Social emotional learning is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” (CASEL) SEL is an important part of any classroom, but it is particularly important in the primary grades. Reading social emotional learning books is a low-prep, low-stress way to integrate SEL while still having a high impact.
One meaningful way to incorporate SEL in your daily classroom instruction is by reading books and discussing them together. Read alouds give students concrete examples to which they can relate. Discussing these books with your class will make SEL easy!
Check out these great read alouds below to help initiate discussions with your class! Click the book titles or image to find each book on Amazon (affiliate links) or you can find them all (and more) in my storefront.
SEL Books About Managing Feelings
Managing feelings is a great place to start when it comes to social emotional learning. Learning to understand your own emotions is so important!
In this story, Jabari is a great swimmer, and he can’t wait to jump off the diving board. He thinks it looks easy! This sweet book about a dad’s encouragement and a determined young boy will warm your heart.
Allison Edwards gives a glimpse into the ways worry whispers to young minds, and offers a powerful tool all children can use to silence those fears. This book teaches children how to overcome their worry.
This book includes a coping technique for each letter of the alphabet! Use this book to provide students with strategies to manage their emotions.
*Note: The strategy for the letter P is Pray, which may not be appropriate depending on your environment.
Ruby is a happy girl, but one day she finds a little worry. At first it’s very small, but it grows bigger and bigger until it’s all she can think about. Ruby meets a boy who teaches her that everyone has worries.
SEL Books About Growth Mindset and Making Mistakes
Growth mindset is something I always incorporate in my social emotional learning plans. Many first graders have a hard time admitting a mistake or not appearing perfect. These books help them learn that it’s okay to make mistakes!
This sweet book is about not giving up. In my class, we often talk about perseverance and not giving up when things get hard. This story teaches children just that!
This book is about Vashti who believes she can’t draw. In Art class, she draws a dot on her paper to prove that she’s not an artist. However, she learns to look at this dot from a different perspective.
Beatrice has never made a mistake. One day, she finally makes a big one in front of everyone. Beatrice learns that it’s okay to make mistakes. It even makes life more fun!
This book is perfect for teaching growth mindset. Gerald is a giraffe who can’t dance, no matter how hard he tries. One night, however, Gerald finds his own special music. This story is a great way to show students to keep trying!
Want companion activities for this book? Click here or the picture below!
Social Emotional Learning Books About Friendship
This Reading Rainbow book is one of my favorite books for social emotional learning. In this book, Jeremy Ross is the new kid on the block. He becomes the main character’s enemy. Luckily, Dad knows just the way to solve this problem.
Want companion activities? Click here or the picture below!
This adorable book is about small things you can do to make others feel included. Read this to your class and discuss ways that your students can be more self-aware of their actions.
This was actually one of the first books I was gifted before my first year of teaching, and it is still one of my favorites. In this book, Stick rescues Stone from a situation with a Pinecone. The pair become fast friends, but when Stick gets stuck, can Stone return the favor?
Want the activities that go along with this book? Click here or the picture below.
Books to Create an Inclusive Environment
The basis for a productive learning environment is making all students feel included. I highly recommend using some of the inclusive books below in your social emotional learning lessons as well as explicitly teaching inclusivity.
This book follows Sonia as she meets new kids, all of whom have something unique and different about them. The author encourages readers to “just ask” when they notice someone different.
This story is, in my opinion, a classroom must-have! The foundation of classroom management is creating a safe space for students so that they learn to trust their teacher and their peers. This book shows students that they are welcome in your classroom, no matter their background or baggage. I like to make banners with my students names and faces after we read this book, so that they know that this classroom is a safe place for them. I display them by our classroom door in the beginning of the year and then move them into the classroom as the year progresses. Click here or click the picture below to grab them!
When reading this book, students learn that there are so many things that can make you feel different when you walk into a room. When you begin to share stories, however, you learn that you have much more in common than you may have thought. I love using this book in my social emotional learning lessons because it reminds students that even if we look different or come from different backgrounds, we have more similarities than differences. This read aloud teaches children acceptance.
Want book companion activities? Click here or click the picture below!
SEL Books About Kindness
This book teaches a great lesson about being kind! It gives children concrete examples of kindness. Read it aloud and then discuss ways that your students can choose to be kind at school.
This award-winning book is a great addition to any classroom library! It is a winner of the Coretta Scott King Honor and the Jane Addams Peace Award. It is a great story for teaching children empathy.
Want more ideas for social emotional learning? Click here to check them out!
Hi, I’m Libby!
I’m so happy you’re here! I love all things first grade – the curriculum, the content, and the sweet kiddos. I’m passionate about helping K-2 teachers save time in the classroom with fresh ideas and fun, engaging resources.