Wednesday, June 29, 2022

7 Days of Books for Children, Day 4 Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Welcome back to #7DaysOfBooks! Today we are spotlighting books that provide avenues for children to develop or deepen their social-emotional learning.

According to the Partners in Healing website social-emotional learning involves learning to "understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions." There are five core concepts in emotional learning which are shown in this graphic below.

Children and adults who are competent in managing these areas themselves tend to find more success in home, work, and life (Buffalo County Community Partners).

Readers might find that today's books could be easily placed with other categories, and that is the beauty of children's books. They hold multiple layers, affording multiples levels of engagement. I hope there are some new titles on this list for you to check out and enjoy yourself.

As for giveaways, there are a whopping 5 today! Five! So dig in, check out these books, these authors, and enrich your lives and the lives of your children with some more wonderful reading.

Here is a quote for today's category.

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." - William James

American Desi written by Jyoti Rajan Gopal, illustrated by Supriya Kelkar (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2022). 

This lyrical, rhyming picture book shows the two sides of a young girl--her Indian heritage and her American one--and her journey to figuring out where she fits or identifies with most. The vibrant illustrations based in a metaphor of numerous depictions of fabrics exude joy and energy along with  a celebration of cultures that can be readily felt from the page. This book can be used to launch into discussion with young readers on self-image, where we each fit, and how we contribute positively in our diverse society. 

The Happiest Kid written by Sarah Bagley Steele, illustrated by Elsa Pui Si and Clarice Yunyi (Yeehoo Press 2022).  

Sally usually wakes up happy and goes through her day as the happiest kid. She's known for it by her parents. But when Sally wakes up seeing a cloud instead of the usual happy sun, she's unsure of how to handle her feelings or how to show them. This story gives kid-friendly insight into how to manage, acknowledge, and cope with sad feelings. 

It is a perfect story time book for home or in the classroom to help kids learn how to verbalize and handle their emotions, as well as recognize different feelings that can be seen in others. A++++

 written and illustrated by Anne Appert (HarperCollins 2021). 

This story is insatiably adorable in all the layers it holds for self-exploration, self-discovery, and self-acceptance. Kids will love going along with Blob's journey as they move from being able to take the shape of any animal that the narrator dreams up for them to taking on the shape of anything that they dream up for their self to ultimately figuring out what they discover is best for Blob. The misunderstanding of the name for Blob/Bob at the beginning is a perfect launching pad for Blob's quest in pushing past all the self-doubt that sets in before wrapping up in a perfect landing. 

Readers will giggle, but the story lends itself to deeper discussions of feelings and identity, as well as treatment of others.

Dancing in Thatha's Footsteps written by Srividhya Venkat, illustrated by Kavita Ramchandran (Yali Books 2021).

When young Varun catches a peek at his sister's dance class while she is learning to master the Indian dance of bharatanatyam, his curiosity is sparked, but he is reluctant to try it because he believes that "boys don't dance." However, as his grandfather Thatha shares more about his background and experience with the dance, Verun soon embraces his desire to enjoy what he wants to do and how to feel. This book is perfect in helping young learners overcome their own insecurities in trying something new.

Brave in the Water written by Stephanie Wildman, illustrated by Jenni Feidler-Aguilar (Lawley Enterprises, LLC 2021). 

When Diante is afraid to put his face in the water, his grandmother shares something she is afraid of, which is hanging upside down on the monkey bars. After learning to practice a bit of yoga, Diante is able to apply the breathing techniques he learned to help overcome his fears in the water. This book is a wonderful introduction to the use of controlled breathing to help ease anxiety and manage stressful situations. 

Having coached and taught swimming lessons for a number of years, this was a real fear for many beginning swimmers. Proper breathing was definitely part of the instruction, because breathing is something most kids don't think about--it just happens, so this book is a great introduction for bringing awareness to it.

What if, Pig? written and illustrated by Linzie Hunter (Harper 2021). 

