We all have feelings - all the time. Most of us only pay attention to our feelings when they change suddenly or are very pleasant or very negative. But emotions are very powerful - and they exist for a reason. By experiencing and responding to negative emotions such as fear, disgust, or pain, we may be trying to avoid danger. And without positive feelings such as joy - life would be a much different experience. Our relationships, work performance and health would begin to suffer. This is true for babies, as well as adults.
When infants and children feel loved and well cared for, their brains produce higher levels of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin enhances neural connections in the brain. But when infants and children feel stress, it increases their levels of the hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels rise for lengthy periods, it inhibits the transmission of serotonin, and thus limits the connections the brain needs for learning. [From Rethinking the Brain: New Insights Into Early Development by Rima Shore (NY: Families and Work Institute, 1997 for more information.) cited in Every Child Ready to Read training materials.]
Preparing children for school success includes much more than learning their ABCs. Getting a good start in life includes healthy social and emotional development for young children. This in turn helps get them "ready to learn."
For additional information on the social, emotional development of babies and toddlers, see Right From Birth: Building Your Child's Foundation for Life: Birth to 18 Months by Craig T. Ramey, Ph.D. and Sharon L. Ramey, Ph.D. (NY: Goddard Press, 1999.)
Touchpoints Birth to Three: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development
by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. with Joshua Sparrow. (Cambridge: Da Capo Lifelong, 2006.)
For further suggestions, please feel free to ask a librarian!