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