Thoughts, Feelings

Children’s books you should have on your SA Book Shelf

As a proud dad of twin boys much of the last two years of my life has been spent reading children’s books and often thinking about them in the context of my work in Student Affairs. Most of us know the classic children’s books that make up the SA pro’s library/booklist. Don’t get me wrong; Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree are on my shelf and have come in super handy over the years for developing training sessions or impromptu chats with students. The purpose of this post is to mention a couple of my other favourites and give a brief snapshot on how they have informed my pedagogy and practice. In no particular order:

My Many Coloured Days by Dr. Seuss

My Many Colored Days book cover.Quick Review:

In this book, Dr. Seuss discusses the complexity of human emotion. The colourful art matches the bold way in which Seuss describes each emotion. Matching emotions to different colours also helps to relate them to the audience.  This book opens the door to discussions about the validity of emotion and the important role that different emotions play in our makeup and personal well-being.

How I have used this book:

This book has been used in sessions with residence staff, student leaders, and even pro teams as a starting point for discussions about what each of us brings to work each day.  It has also served as the basis for empathy building when discussing student behaviour with my staff teams. Lastly, I have used it along with a brief activity to discuss the importance of emotion in finding balance and well-being in work and life.


The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein

Quick Review:The Missing Piece Meets the Big O book cover.

A fantastic tale of a missing piece in search of its partner and acceptance of its place in the world, but realising after meeting the Big O that the missing piece can be whole even when it is independent from others. The simplistic art and abbreviated dialogue help to drive home the complex point of the importance of forming your own identity outside of the influence of others.

How I have used this book:

I have used this book with students in conversations and presentations about the importance of healthy relationships. The advice of the Big O rings true with respect to being able to find yourself outside of the context of a relationship.  I have also found that this book does an excellent job of framing student development with respect to the Theory of Self Authorship. For students and staff, Self-Authorship can be a challenging concept. The notion that much of one’s identity, internal narrative, and meaning-making can be influenced if not entirely derived from external sources is often resisted and problematic. This book can help begin a discussion about the importance of others within a student’s or colleague’s sense of self.

Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae 

Quick Review:Giraffes Can't Dance book cover.

Gerald is a giraffe who wants nothing more than to dance, however, he is uncoordinated and lacks the confidence to push past his fears and the mocking of his fellow jungle inhabitants. After being laughed away from the “jungle dance” he is all alone until he meets an unlikely friend who teaches him to listen for the music that he loves and encourages him to be confident. Spolier alert!!! In the end it turns out that Gerald is the best dancer of them all. This book has an excellent cadence and bold art that add to the underlying lesson.

How I have used this book:

I’ll admit, I haven’t yet used this book but I plan to. The message that all of us can dance when we find music that we love is quite relevant when working with staff and students on their personal/professional development. By truly listening to the world around you and being conscious of yourself, you can look beyond the boundaries that others may have set for you. This book can also nicely accompany career development work as it could be used to describe the importance of having an end goal and pursuing it with confidence.

Other Children’s Books on my list:

  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (Environmental Sustainability)
  • The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch (Identity Development)
  • I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (Changing Relationships)
  • John Austin

    I’m a big fan of using children’s books, literature, film, and pop culture in Student Affairs work, so you can imagine my delight in reading this. Great post, Ian!

  • Ian Crookshank

    If other folks have children’s books that are on their list, add them here in the comments field.

  • Ian Crookshank

    A new book on my list: “Mr. Zinger’s Hat” By Cary Fagan. A must read/use when discussing Self-Authorship or even the importance of story-telling. This one got me excited!!!!

  • Akeisha Lari

    Great post Ian!! 🙂 I like “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein for reminding us that it is important to give more than we take. Also, there’s a little somethin in there about Self Care!