Read-aloud books are a fun and simple way to interest kids in new topics. Introducing social-emotional learning books into your child’s daily routine can improve literacy and develop vital skills like emotional management and problem-solving [*].
In addition, reading social-emotional books can make children more academically successful, as they create more positive learning environments and increase student motivation [*].
Whether your child is learning to read or already engrossed in a handful of their favorite picture books, don’t miss out on these SEL books for kids!
Social-Emotional Learning Books for Kids
Are you shopping for the best books for social-emotional learning? Discover the most enjoyable reads here!
1. The Invisible Boy - Patrice Barton
The Invisible Boy is a testament to how small acts of kindness can make children feel acknowledged and included. This poignant story highlights opportunities for quieter kids to find their stride and shine.
2. Julian is a Mermaid - Jessica Love
Julian, inspired by three spectacularly dressed women on the subway, is determined to design a fabulous mermaid costume. But what will his abuela think? This beautifully illustrated picture book outlines a relatable journey of self-love.
3. The Story of Ferdinand - Munro Leaf
Ferdinand is a classic character who has inspired young readers for decades. Unlike other bulls, Ferdinand doesn’t want to fight—he prefers to smell the flowers under his favorite cork tree. The book delivers an enchanting table about celebrating diversity.
4. Peter O’Meter - Tricia Fuglestad
Peter O’Meter, just like humans, is a robot that can feel happy, touchy, cranky, and unhinged. Readers can help Peter identify his feelings through the Quiver app, which brings the book’s quirky illustrations to life!
5. Don’t Think About Purple Elephants - Susanne Merritt
Some kids are overcome by their worries, just like Sophie as she goes about her day. This humorous book takes a gentle approach to anxiety and provides whimsical tips on easing overwhelming worries.
6. Fish in a Tree - Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Children with dyslexia often hide that they have it, just like Ally in this book. Author Hunt does an excellent job of reminding children with dyslexia that their condition does not define them, offering a much-needed boost of confidence.
7. The Name Jar - Yangsook Choi
In The Name Jar, Unhei embodies the difficulties of being the new kid at school. In addition, she has to navigate the struggle of her classmates pronouncing her name correctly. This sweet and awe-inspiring book underscores the importance of identity and finding the courage to be yourself.
8. The Rainbow Fish - Marcus Pfister
Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish has long been a staple on many bookshelves for a reason—it sends a beautiful message about the value of friendships and sharing. This award-winning story is accompanied by eye-catching and sparkling illustrations children will love.
9. We’re All Wonders - RJ Palacio
In We’re All Wonders, Auggie embodies every child’s desire to fit in and stand out. This book has taught over 15 million readers the value of empathy and kindness and has become a favorite gift for baby showers, birthdays, and graduations.
10. Breathing Makes it Better - Christopher Willard and Wendy O'Leary
Many underestimate the power of breathing to reduce stress and calm down. In this book, children will undergo simple calming cues to manage powerful emotions like anger and anxiety.
You can use this adorably illustrated book alongside our Square Breathing poster.
11. My Day Is Ruined!: A Story Teaching Flexible Thinking - Bryan Smith
Kids can often be inflexible, especially when their environments change. In this book, author Bryan Smith aims to impart lessons on flexible thinking. Readers follow the story of Braden, who struggles with managing the stress of a seemingly ruined day.
12. The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon - Matthew Burgess
It isn’t uncommon to fall into a slump, but what happens when you can’t get out of it? The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon follows a sister trying to cheer up her grumpy brother and underscores why emotional regulation matters.
13. Chrysanthemum - Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum loves her name—it’s unique and beautiful, but not everyone feels the same. This picture book tells an honest story about self-esteem and self-acceptance, injecting bits of humor and wit throughout.
14. Millie Fierce - Jane Manning
If your child struggles to stand up for themselves, let Millie Fierce lead by example. In this book, readers learn that all actions have consequences and that you can be firm about your values without being mean.
15. Enemy Pie - Derek Munsen
When Jeremy Ross moved into the neighborhood and became enemy number one, everything went downhill. But what if enemies can become friends? Enemy Pie teaches readers kindness, compassion, and patience.
The Bottom Line
Reading the best SEL books can make your child’s learning experiences more enjoyable and memorable. By playing to their interests with books they like, they’ll be more motivated to improve their skills.
- Santos R., Fettig A., Shaffer L. “Helping Families Connect Early Literacy with Social-Emotional Development.” Young Children, 2012.
- Alzahrani M, Alharbi M, Alodwani A. “The Effect of Social-Emotional Competence on Children’s Academic Achievement and Behavioral Development.” International Education Studies, 2019.