Looking for the best social emotional learning books? These SEL picture books for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various SEL topics such as mindfulness, problem-solving, positive self image, friendship and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall fairytale and nursery rhyme. But what happened after? Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall―that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear?
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Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Jabari Jumps HERE
Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is inventing a machine that will fly all the way across the yard! But making it go from CRASH to WHOOSH will take grit, patience, and maybe even a little help from his sister.
Jabari is making a flying machine in his backyard! “It’ll be easy. I don’t need any help,” he declares. But it doesn’t work! Jabari is frustrated. Good thing Dad is there for a pep talk and his little sister, Nika, is there to assist, fairy wings and all. With the endearing father-child dynamic of Jabari Jumps and engaging mixed-media illustrations, Gaia Cornwall’s tale shows that through perseverance and flexibility, an inventive thought can become a brilliant reality.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Jabari Tries HERE
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.
Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment. This powerful, poetic picture book is perfect for Asian American Heritage Month as well as SEL.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Eyes That Kiss in the Corners HERE
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”
Art class is over, but Vashti is sitting glued to her chair in front of a blank piece of paper. The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw – she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. “There!” she says. That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery. One of the great growth mindset books!
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.
Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.
So Few Of Me by Peter H. Reynolds
Leo’s list of things to do keeps growing, until one day he wishes, “If only there were two of me.” Just as the words are out of his mouth, poof! Another Leo appears! Two Leos become three, three become four, and four become more . . . but Leo can’t help but notice that he has even more to do than before. As he struggles to deal with his overcomplicated life, Leo realizes that there may be a simpler solution to his overscheduling woes. Peter H. Reynolds, the award-winning author-illustrator of The Dot and Ish, returns with an important message for readers of all ages: stop and take a little time to dream. A great book for talking about dealing with anxiety and overwhelm!
Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. An amazing diverse picture book!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Last Stop On Market Street HERE
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Those Shoes HERE
The Oldest Student by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who–with perseverance and dedication–proved that you’re never too old to learn. Also a great book to read during Black History Month!
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Oldest Student HERE
Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s inspiring true story—which was turned into a film, Emmanuel’s Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable.
Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Emmanuel’s Dream HERE
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library . . . and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind HERE
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Lilly loves all sorts of things. She loves school, she loves dressing up, she even grows to love her stinky baby brother, Julius. In fact, Lilly loves everything! But when Lilly brings her purple plastic purse to school and can’t wait until sharing time to show off the purse and her movie star sunglasses, her teacher, Mr. Slinger, has to take away her prized possessions.
Lilly’s fury leads her to draw a mean picture of her favorite teacher. It isn’t until Mr. Slinger gives her belongings back to her with a kind note and snacks that Lilly realizes she owes Mr. Slinger an apology.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse HERE
Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
There is only one way for Chester to do things—his own way. “You definitely have a mind of your own,” said Chester’s mother. “That’s one way to put it,” said Chester’s father.
Luckily Chester’s best friend, Wilson, likes doing things just the same way as Chester. When they cut their sandwiches, it’s always diagonally. When they ride their bikes, they always use hand signals. If Chester is hungry, Wilson is too. They’re two of a kind—until indomitable Lilly, who has her own way of doing things, moves into the neighborhood. Because Lilly has her own way of doing things! A great book for talking about thinking flexibly.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Chester’s Way HERE
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Giraffes Can’t Dance is a touching tale of Gerald the giraffe, who wants nothing more than to dance. With crooked knees and thin legs, it’s harder for a giraffe than you would think. Gerald is finally able to dance to his own tune when he gets some encouraging words from an unlikely friend.With light-footed rhymes and high-stepping illustrations, this tale is gentle inspiration for every child with dreams of greatness.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Giraffes Can’t Dance HERE
Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena
Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo–walking the same path, going to the exact same place–Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them. A great book about looking at perspective.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Milo Imagines the World HERE
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!
Get the lesson plan and activities for I Am Every Good Thing HERE
A Stone For Sascha by Aaron Becker
This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. In his first picture book following the conclusion of his best-selling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again. Another amazing wordless picture book by Aaron Becker!
Get the lesson plan and activities for A Stone For Sascha HERE
I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black
Everyone feels sad sometimes—even flamingos. When Flamingo announces he’s feeling down, the little girl and Potato try to cheer him up, but nothing seems to work. Not even dirt! (Which usually works for Potato.) Flamingo learns that he will not always feel this way. And his friends learn that sometimes being a friend means you don’t have to cheer someone up. You just have to stick by your pal no matter how they feel. Even if they’re a potato.
