Social and Emotional Learning is the process in which people of all ages recognize and manage emotions, make appropriate decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop and maintain positive relationships, and avoid negative behaviors.
Social and Emotional Learning strategies are important, but books that show characters demonstrating these strategies further emphasize the need for these positive actions inside and outside of the classroom.
Check out our social and emotional learning books roundup for elementary school below and find more social and emotional learning titles in our Social and Emotional Learning Diverse Reading List.
Teaching students the ability to understand the feelings of another person
Sam and the Lucky Money
written by Karen Chinn, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
When a young Chinese American boy sets out to spend the lucky money he receives for Chinese New Year, he discovers that no gift is too small when it comes from the heart. Also available in Spanish and Chinese.
Benji, the Bad Day, and Me
written by Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Ken Min
Sammy is having the absolute rottenest, worst day ever. His little brother, Benji, knows exactly what that’s like in this tender, neurodiverse story.
Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving
written by John Frank, illustrated by London Ladd
Poems about sharing and making a small difference in someone’s life.
Teaching students how to interact with others in respectful and kind ways
A Morning with Grandpa
written by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay
A curious and active little girl spends the day learning tai chi from her grandfather, and in turn tries to teach him how to do yoga.
The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen
written by Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
A spunky African American girl has a hula-hooping competition with her friends in Harlem, and soon everyone in the neighborhood, young and old alike, joins in on the fun.
written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale
As her mother cares for a new baby, a young African girl learns about motherhood from her own very special doll. This award-winning story is a universal tale of love. Also available in Spanish.
Recognizing and Managing Emotions
Teaching students how to handle their feelings
Calling the Water Drum
written by LaTisha Redding, illustrated by Aaron Boyd
After a young Haitian boy loses his parents as they attempt to flee Haiti in a boat, he can only communicate with the outside world through playing his drum.
written by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Juna, an imaginative Korean American girl, goes on magical adventures, by way of her special kimchi jar, in search of her best friend who moved away.
Moony Luna/Luna Lunita Lunera
written by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez
A loving tale about a young girl afraid to go to school for the first time.
Teaching students how to find a solution to a complicated issue or situation
The Turtle Ship
written by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Colleen Kong-Savage
A young Korean boy named Sun-shin designs one of the greatest battleships in history and fulfills his dream of sailing the world.
Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris
written by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri
A young Mayan girl isn’t allowed to use her mother’s thread to weave, so with a little ingenuity, she discovers how to repurpose plastic bags to create colorful weavings. Based on an actual recycling movement in Guatemala.
written by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by Adjoa J. Burrowes
Destiny tries to keep her friend’s neighborhood bookstore from going out of business by using her resourcefulness and creativity.
Grit and Perseverance
Teaching students to achieve success despite difficulty or obstacles in the way
Drum, Chavi, Drum!/Toca, Chavi, Toca!
written by Mayra L. Dole, illustrated by Tonel
Even though nobody in her neighborhood thinks girls should play the drums, Chavi knows she was born to drum.
Home to Medicine Mountain
written by Chiori Santiago, illustrated by Judith Lowry
Two young Maidu Indian brothers, sent to live at a government-run Indian residential school in California in the 1930s, find a to escape and return home for the summer.
Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!
written by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallett
A biography of James VanDerZee, innovative and celebrated African American photographer of the Harlem Renaissance.
Teaching students about seeing a situation from another person’s point of view
Under My Hijab
written by Hena Khan, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel
This lovely book from the author of Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns invites readers to understand and appreciate hijab and the Muslim women who decide to wear it.
written by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Maria Mola
Young Casey loves sparkly things, but his older sister Jessie does not approve of his interest until an encounter with bullies helps her learn to accept and respect Casey for who he is.
A Full Moon is Rising
written by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Julia Cairns
A collection of original poems about full moon events, phenomena, celebrations, and beliefs from around the world.