10 Must-Have SEL Books for the Classroom

There are many ways we can incorporate social emotional learning (SEL) into our instruction and get our students engaged. Utilizing meaningful books in our read-aloud time is an effective and engaging way to introduce SEL to our young learners. More than understanding the text, students are able to develop a better understanding of themselves, others, and the world around them through SEL read-alouds.

Today I wanted to share a list of ten must-have SEL books, which I believe will be beneficial to you and your students.

Literature is a gateway to successful social-emotional learning.

Free SEL Bingo Boards

I’m sharing free SEL bingo boards in this post, as well. You can use these as a follow-up to each of the read-louds in your classroom or you can send them home with students. Students can cross or cover the spaces as they complete them. You can download them below for free. Woo hoo!

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The bingo boards cover the following themes:

  • Responsibility
  • Mindfulness
  • Appreciation
  • Kindness
  • Respect
  • Gratitude

10 Must-Have SEL Read-Alouds For Your Classroom

If you click on any of the book covers below, you’ll be taken directly to Amazon where you can purchase each book. The links below each book take you directly to the Youtube read-alouds of the books, which you can easily use in class if hard copies are not available. 

1. When Sadness Is At Your Door by Eva Eland

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5CgTj4Izfw)

Everyone feels sad sometimes, even kids! By treating sadness as a visitor, this amazing book teaches kids an open-minded and gentle approach to understanding and dealing with feelings of sadness.

2. In My Heart by Jo Witek  

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIfLgHBwYx4&t=36s)

A really beautiful children’s book about hearts and all the feelings they contain. In My Heart is a great story to introduce the different emotions we have and how they can make us feel. 

3. Happy Right Now by Julie Berry

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1bDLm1NhbI)

Happy Right Now is a wonderful story about appreciating and being grateful for the here and now. It teaches kids the value of mindfulness, gratitude, and staying in the present moment.
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4. Happy by Nicola Edwards 

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKD0MF9-b7Y&t=47s)

This is a great book that teaches kids how to be mindful in the simplest ways! The story suggests different things children can do to practice mindfulness such as listening, relaxing, and taking the time to really appreciate the little moments.

5. Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAo4-2UzgPo&t=33s)

Be Kind is a personal favorite! It is a lovely story about empathy, friendship, and learning how to be kind to others. It’s a wonderful book for teaching students that kindness can be shown in big ways and in small ways, too.

6. The Fort by Laura Perdew

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6YEN7rS61o)

Imaginative and wonderful, The Fort is about two kids with vastly different interests who learn how to work together and resolve their differences. This is a terrific book for teaching children about sharing, resolving conflicts, and building friendships with others.

7. What If Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick 

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mwsmBCcQM4)

This book explores what could possibly happen if everybody said what was on their minds without considering the consequences or other people’s feelings. What If Everybody Said That? is a good story about thoughtfulness, respect, and thinking before speaking.

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8. I Can Make Good Choices by David Parker

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y70V5Yj68oQ&t=16s)

This children’s book is simple, straightforward, and a great way to teach kids about responsibility. It teaches children to stop and think before acting in order to make good choices.  

9. The Bear Who Shared by Catherine Rayner 

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sZ8FcqUCdM)

In this adorable story, Norris the Bear learns that sharing can help you make good friends. The Bear Who Shared encourages children to share and be kind in order to build friendships with others.

10. What Does It Mean to Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio

Read aloud (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2P-vuO6qYU&t=37s)

This wonderful story dives into the true meaning of kindness: big and small acts of thoughtfulness done for others. What Does It Mean to be Kind teaches not only about being kind but also about being respectful and empathic with others.

SEL Exploration Curriculum

As educators, we see and experience firsthand the immense need for social-emotional learning in our classrooms. It pains me to see students struggle to identify their emotions and cope with stress. I know you feel me too! As adults, many of us struggle to handle stress very well. Just imagine our young learners trying to understand what they feel and cope without any tools to help them. SEL provides them with a toolbox to do just that.

I mentioned above that read-alouds are a wonderful tool to use to engage children in SEL. However, we cannot possibly expect our students to develop social-emotional skills in a snap with only these SEL books.

It’s important that we give them plenty of practice and opportunities to explore social-emotional learning! Feeling stressed about curating your own SEL curriculum? No need to fret! Below you’ll find information about our complete eight unit SEL Exploration Curriculum. 

SEL Exploration Curriculum includes the following eight units:

  • Exploring Emotions
  • Self-Control & Emotional Management
  • Solving Problems
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy and Kindness
  • Relationships
  • Gratitude

Each unit has components that include:

  • lesson plans
  • home connection letter
  • Seesaw/Google Slide lessons
  • teacher scripts
  • graphic organizers
  • vocabulary posters
  • discussion starters
  • student journals
  • book and video suggestions

Click here to learn more about the SEL Exploration Curriculum.

Download Your Free SEL Bingo Boards


Want access to free SEL Bingo Boards that you can use in your classroom and/or send home with your students? Download them by clicking on the pink bar below.

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Join the LK Teacher Club!

If you would prefer to have access to the SEL Curriculum, along with every resource I’ve ever created for a low-monthly cost, then be sure to join the LK Teacher Club.

You can learn more about the K-2 membership here. 


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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Cecile September 6, 2021, 5:05 am

    I love this! I worked with special needs students for 28 years, including emotionally handicapped students. I now run a small tutoring business where we still get many students with special needs so I really appreciate your materials.
    Are you familiar with Joan Cook’s books? She writes great books. She will also speak at conferences and schools.
    Thanks again, and I hope you have a good school year 😊