Emotional Literacy Paves the Way to Healthy Adulthood

From Babies to Pre-K, We Can Help Little Learners Gain Feelings Skills Daily

Emotions come in varying shapes and sizes for people of all ages. For young children, those feelings sometimes translate into challenging behaviors. Young children have a good reason for not managing their emotions in the ways that grown-ups should. Labeling and managing emotions is a developmental skill that is not present at birth and that takes years to develop.

Feelings stones

From naming feelings to modeling emotional skills, adults can do a lot to build emotional literacy in early childhood.

How children build emotional literacy

First, young children learn how to recognize emotions. As children experience and navigate feelings their daily lives, they make new brain connections. Those connections include an essential understanding of emotions and the skills they need for responding to everything from joy to frustration.

In your work, you can help children learn to label emotions, understand feelings, and respond in healthy ways. Combined, these skills are known as emotional literacy. Emotional literacy teaches young children to describe their feelings with words. In addition to those skills, emotional literacy teaches children what messages a feeling conveys to themselves and others, as well as how they are to respond using actions and expressions.

Emotional literacy today, effective adulthood tomorrow

Teaching emotional literacy leads to positive life-long effects for young children. That impact includes the ability to tolerate frustration better, demonstrate greater academic achievement, make friends more easily, and better manage their reactions to difficult situations.

Because we know that emotional literacy is one of early childhood’s most essential developmental opportunities, our Partnerships for Early Learners team will be sharing a series of ideas on how to promote these skills. You can read the first in this series of posts on emotional literacy today — Building Emotional Literacy with Books!


Jamie Le Sesne Spears supports early learning programs in their efforts to provide inclusive, supportive education and care statewide. Her passion for effective practice is rooted in her seven years of experience educating children with varying abilities as a preschool and kindergarten educator, as well as a behavioral technician. She has also created and implemented curricula, monitored student progress, and pursued family engagement practices. Jamie earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Miami University and her Master of Education in special education at Indiana University, IUPUI. During her master’s program, Jamie helped develop trainings focused on equity, early childhood education, and inclusive practices. Working with children with dis/abilities is one of Jamie’s strongest passions, and she enjoys volunteering with local churches to develop inclusive dis/ability ministries. Read more of her early ed insights here!