Social Emotional Learning books for young readers

Social emotional learning (SEL) units “foster mindful, engaged behavior among students. Recognizing the value of emotional awareness for any student population, the core SEL competencies include self- and social awareness, relationship skills, decision-making, and self-management,” says School Library Journal in a recent article.

Find books to support your SEL units here!


Try these books in your next SEL unit:

THE LITTLE GUYS by Vera Brosgol

An adorable cautionary tale from Caldecott Honoree Vera Brosgol! This slyly funny and rambunctious read-aloud explores how strength in numbers only works when the whole community unites together.

“What a fantastic message: not just teamwork, but actual community.” —New York Times

★ “[A] pointed exploration of the notion that collective action just becomes mob rule without a moral foundation.”—Bookliststarred review

★ “A great discussion starter.”—School Library Journalstarred review

★ “Well suited for read-alouds.” —Horn Bookstarred review


HONEYSMOKE by Monique Fields; illustrated by Yesenia Moises

A young biracial girl looks around her world for her color. She finally chooses her own, and creates a new word for herself—honeysmoke. For multiracial children, and all children everywhere, this picture book offers a universal message that empowers young people to create their own self-identity.

“Fields’ extensive experience writing about race and identity translates with beautiful simplicity here for younger readers, and Moises paints Simone with great tenderness.—Booklist


I WILL BE FIERCE by Bea Birdsong; illustrated by Nidhi Chanani

A powerful picture book about courage, confidence, kindness, and finding the extraordinary in everyday moments. It’s a brand new day, and a young girl decides to take on the world like a brave explorer heading off on an epic fairytale quest. From home to school and back again, our hero conquers the Mountain of Knowledge (the library), forges new bridges (friendships), and leads the victorious charge home on her steed (the school bus).

A MacKids School & Library Staff Pick!

A multicultural girl-power manifesto…Birdsong’s repeated refrain underlines the unambiguous message of this sassy picture book, and Chanani’s bold and energetic illustrations reinforce the text’s punchy, feminist-y declarations… the book will find repeated use in the classroom.” —Kirkus Reviews


HOLD HANDS by Sara Varon

A sweet rhyming story about friendship and connection. Everybody holds hands. You can hold hands with your little brother or your best friend. You can hold hands with your classmate or even your favorite doll! Gather up your little ones, hold their hands, and share this heartwarming book.

With gentle guidance, young readers will pick up on the broader message that hand-holding…embodies strong emotional connection, bonding, and inclusion..”—Kirkus


IT FEELS GOOD TO BE YOURSELF by Theresa Thorn; illustrated by Noah Grigni

A picture book that introduces the concept of gender identity to the youngest reader. With child-friendly language and vibrant art, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity.

A MacKids School & Library Staff Pick!

★ “This expansive, straightforward framing of gender emphasizes curiosity, joy, and positive self-expression…Exceptional.” —Kirkus Reviewsstarred review

★ “The spirit of free expression and creativity infuses every spread of this inclusive exploration.” —Publishers Weeklystarred review

★ “As the song has it, we’re living in a big, wide wonderful world. And this book is a welcome addition to it.” —Bookliststarred review


OGILVY by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by T. L. McBeth
When Ogilvy moves to a new town, the possibilities feel endless. There are so many new bunny friends and fun things to do together! But in this town, bunnies in dresses play ball and knit socks, and bunnies in sweaters make art and climb rocks. Ogilvy wants to do everything—and won’t let a sweater or a dress get in the way.

★ “Clothes do not make the bunny. It’s a strong message told subtly.” —Kirkus Reviewsstarred review

“Seussian in theme and verse, the enjoyable readaloud…offers an excellent entry point to conversations about celebrating individuality and personal choice.” —Publishers Weekly


BE KIND by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen Hill

From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving story explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference—or at least help a friend.

[A] lovely exploration of empathy and thoughtfulness.”
Publishers Weeklystarred review

“These days, it seems more important than ever for books to show young people how to act with thoughtfulness, civility, and kindness.” —The New York Times Book Review