Bringing Heart and Mind into Storytime
Using Books and Activities to Teach Empathy, Tenacity, Kindness, and Other Big Ideas
by Heather McNeil
April 2022, 216pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-7717-9
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7718-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

A helpful guide to inclusive, play-based storytimes that increase children’s social-emotional skills and wellness.

Learn how to use children's books during storytime to approach sensitive topics and increase children's social-emotional wellness—and how to create storytimes that are engaging, participative, and FUN!

The emotional challenges many children experience consume the time of teachers, exhaust parents, and sometimes lead children toward behaviors that prohibit social and academic success. Storytime to the rescue! Library storytimes prepare children for kindergarten; storytimes at home and in preschools allow teachers, parents, and children to think and talk about empathy and the importance of honoring your own and others’ feelings.

In Bringing Heart and Mind into Storytime, Heather McNeil teaches librarians and teachers how to use books to open conversations with children to teach such concepts as patience, tenacity, kindness, and teamwork. McNeil shares research on brain development, social-emotional learning, and the importance of play, but she also emphasizes maintaining the fun of storytime. She recommends songs, action rhymes, games, and crafts that contribute to fun and healthy storytimes. Extensive lists of recommended books will help readers find the right ones for their audience.


  • Offers tips and techniques for including social-emotional learning in storytime through books, songs, action rhymes, games, and crafts
  • Includes recommendations for books related to social-emotional learning
  • Suggests best practices for participative, inclusive, and culturally aware storytimes
  • Shares comments and experiences from storytime presenters across the United States
Heather McNeil has been a youth services manager and professional storyteller for 40 years. She is the author of a book on early literacy and two books on storytelling. Her many awards include the 2017 Evelyn Sibley Lampman Award, the 2014 Oregon Library Association Librarian of the Year Award, the 1993 Colorado Library Association Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 1981 Mountain Plains Library Association Beginning Professional Award. She served on the American Library Association's 2018 Caldecott Committee and the 2005 Newbery Committee. McNeil is now retired, but she continues to offer workshops on early literacy, storytime skills, and storytelling.


"McNeil’s conversational and personal approach to SEL storytimes engages the reader while giving solid practical advice."—Booklist, November 1, 2022

"This valuable new resource spotlights a dynamic connection: the tie between storytime activities and the crucial social emotional learning of young children. McNeil draws on scientific research, along with her wealth of experience as a librarian, storyteller, and parent, to create a comprehensive resource for story time practitioners. Practical, fun, and inspiring!"—Steven Engelfried, Library Services Manager, Wilsonville Public Library

"Bringing Heart and Mind into Storytime is an easy-to-use resource packed with step-by-step, research-based, and practical ideas for bringing social emotional learning to children through stories. In this work, McNeil generously shares her skillful expertise and valuable insights, perfected through years of experience as a master storyteller and expert children’s librarian. With her authentic personal anecdotes, useful resources, and step-by-step instructions, she provides an easy-to-understand, valuable guide."—Jackie Vance, Student Success Coordinator, Bend Lapine School District; Instructor of Early Childhood Education, Central Oregon Community College

"Bringing Heart and Mind into Storytime is the complete package! Role models, parents, caregivers, and educators alike will appreciate the fun and integrated approach to SEL that this wonderful book offers. This important tool will help children everywhere navigate difficult topics and the emotions of daily life a little bit better." —Anne Williams, Owner/Director/Teacher, Mudpies & Lullabies Preschool

"McNeil invites all of us to delight in the joy of storytime and the power of children’s books to introduce young children to all the wonder and beauty of humanity. Parents, librarians, caregivers, and educators will find a wealth of ideas and resources to nurture the mental, social, and emotional well-being of the children in their care by bringing storytime to life. Bringing Heart and Mind into Storytime is a wonderful addition to your SEL library."—Kendra Coates, Director of Mindset and Social and Emotional Learning, High Desert Education Service District, Adjunct Professor, Author, Consultant, and Coach

"In this book, Heather McNeil shows how storytime presenters must be involved with introducing children to social emotional learning concepts. Using an extensive variety of examples, McNeil shows how presenters can truly make 'the biggest difference in our world,' as they bring empathy, teamwork, generosity, patience and more to storytime, always with a sense of fun, and always with a personal and creative touch. She reinforces a phrase I often used when I gave training sessions to children’s librarians: 'You never know the influence you have on a child.'”—Kathy Barco, Retired Children’s Librarian and Literacy Coordinator; Co-Author (with Melanie Borski-Howard) of Storytime and Beyond: Having Fun with Early Literacy
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