I absolutely love the adorable factor and emotional connection that this story renders. Pig is liked by everyone, but that doesn't mean he's not a worrier. In fact, when Pig wants to throw a party, he worries about all sorts of things that could go wrong. He worries so much, he wants to cancel his party. 9Spoiler: When Mouse holds the party for Pig as a surprise, everyone comes and shares their worries with Pig.) I love how the story comes full circle at the end with Pig describing his friends in the same way they describe him. A+ on this one. 

A Little Space for Me written and illustrated by Jennifer Gray Olson (Roaring Brook Press 2020). This book offers a unique approach to a girl's desire to carve out her own space in her world. However, when her space leaves her feeling alienated from others, she lets them back in and shares her idea of space with them. This story offers an other-worldly introduction to mediation and escaping to the world inside our heads when we need quiet moments to ourselves. 

With the combination of simple text and illustrations, this book is a perfect introduction for kids to understanding their own internal thoughts.

Big and Small and In-Between written by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Daniel Miyares (Chronicle Books 2022). 

This book could easily have been categorized with the nature titles, but I'm putting it in the SEL group because I believe so many discussions could follow between adults and young readers about the feelings that each of the page spreads evoke. 

There are many different kinds of things that can seem big to a child. And equally so, there are many things that can seem small or in-between. Thus, for the deeper meanings that can be seen in the text and illustrations, I believe that this book begs for the readers and listeners to slow down and practice viewing things from different perspectives, which can be both a very grown-up way to look at the world, and also a very innocent way to look at the world. It all comes down to perspective! And for that reason, this book can be enjoyed over and over again in order for readers to deepen their understanding of their responses to the world around them.

Nigel and the Moon written by Antwan Eady, illustrated by Gracey Zhang (Katherine Tegan Books 2022). When Nigel tells his hopes and dreams for the future to the moon, he shares what he thinks he might want to be. An astronaut, a dancer, a superhero. But his doubts set in when he can't find the career of a dancer in the books at school. 

This tender story shows how Nigel comes to push past his uncertainty and share his dreams during Career Week with his friends and parents at school. This book is another wonderful title celebrating self-worth and courage for sharing a little of our hopes with others.

Bear is a Bear written by Johnathan Stutzman, illustrated by Dan Santat (Balzar and Bray 2021).

This imaginative story shows the bond and adventures that a child and her stuffed bear (depicted as a real bear, as considered from the child's perspective) take over the course of her life. This tender story is a wonderful tribute to the beloved toys/stuffed animals that bring comfort and what it means to grow out of them and perhaps rediscover them once again.

For today's giveaways, we have FIVE! 

1) A signed copy of AMERICAN DESI from author Jyoti Rajan Gopal

2) A signed copy of THE HAPPIEST KID and/or a zoom visit to 1 classroom from author Sarah Bagley Steele

3) A signed copy of BLOB from author/illustrator Anne Appert

4) A copy of DANCING IN THATHA'S FOOTSTEPS from author Srividhya Venkat

5) A paperback copy of BRAVE IN THE WATER from author Stephanie Wildman

Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter. You can see all 5 giveaways there with the side arrows. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thank you for sharing these amazing stories!

  2. Thank you for this post and this list. I love bear is a bear. It even made my husband tear up. :)

  3. I don't automatically gravitate toward SEL books, but I've noticed that many of my favorite picture books actually combine humor with more subtle SEL elements. I especially like SHAWN LOVES SHARKS by Curtis Manley and Tracy Subisak.

    1. thanks, Janet! I'm not familiar with that book. Thanks for the recommendation

  4. I love what you wrote about layers. There is such beauty in a PB that can do that in only a few page turns and limited word count!

  5. I literally just wrote a lesson plan using BLOB!! I love SEL books!

  6. What a beautiful list of SEL books! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Favorite place to unwind for me abs the kids… my library!

  8. I loved American Desi, so I'm excited to check out these other books!

  9. As a psychotherapist I am exploring writing more SEL content. Great list of mentor text!

  10. Can’t believe I haven’t read any of these yet! Thanks for the list!
    Hannah Roy LaGrone

  11. Shaunda, thanks for sharing this list! I've read Nigel and the Moon and Big and Small and In Between, now adding a few others to check out.

  12. I've heard great things about Blob. The other titles aren't as familiar but I'm looking forward to getting to know them.


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