Social emotional learning books for kids is the topic of our blog post today!
So, I’ve got to admit, while my career started in the language classroom, my journey in educational research has led me to explore facets of education that go beyond the traditional curriculum. And one of those avenues? Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Look, we all know that a student isn’t just a test score or a grade on a paper; they’re multi-dimensional human beings with emotions and social lives that deeply affect their learning.
Now, we’ve got some science to back this up. A pile of studies, like the ones from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), show that SEL programs can lead to significant improvements in students’ academic performance while also upgrading their stress management skills. Yeah, you read that right—emotions and learning are intertwined, and we need books to help us navigate this intricate landscape.
So, I decided to scour the literary world, delve into reviews, and even tapped into my own experience to bring you a curated list of must-read social emotional learning books for kids. These gems offer incredible insights into the emotional and social aspects of education, providing actionable tips to foster these skills in our students and, heck, maybe even ourselves.
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Social Emotional Learning Books for Kids
Check out our top picks for social emotional learning books for kids:
Table of Contents
I- Books about Self-regulation
It’s essential for children to learn how to regulate their emotions and behavior. Self-regulation is a crucial skill that can help kids manage stress, stay focused, and think before they act. Here are some of the best social emotional learning books for kids on the subject of self-regulation.
1. I’m Just a Kid, by Chandele Morris
In this insightful book, young Ben struggles with controlling his emotions, particularly when things don’t go as planned. With the help of his mother, he learns to practice mindfulness, self-regulation, and build emotional resilience.
This essential resource for parents, counselors, and teachers teaches children about emotions, anger management, and self-regulation, offering a valuable social-emotional tool.
2. The Self-Regulation Workbook for Kids, by Jenna Berman
This evidence-based workbook guides children on a journey of self-discovery, as they learn to regulate their emotions and thoughts through interactive worksheets and proven exercises. Based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles, the activities and advice in this workbook provide children with practical coping skills and techniques to help them navigate challenging emotions and stress.
3. Anger Management Workbook for Kids, by Samantha Snowden MA
This engaging workbook helps children understand anger as a normal emotion and teaches them healthy ways to express and manage it. Filled with 50 entertaining activities, including doodling, writing, meditating, and crafts, this resource empowers kids to cultivate good habits that enable them to better handle situations that trigger anger.
4. The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control, by Lauren Brukner
This comprehensive guide offers children simple strategies and tools to regulate their emotions and senses effectively. Featuring breathing exercises, pressure holds, finger pulls, fidgets, noise-reducing headphones, and more, this book equips children with the skills to manage difficult feelings confidently.
Complete with helpful tips for parents and teachers, visual charts, and checklists, this resource is ideal for children aged 7 to 14 with emotional and sensory processing difficulties.
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5. I Am Stronger Than Anger, by Elizabeth Cole
This charming picture book features little Nick learning to recognize and cope with anger by interacting with zoo animals.
The story, accompanied by delightful illustrations and a light rhyme scheme, offers various calming techniques aimed at improving children’s self-regulation skills. The book also teaches children the importance of admitting their mistakes and apologizing, and includes a bonus coloring page.
II- Books about Confidence Building for Kids
Every child needs to feel confident in their abilities and capable of achieving whatever they put their minds to. Reading books that emphasize the importance of self-confidence can be a great way to help kids develop this important life skill. In this section, I feature at some of the best social emotional learning books for kids that focus on building confidence and resilience.
6. John’s Turn, by Mac Barnett
John’s Turn tells the story of a young boy named John who must overcome his nerves to showcase his dancing talent during Sharing Gifts time at school. With Mac Barnett’s empathetic writing and Kate Berube’s expressive illustrations, this book captures the inspiring journey of a child finding the courage to share his passion with others.
7. Ricky, the Rock That Couldn’t Roll, by Mr. Jay
In this heartwarming tale, Ricky, a rock with a flat side, is unable to roll and play with his round rock friends. Determined to help Ricky join in the fun, his friends devise a plan to enable him to roll.
Written in verse, this imaginative story celebrates perseverance, the triumph over adversity, and the power of true friendship. The first in the “You Rock Group” series, this book is designed to empower and entertain children aged 3-9.
8. Social Skills for Kids, by Jamie Myers
This guide equips children with the tools to navigate social situations, overcome feelings of anxiety, and develop strong communication skills. By learning to be better listeners and efficiently communicate with friends, family, and peers, children can build better relationships and grow in confidence.
This book covers vital topics like active listening, cooperation, respect, self-control, empathy, and problem-solving and includes activities in each chapter to help children refine their social skills.
9. Confidence is my Superpower, by Alicia Ortego
Little Leonardo, disheartened by failures at school, discovers his true superpower is self-confidence with the help of his parents. This inspiring story teaches children to believe in themselves, embrace failure as a stepping stone to success, manage negative feelings, stay focused on their goals, and support one another. With uplifting affirmations, light rhymes, and vibrant illustrations, this book encourages children to find and harness their inner superpower.
