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 and building empathy.

Note: Thank you to first-grade teacher Amanda Tokko in Dearborn, MI for sharing some of her book recommendations!

 

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.

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.

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...

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.

Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way

Lakota riders on horses
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

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.

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.

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.

Lucía the Luchadora

Lucía the Luchadora
Illustrated by: Alyssa Bermudez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

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.

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 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 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.