Teacher explains how books can help students with anxiety and other emotions


Andrea Burns uses social-emotional learning books in her classroom.

A Kansas teacher is raising awareness about a teaching method she says helps students tap into their Mental Health and learn to manage your emotions in a healthy way.

Andrea Burns, who teaches fourth grade in Kansas City, shared an Instagram post last month with a photo of a whiteboard with a message saying, “Come read with me if you’re dealing with: grief, anxiety, mixed feelings ” and three arrows pointing to three corresponding picture books.

In the accompanying caption, Burns explained, “I really want to start highlighting and showcasing SEL books in my classroom based on any emotions or feelings the kids might be having. It might not be the fanciest way, but it’s a start!

SEL stands for Social and Emotional Learning and the concept emphasizes that students learn about different emotions and how to deal with them. It’s an approach to teaching that Ms. Burns says she learned about years ago in professional development training and is now incorporating into her literacy program.

Students learn key skills such as mindfulness, kindness, compassion, self-awareness and self-confidence. Burns said she saw a significant change in her students after they were introduced to SEL-focused books.

“I would say the progress I’ve seen in my students since the start of the year has been absolutely amazing and how they can recognize when they get angry or how to take deep breaths,” Burns told “Good Morning America”. .”

Children and their mental health have become a growing concern in recent years, especially amid the pandemic. The Ministry of Health and Social Services published new findings in March based on a survey of more than 170,000 children which showed that anxiety problems among young people increased by 29% between 2016 and 2020, depression rates increased by 27% and problems behavior and conduct had increased by 21% between 2019 and 2020.

Burns said she’s seen students’ mental health issues firsthand and heard from other educators about similar situations. “A lot of behaviors show up in children and we see a lot more emotional needs,” she said.

“Children have a lot of anxiety. Children take care of many things. And that just helps spark those conversations with those kids, because just seeing themselves in character is something that can help them understand what they’re going through,” she said.

“Teachers, adults, children, we’ve all been through the COVID boom and it’s obviously affected a lot of people’s mental health,” Burns added. “So I really made it my mission to focus on using literacy in my classroom and helping teachers and parents find books to help their children deal with the different aspects of social learning. -emotional.”

Burns seeks out and selects age-appropriate books for his students that fit the SEL model, promoted by groups like Casel and Second stepand also dedicates her Instagram to sharing books like “Happy Right Now,” which explores the idea of ​​being present, and “My Big, Dumb, Invisible Dragon” and “The Invisible Leash,” both of which are about grief.

She said her students were quick to seek out books that could tackle difficult topics, and she was able to connect with them on a new level through SEL books. “I know when a child is upset and is able to talk to them and say, like, ‘Hey, let’s read this book.’ Like, it’s just a very special bonding moment.

Burns said she has also been in touch with other parents and educators online who have sought out SEL books to guide children and students.

“It’s pretty amazing to see how people are on board,” she said. , how are they going to be able to sit down and learn, if they can’t control their emotions or how they feel inside, like they’re not thinking about math at all right now.

Burns said she plans to take the next college year to her own mental health and focus on launching her own SEL book, “Failure Friday,” to be published by the National Center for Youth Issues, a publisher in non-profit socio-emotional. learning resources.


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