10. Believing in Me: A Child’s Guide to Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem (2), by Poppy O’Neill
Combining cognitive-behavioral therapy methods with engaging activities, this practical guide helps children aged 8-12 build self-esteem. Guided by Bop, a friendly and relatable character, children will work through fun activities, useful tips, and practical information for parents.
This book supports children during a crucial period of development, laying the foundation for a strong sense of self-worth.
III- Books about Social Awareness and Friendship for Kids
It’s not enough for children to understand their own emotions and behavior—they also need to be aware of the feelings and needs of others. Social awareness involves recognizing, understanding, and responding appropriately to social cues in order to build positive relationships with peers. Here are some books that can help kids learn about empathy, friendship, kindness, and other social emotional learning skills.
11. Social Skills Activities for Kids, by Natasha Daniels
This interactive book offers 50 engaging activities designed to help children develop and practice essential social skills. From making and keeping friends to decoding body language and understanding social cues, these exercises empower children to navigate social situations confidently.
With a focus on communication, listening, and social rules, this book is a valuable resource for fostering social awareness and building strong friendships.
12. The Little Book Of Friendship, by Laurie Friedman, Zack Bush
The Little Book of Friendship introduces young readers to the importance of friendship and provides valuable lessons on how to make and be a good friend.
Through warm illustrations and relatable scenarios, children learn about friendship in various settings such as school, the park, playgrounds, and playdates. With engaging text and a focus on fun, learning, and understanding emotions, this book promotes the values of kindness, empathy, and inclusivity.
13. My Way to Making Friends, by Elizabeth Cole
My Way to Making Friends takes children on an exciting adventure in the Jungle of Friendship, where they join little Melissa and her adorable animal friends.
Through lovely illustrations and a light rhyming storyline, this book teaches children how to make friends, engage in social activities, and demonstrate friendly behavior. It emphasizes kindness, diversity, and inclusion, offering valuable examples of being a good friend and understanding others’ feelings and emotions.
14. A Friend Is Someone Who…by Marilee Joy Mayfield
A Friend Is Someone Who highlights the importance of kindness in friendship, teaching children the value of being a good friend and strengthening their relationships.
Through rhyming text and beautiful illustrations, this book emphasizes the joy and support that friends bring to one another’s lives. It encourages children to cultivate lasting friendships by demonstrating kindness, empathy, and loyalty.
15. Teach Your Dragon to Make Friends, by Steve Herman
Teach Your Dragon to Make Friends is a delightful story that teaches children the art of making friends through the journey of a pet dragon. With fun and entertaining rhymes, this book helps children understand the importance of friendship, how to make new friends, and improve their social skills. It emphasizes the value of kindness and the positive impact it can have on building meaningful relationships.
IV- Books about Compassion and Kindness for Kids
In this section, we look at the importance of teaching children about the power of compassion and kindness. Children’s literature provides an excellent platform for instilling these values in a meaningful way and there are many great books out there designed specifically to help kids develop their empathy and understanding. Here are some of the best social emotional learning books for kids that emphasize compassion, understanding, and kindness.
16. The Power of Kindness: Through the Eyes of Children, by Ruth Maille
The Power of Kindness Through the Eyes of Children shows how acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect, spreading compassion and generosity.
This book helps children understand the power they possess to shape their interactions with others and recognize when someone needs support, generosity, and kindness. Through heartwarming stories and testimonials, children learn the value of a kind word or action and how it can brighten someone’s day.
17. Kindness is my Superpower, by Alicia Ortego
Kindness is my Superpower charmingly teaches children the importance of kindness, empathy, and positive behavior. Through a relatable main character named Lucas, children learn about good manners, acceptance of diversity, and the joy of helping others. With peaceful rhymes and colorful illustrations, this book encourages children to embrace kindness, sensitivity, and generosity
18. Kindness Starts With You – At School, by Jacquelyn Stagg
Kindness Starts With You – At School follows Maddy as she navigates her day, teaching children how simple it is to spread kindness. From taking turns on the swing to including everyone in games, this storybook emphasizes that no act of kindness is ever wasted, no matter how small.
Each page contains a lightbulb lesson on kindness, accompanied by a Kindness BINGO download and a Weekly Kindness Challenge. This book is a valuable tool for parents who value raising kind kids and want to make the world a better place.
19. Unicorn Day: A Magical Kindness Book for Children, by Diana Murray
Unicorn Day is the most eagerly awaited day for the unicorns, filled with rainbows, cupcakes, butterflies, and all things joyful. But when they discover an impostor in their midst, the celebration comes to a halt.
Will the unicorns embrace inclusivity and continue their fun-filled day? Unicorn Day delights in the magic of unicorns, celebrations, and most importantly, friendship. With vibrant illustrations and an enchanting story, this book captures the essence of kindness and acceptance.
20. Tiny Drops of Kindness, by Sally Sun
Tiny Drops of Kindness is a book that aims to shape children into compassionate individuals. It teaches children the value of empathy, understanding the emotions of others, and expressing their own. Filled with beautiful illustrations and delightful rhymes, this book encourages children to be kind and compassionate to those around them.
