Social and Emotional Learning: Books for Kids

Friends paint a bench

The memorable stories in these books capture a range of different experiences, feelings, and milestones. They will make engaging read-alouds and also can be incorporated into activities around social and emotional learning (SEL) and building empathy.

Thank you to first-grade teacher Amanda Tokko in Dearborn, MI for her book recommendations! You can find more great ideas from Ms. Tokko and her colleagues in "Grow As You Go": 10 Strategies for Supporting SEL for ELLs.

Related resources

Booklists

Articles

All Are Welcome

Diverse students walking with teacher
Illustrated by: Suzanne Kaufman
Age Level: 6-9

Discover a school where — no matter what — young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other's traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.

Alma Speaks Up / Alma habla

Illustration of Alma from 'Alma's Way'
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Alma and her friends André and Rafia can't wait to help their neighbor, Mr. Huda, make his storefront beautiful. They are going to paint a mural on the wall outside the store! But when André wants to do the mural his own way, it's up to Alma to talk to him about it. Can she find a way to express herself without hurting Andre's feelings?

Buddy Bench (Confetti Kids)

Five kids around a bench that is covered in colored hand prints.
Illustrated by: Shirley Ng-Benitez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Five friends from diverse backgrounds learn how to navigate common childhood challenges, new experiences, and the world around them in the realistic and kid-friendly Confetti Kids early chapter books. In this story, Padma is excited about meeting new people at school. Making friends comes easily to her, but she soon discovers that it can be hard for others. When she notices a boy sitting by himself every day, Padma enlists her friends to create a buddy bench, where kids can go if they need a friend.

Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol

Call Me Tree/Llamame arbol
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

In this spare, lyrically written story, we join a child on a journey of self-discovery. Finding a way to grow from the inside out, just like a tree, the child develops as an individual comfortable in the natural world and in relationships with others. Maya Christina Gonzalez once again combines her talents as an artist and a storyteller to craft a gentle, empowering story about belonging, connecting with nature, and becoming your fullest self. Young readers will be inspired to dream and reach, reach and dream . . . and to be as free and unique as trees.

Carmela Full of Wishes

Carmela Full of Wishes
Illustrated by: Christian Robinson
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Chinese, Korean, Spanish

When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true — she's finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make...

Daniel Learns to Share

Daniel Learns to Share

Daniel and his friends are all playing with their toy cars. But Prince Wednesday has forgotten to bring his car. He asks Daniel if he can play with Daniel’s car for a little while. Daniel hesitates — he wants to play with his car! But Dad Tiger suggests that they can share. Prince Wednesday can take a turn playing with the car, and then he’ll give it back. Sharing is caring! But Daniel is still unsure. What should he do?

Daniel Misses Someone

Daniel Misses Someone

Daniel's Grandpere lives far away, which means that Daniel can’t see him as often as he'd like to. But there are many things Daniel can do when he misses him, like drawing a picture, sending a care package, and looking at photos!

Dear Juno

Young boy sitting with his pet
Illustrated by: Susan Kathleen Hartung
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Juno can barely wait to open the letter that has arrived from his grandmother in Seoul, but he needs his parents to read it since it's written in Korean! Finally he decides he can wait no longer and he finds inside a leaf and a photo of a cat. Juno responds by drawing pictures for his grandmother, and when she sends him a pack of colored pencils, he knows she would like more of his letters. This quiet, beautiful story celebrates the joy of exchanging letters with a loved one and the importance of maintaining strong family ties no matter the distance.

Eyes That Kiss at the Corners

Illustration of young girl
By: Joanna Ho
Age Level: 3-6, 6-9

A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers'. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother's, her grandmother's, and her little sister's. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future. Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment.

Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way

Lakota riders on horses
Age Level: 6-9

Dawn is a time to celebrate with a smiling heart, to start a new day in the right way, excited for what might come. Birds sing and dance, children rush to learn, dewdrops glisten from leaves, and gradually the sun warms us. Each time the sun starts a new circle, we can start again as well. All these things are part of the Lakota way, a means of living in balance. Through his artwork and verse, interspersed with the Lakota language, S. D. Nelson offers young readers a joyous way of appreciating their culture and surroundings.

Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo

Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo
Illustrated by: Sara Palacios

This fun, bouncy bilingual song from 123 Andrés' Grammy Award-winning album is brought to life in a whole new way that's perfect for storytime sharing! Sara Palacios animates this popular song with vibrant, fresh illustrations that will engage little ones and their parents.

I'm Feeling Mad (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood)

I'm Feeling Mad (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood)

When Daniel Tiger feels MAD, he stomps his feet and roars. Then he remembers to take a deep breath and count to four. Soon he feels better. What do you do with the mad that you feel? Come along with Daniel as he and his friends learn how to handle feeling angry. This adorable book includes tips for parents and caregivers to help guide little ones through their emotions.

I'm New Here

Pictures of three new immigrant students at school
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Maria, Jin, and Fatimah are new to their American elementary school. The words that they hear around them and see on the page are confusing. They each long for the language that they understand and the friends who understand them back home. They feel as though they don’t fit in—they are alone, confused, and sad in their new school. After observing those around them, each new student slowly gains the confidence to interact with their new surroundings. They realize that their peers and teachers are very supportive, welcoming, and excited to learn what these new classmates have to share.

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

Colorful letters with a boy pushing a wheelbarrow
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful. In Just Ask!, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges--and looks at the special powers those kids have as well.

Kiki Kallira (Book 1): Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

Illustration of young heroine jumping with sword

Kiki Kallira has always been a worrier. Did she lock the front door? Is there a terrible reason her mom is late? Recently her anxiety has been getting out of control, but one thing that has always soothed her is drawing. Kiki's sketchbook is full of fanciful doodles of the rich Indian myths and legends her mother has told her over the years. One day, her sketchbook's calming effect is broken when her mythological characters begin springing to life right out of its pages.

Last Stop on Market Street

Young boy with grandmother at bus stop
Illustrated by: Christian Robinson
Age Level: 6-9

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn't he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. Winner 2016 Newbery Award.

Love

Love
Illustrated by: Loren Long
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and acclaimed illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.

You can learn more about the inspiration for this book and how Matt decided to approach the topic of love in our author interview below.

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Video: Matt de la Peña talks about writing "Love"

Lucía the Luchadora

Lucía in her lucha libre outfit
Illustrated by: Alyssa Bermudez
Age Level: 6-9, 9-12
Language: Spanish vocabulary featured

Lucía zips through the playground in her cape just like the boys, but when they tell her "girls can't be superheroes," suddenly she doesn't feel so mighty. That's when her beloved abuela reveals a dazzling secret: Lucía comes from a family of luchadoras, the bold and valiant women of the Mexican lucha libre tradition. Cloaked in a flashy new disguise, Lucía returns as a recess sensation!

Meet Yasmin!

Young girl from Pakistan on cover
Illustrated by: Hatem Aly
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

This volume includes "Yasmin" stories that are also published separately: Yasmin the Explorer; Yasmin the Painter; Yasmin the Builder; and Yasmin the Fashionista.

My Brain Is Magic: A Sensory-Seeking Celebration

Young girl painting a rainbow
Illustrated by: Geeta Ladi
Age Level: 3-6, 6-9

Whether your brain buzzes around the room like a bee or tells you to be loud and roar like a lion, celebrate the many things that it can be! This sensory-seeking celebration shines a light on neurodiversity and sensory processing in a fun and action-packed way for all children to enjoy.

Sesame Street Monster Meditation: Time for School, Rosita!

Time for School, Rosita!: Sesame Street Monster Meditation
Age Level: 3-6

Even monsters get nervous the first day of school! Luckily, Rosita learns a fun and easy way to calm her nerves! This terrific board book features Rosita learning a simple meditation that all young boys and girls can easily do whenever they feel nervous. This is Book 4 in a series of 6 books, all inspired by the popular Sesame Street Monster Meditation videos on YouTube, that will help young children learn mindfulness techniques along with their favorite characters. The videos are made in collaboration with Headspace, the mindfulness app.

Sesame Street Monster Meditation: Try, Try Again, Two-Headed Monster!

