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5 Books to Read Aloud to Support Social-Emotional Learning

Now more than ever, social-emotional learning (SEL) plays a critical role in children’s long-term wellbeing and academic success. According to CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), an effective SEL framework incorporates five key competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Teachers have the powerful opportunity to kickstart children’s social-emotional learning through early education. Fortunately, you can introduce SEL concepts through simple, daily activities which you may have already incorporated into your virtual or in-person instructional time – like reading aloud in the classroom.

Below, we’ve curated a list of books aligned to the five key components of an SEL framework. In no time, you can begin to equip your early learners with lifelong tools that will help them to build confidence and empower their success in the classroom and beyond.


Self-awareness is the ability to understand your own inner world. This involves your feelings, thoughts, and values, and how they impact behavior and choices.

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain (ages 2-8)

This book helps children name their feelings by connecting words to relatable emotions and inviting the reader to talk about those experiences. A key message of this book is that it’s okay to feel what you feel; emotions come and go, and they are neither good nor bad.


Self-management is the ability to effectively regulate your actions and emotions. This includes skills like managing stressful situations, setting and achieving goals, and persevering through challenges.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (ages 3-7)

This book conveys to children that it’s okay to make mistakes. It also explores how children can acknowledge and respond to emotions like anger and frustration when things may not go as they expected.

Social Awareness

Social awareness is the ability to understand other perspectives, offer compassion, and empathize with individuals from different backgrounds or cultures. It also relates to an understanding of social norms, social systems, and appropriate behaviors. 

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold (ages 4-8)

In this book, a diverse group of children go through a day at school, where each student is welcomed, supported, and celebrated for the unique aspects of who they are.

Relationship Skills

Relationship skills allow children to create and sustain healthy, rewarding relationships with individuals of all backgrounds. Specific skills include the ability to listen and communicate effectively, cooperate and share with others, resolve conflict, stand up for others, and offer or ask for help when needed.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 5-8)

This book teaches children about interacting and forming friendships with others by embracing an open, accepting, kind, and inclusive mindset. It also helps children build a healthier narrative around feelings such as not fitting in, as well as reframe negative perceptions of peers who seem “different.”

Responsible Decision-Making

Responsible decision-making involves the ability to anticipate consequences, make sound judgements, and evaluate the impact of your behavior on yourself and others.

Franklin Wants a Pet by Paulette Bourgeois (ages 3-8)

Franklin has always wanted a pet, but his parents worry if he’s able to take care of one. In this book, we follow Franklin as he thoughtfully picks which type of animal to adopt and conveys to his parents that he’s capable of looking after it.

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