It’s time for some social emotional books! Here I’ll talk about some of my FAVORITE social emotional books and the skills they help foster. Students can easily connect through literature, especially when characters are humans they can relate to because they are representations of them. I love teaching students skills through literature and there are SO many amazing books being published that cater to social and emotional development. If you’ve read my Social Emotional Education post you know exactly how passionate I am about SEL and why it’s a crucial skill for our little learners.
This list was extremely difficult for me to compile because there were so many awesome options. However, I was able to target twenty-ish (I may have cheated and added more!) of my favorites to share with you! Some of these books will be a repeat from my 25 Awesome Back to School Books post because social and emotional learning must be talked about, especially in the beginning of year. Keep in mind that I teach primary students, so some of these books may be geared towards littles but I do believe that most of the books can be used for any elementary grade student. So…what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!
- Bubblegum Brain- This is a great book for teaching growth mindset to students. It’s fantastic because it shows two different mindsets of students and how they choose to grow… or not. One student in this story scores well on a test without studying and doesn’t think he needs to do anything different. But by the end of the book, he realizes that we can ALWAYS do better. Understanding we should always continue to grow is such an important message for our kids! Growth mindset is a huge SEL concept so I can’t help but add a few more in here. Other favorites for having a growth mindset are The Bad Seed, Giraffes Can’t Dance, and Jabari Jumps and below is one my favorite growth mindset activities to do with students.
- I Can Do Hard Things- This book is awesome for helping students build self confidence. It provides the vocabulary of YET and opens up discussions about being able to do any and all things they put their minds to. To continue to work on confidence, utilizing positive affirmations is a great way to talk to yourself and build on that self-assurance. I Am Enough is an awesome book that provides positive affirmations when things get challenging.
- The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes- It is HUMAN to make mistakes and that is how we grow and learn. This wonderful book promotes mistake making, especially for those students who tend to want things to be perfect. This book aims to help all students know it is OK and EXPECTED that we make mistakes! Another great book for this is The Good Egg.
- Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen- This is my favorite book to help students understand the importance of listening to others. They get to hear and learn about how to listen in a safe and funny way. This helps students understand the importance of listening, not only for themselves, but also for the people around them. Some more great titles for this skill are Why Should I Listen? and Listen Buddy.
- Each Kindness- I cannot say enough great things about this book. This book is very impactful for students and teaches them that even small acts of kindness can have. a HUGE impact. It also touches on how bullying can really hurt in ways we don’t understand. Random Acts of Kindness has an simple yet sweet activity that involves a jar and small rocks to put inside for every small act of kindness the class does and when the entire jar is full, the class gets a kindness party! This is a great way to kick start kindness in the classroom and help promote those small acts that have a huge effect. Some more books that teach about kindness are Be Kind, The Last Stop on Market Street, and Those Shoes.
- Say Something– This helps show students the importance of standing up for others and speaking up. This is absolutely an essential skill that is SO needed right now in our country’s climate and we have to teach students to always do the right thing, even when it’s hard and scary. This book can help students find their voice and understand how important it is to SPEAK UP. Some more books are Juice Box Bully, Speak Up, and Say Something.
- A Little Spot Books- These are a set of eight wonderful books all focused helping students understand their feelings and emotions in a way that makes sense. These books can help facilitate conversations about our emotions and healthy ways to express them, as well as help recognize what our body looks and feels like when we are overwhelmed. They can help students learn it’s ok to have big feelings and that we can help them learn how to cope with them. These are also great books to introduce a calm down spot in your classroom. Check out this Signs of Tension chart I love using with my students. Another favorite for feelings and coping is Howard B Learns It’s OK to Back Away.
- Do Unto Otters- This a fun way to introduce and discuss how to be a good friend and how we all get along with one another. It also goes over kindness and how we respect one another.
- Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon- Molly Lou Melon shows students that it’s ok to be themselves, even if that means they’re different that everyone. It shows students how to stand up for themselves and to be brave. I Like Myself is also a great book to help students appreciate that it is GOOD to be different because our differences make us who we are!
- The Most Magnificent Thing- This girl shows students that even when we have an idea, things may not go how we planned but we must NEVER give up. It’s a perfect lesson to build flexibility and patience in students and to help motivate them to keep striving when things aren’t going like they thought it would during a project. It shows students how to be resilient and persevere through! I also love using this to introduce STEAM in our classroom. Some more great books that teach perseverance are Salt in His Shoes, A Chair For My Mother, and The Dot.
- How Full is Your Bucket?- This is a great book that provides a creative metaphor for students to see how their actions impact others. Using this language helps students understand others’ feelings that can be used for the entire year.
- Teamwork Isn’t My Thing and I Don’t Share- Teamwork is essential to a successful classroom. This book depicts a group work situation to help students see the importance of teamwork! It shows what it looks like to work together and HOW we can do it. Another great one is Same, Same But Different.
- My Mouth is A Volcano- This is such a fun book to teach students about learning how know appropriate times to speak, or as this book puts it to calm their ‘volcano mouths’. I love to relate this one back to The Interrupting Chicken because both titles bring fun discussions that students love when it comes using their voice at the right times.
- The Recess Queen- This is a great book I love to read before sending students outside to recess for the first time. It’s all about how people may be going through things we don’t understand and to show them kindness anyway. The best part is that it helps students see that even when someone is unkind, we can STILL show kindness to them and try to befriend them. Some more like this are Carla’s Sandwich, Enemy Pie, and The Invisible Boy.
- What if Everybody Did That?- This is a great story that helps paint the bigger picture of how our actions affect others at school and in our community. It challenges them to see how collectively we can make a positive impact on our world. Another one by the same author is, What if Everybody Said That?
- The Way I Feel- This is a wonderful book that opens up discussion on how children can feel and the range of emotions we have. It takes time for students to understand their feelings and then to be able to name them. When reading books about different feelings, they can begin to understand the WIDE range of emotions we all have. Another one by that same author is The Way I Act. This book discusses different ways we act and behave and what it looks like to be responsible, capable, persistent, and so much more.
- Little Monkey Calms Down & Little Mouse Says Sorry- These life skill books are adorable and amazing. Emotions and feelings are big concepts to tackle and these are some of my favorite books to teach students some important life skills. We as educators have to help students recognize and deal with emotions and these books open up great dialogue about conflict management.
- Belly Breathe- This book talks about mindfulness and looks to help students learn self-calming techniques when they feel upset and overwhelmed. This book, coupled with others listed earlier, help students learn to recognize those signs of tension in our body and how we can try to calm our bodies when it feels anxious. It’s important to not only help children recognize those feelings, but to also teach them that THEY can calm themselves down when they feel that way. Other great ones for this skill is Breathe Like a Bear, Breathe with Me, and B is for Breathe.
- Ruby Finds A Worry- A brand new favorite of mine! This book helps students understand what it feels like to have a worry that won’t go away and how we can deal with it so it doesn’t continue to get bigger and bigger. We need to acknowledge the fact that our kiddos have big feelings and worries just like we do. We need to help them understand that it is OK and here is how we deal with it. Some more are Wilma Jean Worry Machine and Wemberly Worried and What Do We Do With a Problem?
- I Have Ants in My Pants – This is a book about a boy who just can’t seem to get his wiggles out no matter what. Know any students like this? How much would it help them to hear a story about someone with the same struggle and understand that this is OK while hearing ways to cope with it?
These are just SOME of the amazing SEL titles. The list is truly endless. You can find a book on just about ANY topic you are looking to teach. I would strongly suggest using literature to help you teach those heavy topics. Especially with diverse humans that students can connect with and begin to understand on a deeper level. If you have any more MUST HAVE SEL books, please share them below! I am always looking to add more to my collection too!
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