SEL Titles to Add to Your Young Reader Library
Books that Support CASEL’s Key Competencies
By John Slagle, Senior Curriculum Specialist, McGraw-Hill
To further support educators as they cultivate confidence, compassion, empathy, emotional awareness, and problem-solving skills in their students, we have put together a list of young reader books that draw on social and emotional learning (SEL) themes. Each of these books connects with CASEL’s key competencies and will help shape students into successful citizens. See below for our recommended list. What SEL-focused books do your students enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments!
Manages feelings, emotions, and words with decreasing support from adults.
- Being Edie is Hard Today, by Ben Brashares — A girl imagines transforming into different animals to deal with the challenge of managing her emotions at school.
- My Mixed Emotions: Help Your Kids Handle Their Feelings, forward by Maureen Healy — A guide that helps kids explore four emotions: happiness, anger, fear, and sadness.
- One Wave at a Time: A Story About Grief and Healing, by Holly Thompson — Kai and his family deal with the death of his father.
Manages actions, behaviors, and words with decreasing support from adults.
- What Were You Thinking? by Bryan Smith — An engaging story of a third-grader who learns to manage his own behaviors.
Relationships and Prosocial Behaviors
Engages in and maintains positive relationships and interactions with familiar adults and children.
- Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson — This book tells a classic story of judging a book by its cover or making assumptions about people based on insignificant details. After spending quality time together, two enemies learn they actually get along quite well.
Social Problem Solving
Uses basic problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts with other children.
- What Happens Next, by Susan Hughes — An impactful and important story about feeling like an outsider, the book offers a startling point for conversations about empathy, emotions, and relating to others.
Recognizes self as a unique individual as well as belonging to a family, community, or other groups; expresses confidence in own skills.
- The Invisible Boy, by Patricia Barton — This story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.
- The Proudest Blue, by Ibtihaj Muhammad — A beautiful story of becoming confident in who you are.
- My Year in the Middle, by Lila Quintero Weaver — In 1970 Alabama, sixth-grader Lu discovers her talent for running and navigates the challenges of friendships and cliques in middle school.
- Flying Lessons and Other Stories, Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt Dela Pena, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson — A short-story collection from a stellar group of award-winning children’s authors. These ten unique stories tackle common themes of growing up and being human.
Expresses creativity in thinking and communication.
- Ish, by Peter Reynolds — A powerfully engaging story about Roman, a young artist who finds new ways to think creatively.
Demonstrates initiative and independence.
- Gaby, Lost and Found, by Angela Cervantes — Gabi is confronted by a number of relevant social issues. The agency she develops through volunteerism are at the heart of this story.
Sets reasonable goals and persists to complete the task.
- Squint, by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown — Losing his eyesight to a progressive disease, the 13-year-old Flint copes with bullying as he hurries to finish his comic book project.
- Because, by Mo Williams — The book offers, to quote a reviewer, “A powerful symphony of chance, discovery, persistence, and magic in this movie tale of a young girl’s journey.”
Logic and Reasoning
Thinks critically to effectively solve a problem or make a decision.
- Brain Games for Clever Kids, by Gareth Moore — A really well-reviewed book of brain puzzles for kids.
Planning and Problem Solving
Uses planning and problem-solving strategies to achieve goals.
- What Do You Do with a Problem? by Kobi Yamada — A beautifully illustrated, complex, and engaging problem-solving story.
Demonstrates flexibility in thinking and behavior.
- My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, by Ibi Zoboi — Ebony Grace is a character whose story is a charming testament to the power of imagination in times of uncertainty.
John Mark Slagle is the Senior National Curriculum Specialist for Literacy at McGraw-Hill. John works in schools and school districts around the world partnering to develop teacher capacity and student engagement. His work, at all grade levels, includes advising the development of instructional resources and the shaping highly interactive professional learning opportunities. John participated in the Comer School Redevelopment Project at Yale University and is the co-author with Angela Maiers, of The Parent Teacher Partnership: Making the Most of the Middle Years.