Get the lesson plan and activities for I’m Sad HERE
Oliver Button Is A Sissy by Tomie Depaola
Oliver Button is a sissy. At least that’s what the other boys call him. But here’s what Oliver Button really is: a reader, and an artist, and a singer, and a dancer, and more. What will his classmates say when he steps into the spotlight? A great anti-bullying book for talking about relationships!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Oliver Button Is A Sissy HERE
Sweep by Louise Greig
Anger and frustration, two emotions students need help dealing with. Ed’s bad mood begins as something really small, hardly a thing at all. But before long it grows, gathers pace, and spreads through the whole town. Can Ed sweep his troubles away?
Get the lesson plan and activities for Sweep HERE
Beyond the Fence by Maria Gulemetova
Piggy lives in a large house with Thomas. Thomas knows exactly what Piggy needs. But a chance meeting with a wild pig changes everything, and Piggy finds out what lies outside the four walls, beyond the fence. A gentle book about freedom and friendship.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Beyond the Fence HERE
Friends Stick Together by Hannah Harrison
Rupert is a rhinoceros of refined sensibilities. Levi, the new tickbird in class, is not. He burps the alphabet, tells corny jokes, and does really embarrassing air guitar solos. Worse, he lands right on Rupert and is determined to be Rupert’s symbiotic best pal! Rupert wants him gone. But when Levi finally does bug off, Rupert finds the peace and quiet a little boring. It turns out, Rupert could really use a friend like Levi.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Friends Stick Together HERE
What If Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick
If you tell someone that they can’t play with you, there’s no harm done, right? But what if everybody said that? What if everybody forgot to be kind―and made fun of other kids’ artwork at school, or told a fib, or refused to share with a person in need? The world wouldn’t be a very nice place to live. But what if everybody thought before they spoke, so the world would be a kinder place? Kids need to learn to be kind to each other which is why this is one of the first September read alouds I do during social emotional learning time!
Get the lesson plan and activities for What If Everybody Said That? HERE
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
When Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a tree, he’s determined to get it out. But how? Well, by knocking it down with his shoe, of course. But strangely enough, it too gets stuck. And the only logical course of action . . . is to throw his other shoe. Only now it’s stuck! Surely there must be something he can use to get his kite unstuck. An orangutan? A boat? His front door? Yes, yes, and yes. And that’s only the beginning.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Stuck HERE
This Moose Belongs To Me by Oliver Jeffers
Wilfred is a boy with rules. He lives a very orderly life. It’s fortunate, then, that he has a pet who abides by rules, such as not making noise while Wilfred educates him on his record collection. There is, however, one rule that Wilfred’s pet has difficulty following: Going whichever way Wilfred wants to go. Perhaps this is because Wilfred’s pet doesn’t quite realize that he belongs to anyone. A moose can be obstinate in such ways. Fortunately, the two manage to work out a compromise. Let’s just say it involves apples. A book that shows kids that we can’t always (or ever) control our friends and what they do.
Get the lesson plan and activities for This Moose Belongs to Me HERE
The Bad Seed by Jory John
This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know? He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy? A great book for showing students that they can make a change and to not always believe what others say to create self-fulfilling prophecies.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Bad Seed HERE
The Cool Bean by Jory John
Everyone knows the cool beans. They’re sooooo cool. And then there’s the uncool has-bean: always on the sidelines, one bean unsuccessfully tries everything he can to fit in with the crowd—until one day the cool beans show him how it’s done.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Cool Bean HERE
The Good Egg by Jory John
Meet the good egg. He’s a verrrrrry good egg indeed. But trying to be so good is hard when everyone else is plain ol’ rotten. As the other eggs in the dozen behave badly, the good egg starts to crack from all the pressure of feeling like he has to be perfect. So, he decides enough is enough! It’s time for him to make a change. A great book for dealing with pressure that students put on themselves and perfectionism.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Good Egg HERE
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as the bear begins to despond, a deer comes by and asks a simple question that sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance. A hilarious book about what might happen if you are dishonest.
Get the lesson plan and activities for I Want My Hat Back HERE
In a Jar by Deborah Marcero
Here’s a marvelous picture book, charmingly written and beautifully illustrated, about the power of memory and the magic of friendship.
