Picture books are an excellent resource for working on social-emotional learning. You can find a book on just about any topic you are looking for to use with children. Their messages stick with us. And, they offer the opportunity to dip our toes into new situations.
The books on this list are meant to help with supporting social-emotional learning.
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Social Awareness Books
From empathy, compassion, awareness of others, gratitude, to justice, these books will help you develop social awareness.
What Happened to You? by James Catchpole reminds us that “What happened to you?” is not the leading question we should be bombarding others with especially if we are meeting someone for the first time. In this story, we meet a boy who is trying to play at the playground when other kids start asking questions about his appearance. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s at the playground to play and that is what he wants to do. Eventually, a girl approaches and engages in playing together and they quickly continue their pirate game. (empathy/awareness of others)
Having empathy and an awareness for others is just one of the many lessons to take away in Red Shoes by Karen English. Two girls each enjoy a pair of red shoes in two different continents. (empathy/awareness of others)
Our names are important. And, it’s important to learn how to say the names of others correctly. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a beautiful book that teaches us to be proud of our name and to say the names of others correctly. The author even provides a pronunciation video of each name in the book which can be found on the publisher’s website. (identity/respect)
For more books about names.—->Books About Names
Being thankful for friends and family shines through in Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill. Throughout the story, the people are preparing for a big feast. The best part is being able to share everything together. (gratitude)
The pandemic has stirred a lot of feelings and emotions within all of us. Through the dark times, our heroes have shined. Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham touches on love and hope, changes both inside and outside, and the wonderful heroes who are always there. (awareness of others/gratitude/compassion)
For more books about gratitude, check out the big list.—>Books About Gratitude
Being a contributing member of a community is equally important. We have a whole set of books that talk about community.—>Books About Community
What Do We Do All Day? also has a social justice book list to use.
Explore identifying emotions, expressing feelings, growth mindset, and character traits with these titles.
Christian Robinson is one of my favorite illustrators. He’s like a modern-day Mr. Rogers. You Matter is a beautiful book reminding us that we are each important as well as every other thing. We all matter. (self-love)
Many of us need tools and resources to help us be our bodies be their best. In Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus, we meet a bear who gets hearing devices to assist with his ability to hear. Soon, Bear is ready to hear a whole range of sounds. (taking care of ourselves)
We all have things about ourselves that aren’t 100% accepting of regarding how we look. Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho is the story of a young girl who notices that her eyes look different from her friends and this sets her on an exploration of noticing the beauty of her mom, grandmother, and sister. Her eyes kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea. They are beautiful. (self-acceptance)
In The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, Harpreet has a different color patka for each of his moods. When he moves, he begins to wear only white patkas because he felt shy, and to him white represented shyness. But, then he meets a new friend and everything starts to look more colorful again. (identifying and expressing feelings)
Often we feel like we are the only person experiencing big feelings. But, in Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold, she reminds us that we all have feelings. Lots of rhyme and rhythm in this one making it a good whole group read-aloud. (recognizing feelings)
For more books about feelings and emotions perfect for preschoolers, visit our big list.—->Books About Feelings and Emotions
The Rhino Suit by Colter Jackson is the story of a young girl who feels everything so deeply from the litter in the street to an animal without shelter. When this vulnerability seems to much to bear she decides to create a rhino suit to keep herself safe from all these feelings. But, is this thick skin worth it? (recognizing feelings and emotions)
The Happiest Kid by Sarah Bagley Steele is the story of a young happy girl who begins to recognize that there is a gloomy cloud hanging over her. She wants to hide the cloud, but it’s hard to hide and she can’t shake it off. So, the child finds the courage to share her feelings and let others know from friends to family. (recognizing and expressing feelings)
Think positive and look for the good are the messages in Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer. Daniel travels through his community asking neighbors what makes a good day. Great to use to help children think about the good in their lives. (growth mindset)
Amy loves making bao with her family. It’s difficult to make a perfect bao and Amy is having difficulty getting her bao just right. Her dumplings are always too full or too empty. But, Amy has a plan to make her bao perfect just like her parents and grandmother. We even have a Book Dive to go with Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang. (growth mindset)
Books to Help with Self-Management
Dive into books about courage, stress management, motivation, and setting goals with these picture books.
Be You! by Peter H. Reynolds encourage us to be all the things from brave, kind, different to ultimately being you. (taking initiative/self-love)
Another affirming book is I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes. It’s a book we all need to read each day. (self-love, confidence)
Mel Fell by Corey Tabor is the story of a young kingfisher who is determined that today is the day that she will learn to fly. The thing is that we don’t have always have immediate success when we try something new. That is okay. In fact, it is perfectly normal for there to be bumps along the way. Keep the confidence and don’t give up. (self-confidence)
The Little Butterfly That Could by Ross Burach is the follow-up to The Very Impatient Caterpillar. In this funny tale, the butterfly needs to face its fears, keep trying, and not give up to reach the other butterflies who are migrating. (perseverance)
For even more books about perseverance, we have a whole book list.—>Books About Perseverance
It takes courage to try new things and that is just what Jabari needs in Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall as he prepares to jump off the diving board. Also, look for the second book in the series called Jabari Tries. (courage)
For more books about courage, I have an entire list for you.—>Books About Courage
Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Griffin is the story of a child traveling to her new home with her grandmother. Together they seek to find ten beautiful things on the journey. The process helps the girl to reframe her thinking about the move. (stress management/processing change)
Stressful or new situations in our lives require us to deal and manage our thinking impacting our feelings. The following book lists are helpful for processing life changes.
Books About Divorce from Happily Ever Elephants
Responsible Decision-Making Books
Making decisions can be strengthened with these resources.
Making decisions requires a certain amount of curiosity. Develop curiosity with this big book list.—>Books About Curiosity
Consent is an important topic to learn about at an early age from deciding what decisions we make for our own bodies and respecting the decisions others make. Katie Howes, the author of Rissy No Kissies, wrote an entire post for Imagination Soup on books about consent. You can access the list here.—->Books About Consent
Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It) by Carrie Finison is for exploring personal space and preferences. Many people do not like giving or receiving hugs and that is okay. This book opens the conversation about hugging. (personal space/preferences/consent)
Books for Strengthening Relationship Skills
Communication, teamwork, friendship, problem-solving, and standing up for others are explored in these books.
The first day of school comes with lots of different feelings and emotions. Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali is the story of a group of kindergarteners getting to know each other as each one takes a turn sharing an important day in their family with the class. (friendship)
For more books about friendship, visit my whole list.—>Books About Making Friends
It Is Not Perfect by Anna Kang reminds us that nothing no one is perfect. Value the process and the enjoyment of working with others versus the final creation. (perspective/teamwork)
For even more books about teamwork, check out my entire list.—>Books About Teamwork
Printable SEL Book List
Grab a printable book list of the individual books mentioned above as well as links to specific book lists where you can print even more book lists.
Enjoy using picture books to build social-emotional learning.
Book Dives– go deep inside a book with a Book Dive
125 Children’s Books About Character Traits