Try, Try Again, Two-Headed Monster!: Sesame Street Monster Meditation
Age Level: 3-6

It can be frustrating when things don't go right — but giving up isn't the answer! This terrific board book features Two-Headed Monster learning a calming Monster Meditation. Now when his block tower falls down, he does the simple breathing games and starts building his tower again. This is book 5 in a series of 6 books, all inspired by the popular Sesame Street Monster Meditation videos on YouTube, which help young children learn mindfulness techniques along with their favorite characters.

Sometimes, All I Need Is Me

Girl surrounded by plants
Age Level: 6-9

Meet a young girl who loves her cozy home. It smells like cinnamon tea and feels like warm pajamas. But even when she’s away from home, and everything is different, she finds a way to become her own home, where she feels calm. At night, when it’s too dark and her feet are cold, her room can be a little scary. But she creates her own light when she closes her eyes and thinks of the sun. With friendliness and charm, Juliana Perdomo, in her debut as author-illustrator, shows young readers how to find comfort and confidence within.

Thank You, Omu!

Young child smelling pot of stew
By: Oge Mora
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu's delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself? Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu's stew, with an extra serving of love.

The Color Collector

The Color Collector
Illustrated by: Renia Metallinou
Age Level: 6-9

When a boy notices the new girl at school picking up all manner of debris and litter on their walks home from school, he wants to know why. She shows him the colorful mural she's created that reminds her of the home she left behind and soon he starts helping her collecting new colors to add to her masterpiece.

The Color of Home

Mother and son hold up drawing together
Illustrated by: Karin Littlewood
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Product Description: First-grader Hassan has only recently arrived in the United States after he and his family were forced to flee Somalia, and he deeply misses the colorful landscape of his former home in Africa. But with the help of his parents, an understanding teacher, and a school art project, Hassan finds that by painting a picture of his old home and sharing his story, his homesickness and the trauma of leaving a war-torn country are lessened.

The Cot in the Living Room

Girl looking out of window
Illustrated by: Gaby D'Alessandro
Age Level: 6-9

A young Dominican American girl in New York City moves from jealousy to empathy as her parents babysit children whose families work overnight shifts. Night after night, a young girl watches her mami set up a cot in the living room for guests in their Washington Heights apartment, like Raquel (who's boring) and Edgardo (who gets crumbs everywhere). She resents that they get the entire living room with a view of the George Washington Bridge, while all she gets is a tiny bedroom with a view of her sister (who snores).

The Name Jar

Young girl putting slip of paper in jar
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

On the way to Unhei's first day of school, a group of kids on the school bus make fun of her name. When she gets to class, she refuses to tell anyone her name, deciding that she wants to choose an American name instead. The next morning, she finds a name jar filled with pieces of paper and finds that her classmates are eagerly awaiting to see which name Unhei will choose. Yangsook Choi (who chose the name Rachael as a child) offers a moving portrait of the importance of names and identity to all children.

The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border

Woman holds a notebook while standing next to a girl and her mother at the border
Illustrated by: Magdalena Mora
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

In this moving and stunningly-illustrated picture book, Noemi and Mama flee their home in Mexico, and head for the US border. There, they look for "The Notebook Keeper" — the person in charge of a ledger for those waiting to cross, and they add their names to the book. As the days turn into weeks, and hope dwindles, the little girl looks for kindness around her — and inside herself.

The Ugly Vegetables

Young girl with mother in garden
By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

In a neighborhood of flower gardens, a Chinese-American girl and her mother plant what the child considers to be ugly vegetables. The ugly vegetables, however, become attractive and help build community when made into a delicious soup! A recipe is included.

Watercress

Watercress
Illustrated by: Jason Chin
Age Level: 6-9

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl's parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can.

At first, she's embarrassed. Why can't her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family's time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress.

We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

Cherokee community celebration
Illustrated by: Frané Lessac
Language: Cherokee

The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this award-winning look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.

You Weren't with Me

Big bunny talking with small bunny
Illustrated by: Erich Ippen Jr.
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish

Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit are together after a difficult separation, but even though they missed each other, Little Rabbit is not ready to cuddle up and receive Big Rabbit's love. Little Rabbit needs Big Rabbit to understand what it felt like when they were apart. "Sometimes I am very mad. I don't understand why you weren't with me," says Little Rabbit, "I worry you will go away again." Big Rabbit listens carefully and helps Little Rabbit to feel understood and loved.