Top 7 Read Alouds for Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social-emotional learning is super important in the classroom. 

It provides a chance to help students learn more about the emotions they experience daily and how to respond to those emotions. 

Picture books are GREAT ways to introduce ideas, spark conversation, and begin an SEL lesson at any age level. 

You will find your students referencing the picture books you used for these lessons months after reading them together. 😊

This image shows a stack of picture books with a mug balanced on top. The text at the bottom of the image reads "Top 7 Read Alouds for Social Emotional Learning".

The Invisible Boy

The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton is a fantastic story to help your students learn the power of noticing and valuing the people around you. 

It can be hard to feel like no one sees you throughout the day or no one wants to play with you. 

This story brings that point of view to light and encourages you to notice those around you who are quieter or often alone. 

Plus, the illustrations are amazing and depict the invisible boy becoming more and more colorful as other students notice him and invite him into their circles. 

Use this book to start a conversation about how your students can be on the lookout for others wanting to play but not sure how to ask to join. 

What if Everybody Did That?

It is easy to go through the day not fully thinking about how your choices impact those around you. 

And sometimes it can be hard to help explain to our little learners why the choices they make matter. 

What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick is a great book to bring into your classroom for this conversation! 

Her book is filled with fun illustrations that depict if everyone were to make the same silly (and often not great) choices that one boy is making. 

Think of choices like not hanging up a coat, splashing in the swimming pool, littering, etc. 

She finishes the book by asking the same question but about the choice to give your mom a hug when you get home. 

It provides a powerful idea that what you choose to do individually matters, and that in a classroom setting can be a great conversation to have. 

How Full is Your Bucket? 

Sometimes all you need is a good analogy to help explain something to your students. 

An image used a lot in social-emotional learning is the idea of “filling your bucket” or “filling someone else’s bucket”. 

This book, How Full is Your Bucket by Mary Reckmeyer and Tom Rath, is a great way to introduce the analogy to your class. 

The premise of the idea is everyone has a bucket. The actions we take either fill our buckets and the buckets of those around us or slowly drain them dry. 

The challenge is to think about what is happening from your actions. 

This book helps students recognize that it is hard for them to act patiently or compassionately when their buckets are empty. Also, it introduces the idea that when you do an action to fill someone else’s bucket, your bucket also gets a drop! 

The Way I Feel

There are LOTS of emotions we all experience frequently. 

For our youngest learners, it might help to have conversations about what the different emotions are, how they make you feel, and what you might be thinking as you experience them. 

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain is a great book to use for this! 

The fun illustrations and vibrant word choice will help your students connect the word to the emotion. 

Throughout the year you can even reference this book to help students sort through what emotion they are feeling and how to respond. 

The Good Egg

Another aspect of social-emotional learning is helping students think about some tough topics like perfectionism. 

A read aloud is often a great way to help children relate to a larger topic and find ways to make it applicable to their own lives. 

The Good Egg by Jory John is a fabulous book that tells about an egg that was way too focused on being perfect and forcing those around him to be perfect as well. 

This story helps readers identify where their quest for perfectionism is bringing on additional stress. Then, it gives ideas on how to let go of that without letting go of obedience and following directions. 

Plus, the food puns will keep you giggling the entire time! 😉

Millie Fierce 

There is sometimes a fine line between standing up for yourself and being mean to those around you. 

Millie Fierce by Jane Manning tells the story of a young girl who got fed up with nobody paying attention to her. So, she decided to be fierce. 

However, her definition of fierce was becoming mean and annoying. People paid attention to her, but she started to realize she didn’t like the reason behind the attention. 

This book would be a great way to help your students talk about the difference between standing up for yourself and being mean during a social-emotional learning lesson.

Those Shoes

A tough lesson to learn as a child is the difference between things you want and things you need. 

This book, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, tells the story of a young boy who realllllly wants these cool shoes. 

His grandmother has a conversation with him about things they want and things they need, but he is convinced. Those shoes are all he can think about.

The story takes a beautiful turn as he realizes he is not the only one with wants that won’t be fulfilled. Then, he realizes he can fulfill the wants of someone else instead of his own. 

It is a great way to talk about how we can be generous and compassionate even when we don’t get everything we want.  

Your classroom is filled with unique students figuring out their emotions and how to get along with those around them. 

Use these read alouds (and SO many others) to start some great discussions to help your students learn and grow! 

You can also snag a growth mindset bulletin board for your classroom over at this blog post (and snag some more read aloud ideas too)!

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