hubbard, Disability Resource Library, Center for Disabilities and Development, University of Iowa Children's Hospital

Behaviorists tell us that empathy, the ability to connect on an emotional level with another person, is a gold- standard achievement for children. Empathy serves as a countermeasure to bullying behavior and to callous-unemotional traits; empathy is an antidote to nonverbal learning disorder, and it is a bridge to friendship for young people on the autism spectrum as well as for youth with ADHD. If your child is not naturally empathetic, prosocial attitudes and behavior can be learned – preferably while the brain is still young and malleable. The selections presented in this review offer parents, teachers and middle schoolers the opportunity to wade into the formidable topic of emotions and figure out what the “empathy buzz” is all about.

Understanding Myself: A Kid's Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings

By Mary Lamia

Preteens ages 8 to 13 may wish to explore their emotions privately, in which case the featured book Understanding Myself: A Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings (Magination Press) is a solid choice. Written to an adolescent audience, this book is anything but didactic. Author Mary Lamia deftly interweaves brain science with the charged world of teen emotions, moods and feelings.  Eye-opening, evidence-based factoids (termed Psych Notes!) are interspersed throughout the text, as are mini self-scored questionnaires that help young people think about their emotional responses to stimuli with guidance, not judgment.  In the course of 111 pages, certain chapters or examples are bound to resonate in the young mind as a lived experience. “Aha!” moments are teaching moments, the first steps toward wisdom.

Teaching Children Empathy, the Social Emotion

By Tonia Caselman

Many young people, however, will need guidance in their journey to the social self, so try Teaching Children Empathy, the Social Emotion (YouthLight). If the title doesn’t tell you all you want to know about this book by Tonia Caselman, then the subtitle surely will: “Lessons Activities, and Reproducible Worksheets (K-6) that Teach How to “Step Into Others’ Shoes.”  This is a child-tested and approved unit for the schoolroom that a parent just might want to buy for home use.  The activities and talking points are designed, according to Ms. Caselman, to help students acknowledge the feelings of others and to give them the motivation to establish a bond with one another.  The curriculum is laudable for its treatment of higher order concepts like conflict resolution and cultural diversity in an interactive, approachable sort of way.  Puzzles, games and self-evaluation worksheets are plentiful, though it is unfortunate that the publisher did not include a CD-ROM of reproducible exercises with the product.

Socially ADDept: Teaching Social Skills to Children with ADHD, LD, and Asperger's

By Janet Giler

Socially ADDept: Teaching Social Skills to Children with ADHD, LD, and Asperger’s (Jossey-Bass) overlaps the Caselman book just slightly in age (8-13), but the focus of Janet Giler’s book is specifically on young people who fall into the category of learning disabilities with social deficits.  It is a book for parents and teachers working with adolescents one-on-one to teach learners: (1) greater self-awareness, followed by (2) social awareness, culminating in (3) behavior adjustment to meet the expectations of peers. While role playing is a part of this process, Giler wisely warns that these exercises should not be played out in front of peers.  The training is rigorous, but not without humor.  Acquiring social skills is much like learning a new language: the process takes time to do well.  There is no greater reward though, than to be able to communicate in social language and receive a positive response.    


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