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Building an SEL Library for Kids

Teachers and parents can foster social and emotional development in kids, one book at a time.

By Lani Aquino

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a term that’s spoken of often these day and with good reason. Helping those of all ages build a repertoire for understanding their inner selves and meeting all life’s hurdles in a positive and constructive way is an extremely significant tool. We’re living in and raising kids in a time where there is lots of outside stimuli and entry points that didn’t exist until recent years. Helping students navigate the new normal can be much easier when they have a framework for understanding themselves and interacting with others.

By integrating Social and Emotional Learning into the daily constructs of a child’s day, teachers and parents are building children’s resolve to positively meet the daily ins and outs and challenges that life may bring. One key way to introduce and reinforce SEL is through literature. By introducing books with an SEL component and fostering a love for reading and identifying with characters and situations found in the literary world, students will be better prepared for all they may encounter in the real world. This list of resources for building an SEL library is a perfect starting point for bolstering the toolkit that students will turn to during their school-aged years and throughout their lives.

Early Reader Booklist- One of the best ways to develop a psyche that allows students to have a healthy grasp on their social and emotional well-being is by introducing the concept as early as possible. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) compiled this list of books that focuses on a variety of social and emotional elements (e.g., accepting differences, making friends, problem solving, bullying, various feelings), and the titles listed include suggested age ranges from infancy through age 8. The main website shares an abundance of resources for parents and teachers to utilize.

50 Must-Have Picture Books to Teach Social and Emotional Skills- This list from WeAreTeachers includes Newberry, Caldecott, and Carnegie Medal winners. The titles are categorized by emotions/social-emotional issues and offer great entry points for talking about fear, identity, friendship, kindness, and more. Picture books don’t have to equate to young readers either. Any lens that can be used to get kids thinking and talking about big concepts is ageless.

15 Life-Changing Middle Grade Books- While these aren’t all touted as SEL reads, they are all engaging books with big takeaways. Finding that just-right book for kids in middle grades can be challenging. The WeAreTeacher’s Helpline was the source for this powerful list. With titles offering different cultural perspectives and family dynamics, these page turners will have students engrossed in their storylines without realizing the big lessons and SEL components that are integrated within the rapt reads.

Children’s Books & Resources- This collection from Rhythms of Play offers book ideas for toddlers to teens. There are also many resource titles included that can offer ideas and strategies for helping kids navigate big emotions and challenges. Several guides and workbooks for helping kids work through daily struggles and build a positive and constructive mindset for meeting challenges are also included, making this a valuable resource list for meeting students with a variety of social and emotional needs.

The Best Social Emotional Learning Resources- The teacher/parent resource section can oftentimes be the most effective shelf on the bookcase. Larry Ferlazzo is an excellent go-to bookmark for bolstering this shelf. He continually updates his wide array of resource banks with the most up-to-date and impactful links and information. His collection offers articles, programs, professional publications, and more. When it comes to finding the right SEL resource for reaching all students, this collection will not disappoint.

Helping students develop a positive mindset by integrating SEL into any and every curriculum is giving students a valuable resources to carry with them throughout their lives. By acknowledging the power of possessing a positive social and emotional skill set and making its inclusion a priority, teachers and parents are making an impact that will affect many more generations to come. Building a bookshelf that provides the literature to open up discussion and allow kids to make connections is perfect way to introduce and reinforce the much needed skills and strategies students can use to navigate all their daily encounters.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.


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