Social and Emotional Learning Books for Middle School and High School

Social and Emotional Learning

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 middle school and high 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

Twenty two Cents

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank
written by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib

A biography of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who revolutionized antipoverty efforts by developing the innovative concept of micro-lending.

Under the Mesquite

Under the Mesquite
written by Guadalupe García McCall

Lupita, a budding actor and poet in a close-knit Mexican American immigrant family, comes of age as she struggles with adult responsibilities during her mother’s long illness.

Positive Relationships

Teaching students how to interact with others in respectful and kind ways

Summer of the Mariposas

Summer of the Mariposas
written by Guadalupe García McCall

In this creative retelling of The Odyssey, fifteen-year-old Odilia and her younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, and must outwit monsters and witches to make it back home again. Also available in Spanish.

Rebel Seoul

Rebel Seoul
written by Axie Oh

When Jaewon is assigned to partner with supersoldier Tera in Neo Seoul’s top weapons development division, he must decide where he stands: with the people his rebel father protected or with the totalitarian government that claims it will end all war.

Recognizing and Managing Emotions

Teaching students how to handle their feelings


written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Shadra Strickland

A boy nicknamed Bird uses drawing as a creative outlet as he struggles to make sense of his grandfather’s death and his brother’s drug addiction.

Chess Rumble

Chess Rumble
written by G. Neri, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

In this longer story told in free verse, a troubled boy learns to use his mind instead of his fists through the guidance of an unconventional mentor and the game of chess.


Teaching students how to find a solution to a complicated issue or situation

Marti's Song for Freedom

Martí’s Song for Freedom/ Martí y sus versos por la libertad
written by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

José Martí dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty: the abolishment of slavery, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual independence from colonialism for all Latinos. This bilingual biography is written in verse with excerpts from Versos Sencillos.

The Wind Called My Name

The Wind Called My Name
written by Mary Louise Sanchez

In this heartwarming historical middle-grade set in the 1930s, Margarita Sandoval and her family try to navigate the shifting winds of belonging in their new Wyoming town.

Grit and Perseverance

Teaching students to achieve success despite difficulty or obstacles in the way

Tiny Stitches

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas
written by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman

The life story of Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician who developed the first procedure used to perform open-heart surgery on children.

Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle

Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle
written by Hilda Eunice Burgos

The Penderwicks meets In the Heights in this sparkling middle-grade debut about a young Dominican American girl in New York City.


Teaching students about seeing a situation from another person’s point of view


written by Supriya Kelkar

In this historical novel, Gandhi asks for one member of each family to join the fight for independence from the British, and when Anjali’s mother is jailed for doing so, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother’s work.

I Am Alfonso Jones

I Am Alfonso Jones
written by Tony Medina, illustrated by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings

The Hate U Give meets The Lovely Bones in this unflinching graphic novel about the afterlife of a young man killed by an off-duty police officer, co-illustrated by New York Times bestselling artist John Jennings.

Additional Resources:

Social and Emotional Learning Collection

Social and Emotional Learning Diverse Reading List