Llewellyn, a little rabbit, is a collector. He gathers things in jars–ordinary things like buttercups, feathers, and heart-shaped stones. Then he meets another rabbit, Evelyn, and together they begin to collect extraordinary things–like rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and the wind just before snow falls. And, best of all, when they hold the jars and peer inside, they remember all the wonderful things they’ve seen and done. But one day, Evelyn has sad news: Her family is moving away. How can the two friends continue their magical collection–and their special friendship–from afar?
Get the lesson plan and activities for In a Jar HERE
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Teach kindness, courtesy, respect, and friendship: It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! In this funny yet endearing story one little boy learns an effective recipe for turning a best enemy into a best friend.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Enemy Pie HERE
The Three Questions by Jon Muth
Young Nikolai is searching for the answers to his three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? But it is his own response to a stranger’s cry for help that leads him directly to the answers he is looking for. This profound and inspiring book is about compassion and mindfulness.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Three Questions HERE
I Am Human by Susan Verde
Being human means we are full of possibility. We learn, we dream, we wonder at the world around us. But we also make mistakes and can feel fearful or sad. I Am Human affirms that we can make good choices by acting with compassion and having empathy for others and ourselves. When we find common ground, we can feel connected to the great world around us and mindfully strive to be our best selves.
Get the lesson plan and activities for I Am Human HERE
I Am Peace by Susan Verde
Mindfulness means being fully in the present moment. Children can learn how to manage their emotions, make good choices, and balance their busy lives by learning to be mindful, express emotions through speech, find empathy through imagination, and wonder at the beauty of the natural world.
Get the lesson plan and activities for I Am Peace HERE
I Am Love by Susan Verde
Love means showing kindness, living with gratitude, and taking care of our minds and bodies. Letting our hearts lead the way can help move us closer to a better world. From the bestselling team that created I Am Yoga, I Am Peace, I Am Human, and I Am One comes a celebration of love in all its forms. Grounded in mindfulness and wellness, I Am Love asks readers to look inward when they feel afraid, angry, hurt, or sad. When a storm is brewing inside us and the skies grow dark, the transformative power of love lets the light back in.
Get the lesson plan and activities for I Am Love HERE
What Do You Do With A Problem? by Kobi Yamada
This is the story of a persistent problem and the child who isn’t so sure what to make of it. The longer the problem is avoided, the bigger it seems to get. But when the child finally musters up the courage to face it, the problem turns out to be something quite different than it appeared.
What Do You Do With a Problem? is a story for anyone, at any age, who has ever had a problem that they wished would go away. It’s a story to inspire you to look closely at that problem and to find out why it’s here. Because you might discover something amazing about your problem… and yourself.
What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s just getting started.
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada
In this story, a child is visited by his first chance and unsure what to do with it, he lets it go. Later on, when a new chance arrives he reaches for it, but this time he misses and falls. Embarrassed and afraid, he begins ignoring each new chance that comes by, even though he still wants to take them. Then one day he realizes that he doesn’t need to be brave all the time, just at the right time, to find out what amazing things can happen when he takes a chance.
Jack’s Worry by Mark Zuppardi
Jack loves playing the trumpet, and for weeks he’s been looking forward to taking part in his first concert. But on the morning of the big day, Jack finds he has a Worry. And his Worry starts to grow. Even when Jack’s mother calls him for a special breakfast, even when he hides under the bed or runs around the yard, his Worry follows him. Suddenly, when it’s almost time to leave for the concert, Jack finds it’s all too much. For anyone who’s ever been afraid of failing at something new, this book offers just what’s needed to shrink a Worry down to size.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Jack’s Worry HERE
Best Social Emotional Learning Books For Kids
What are some of your favorite social emotional learning books for kids? Are there any must read social emotional learning books that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!
Remember: You can try a free lesson and activities for After the Fall by signing up here:
[…] children’s sometimes fragile self-esteem in a real and approachable way. Share this book during Social Emotional Learning time—with or without siblings, kids ages 3-7 will relate to the emotions and enjoy the […]
[…] to be kind to each other which is why this is one of the first September read alouds I do during social emotional learning […]
[…] to be kind to each other which is why this is one of the first September read alouds I do during social emotional learning […]
[…] do you control yourself when everything goes wrong? Today would be special. Today would be splendid. It was Saturday! But […]