It emphasizes the importance of valuing human life, generosity, sharing resources, and the power of empathy. This book is a wonderful tool for teaching children about kindness, empathy, and compassion.
V- Books about Decision Making for Kids
Making decisions is a fundamental life skill that all children need to learn. It’s important for them to be able to think about the consequences of their actions and make choices that are in line with their values and beliefs. Fortunately, there are plenty of great books out there designed specifically to help kids develop this essential skill. In this section, I feature some of the best social emotional learning books for kids on the topic of decision making.
21. Teach Your Dragon To Understand Consequences, by Steve Herman
Teach Your Dragon To Understand Consequences is a playful and engaging book that helps children understand the importance of their actions and the consequences they may face. Through the story of having a pet dragon, children learn that even small thoughtless actions can lead to significant consequences.
This book teaches children about making good choices and considering the impact of their decisions. With beautiful illustrations and an entertaining narrative, it is a must-have book for parents and children to explore the lessons of consequences.
22. Kami Koala Makes A Decision: A Decision Making Book for Kids Ages 4-8, by Teydon Rae
Kami Koala Makes A Decision is a delightful children’s picture book that follows Kami Koala as she learns the art of decision making. Kami struggles with making choices but discovers that reciting a little rhyme can help her in the process.
Through an exciting zoo-themed adventure, this book reinforces the importance of decision-making skills, helping children build confidence and enthusiasm for life. With colorful illustrations and engaging themes, this book is a valuable tool for teaching children about decision making.
23. The Survival Guide for Kids With Behavior Challenges, by Thomas McIntyre Ph.D
This book offers guidance and strategies for children with behavior challenges, helping them understand their actions, make good choices, and stay out of trouble.
24. My Magical Choices, by Becky Cummings
My Magical Choices is an engaging children’s book that uses beautiful illustrations and fun rhymes to teach positive, conscious language. It encourages children to make choices that lead to responsibility, calmness, confidence, and more, empowering them to take control of their own happiness.
With a strong focus on social-emotional learning, the book emphasizes the importance of making positive actions towards goals, fostering happiness and developing healthy habits for life. Ideal for both parents and teachers, My Magical Choices is a valuable addition to any child’s library and classroom.
25. What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake, by Claire A.B. Freeland, Jacqueline B. Toner
This interactive self-help book aims to educate, motivate, and empower children to overcome their fear of making mistakes, allowing them to embrace challenges and explore new territory without fear. It offers valuable tips for parents, such as emphasizing effort over outcome, allowing children to make mistakes, and modeling self-acceptance.
26. Help Your Dragon Learn From Mistakes, by Steve Herman
“Help Your Dragon Learn from Mistakes” is a fun, engaging, and beautifully illustrated children’s book that addresses the fear of making mistakes and perfectionism. The story follows a dragon who is afraid of making mistakes and strives for perfection.
The book teaches children the importance of accepting and learning from mistakes, emphasizing that they are a natural part of life. It is an essential resource for parents and teachers to help kids embrace mistakes, accept failures, and foster personal growth.
27. Mistakes Are How I Learn, by Kiara Wilson
“Mistakes Are How I Learn” is a rhyming story focused on social-emotional learning. Through relatable examples featuring Tamara, the book aims to help children understand that they are not alone in facing challenges and making mistakes.
The engaging narrative empowers children with affirmations to overcome obstacles and develop resilience. As part of the Amazing Affirmations series, this book encourages kids to embrace their mistakes and keep striving towards their goals and dreams.
28. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, by Mark Pett, Gary Rubinstein
A growth mindset book that promotes self-esteem in children, telling the story of a girl who learns the importance of enjoying life and embracing mistakes.
29. Even Superheroes Make Mistakes, by Shelly Becker
Even Superheroes Make Mistakes is a book that teaches children that everyone, even superheroes, can make mistakes. When faced with errors, superheroes don’t give up or complain; instead, they pause, consider their actions, and find the best way to move forward.
By admitting their mistakes and continuing their mission, superheroes demonstrate resilience and a positive attitude, serving as role models for children to learn from their own mistakes and never give up.
And there we have it—books that could easily be considered game-changers in the realm of social emotional Learning. Our kids need to learn how to manage their emotions, build strong relationships, and navigate social complexities. And guess what? So do we, the adults guiding them through it.
Just a side note: Don’t overlook the ripple effect of incorporating these SEL principles into your teaching or parenting strategies. Research, such as the work done by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research, shows that SEL not only supports academic success but also provides long-term benefits like better job performance and healthier relationships. So, really, this isn’t just a trend; it’s a life-long gift you can offer to your students or children.
For those of you who’ve been in the trenches of education, like me, you know the classroom is an emotional battleground as much as it is an intellectual one. But armed with the insights from these books, we’re not just fighting the good fight—we’re shaping the future one emotionally intelligent human at a time.