Whether you're a parent or educator, these SEL books for kindergarten are the perfect way to teach young children how to regulate their emotions and foster relationships with others! They're fantastic to read during your morning meeting, to share during an SEL lesson, or to find a solution to a social problem. I promise you'll want all of the titles on this list!
What are SEL books for Kindergarten?
SEL stands for social emotional learning. Social emotional skills focus on fostering self-awareness, recognising emotions, and helping students learn how to form healthy relationships with others.
In Kindergarten, it's important to focus on developmentally appropriate SEL skills, like learning about our emotions, making friends, and resolving conflicts.
If we can help our students understand themselves and their peers early on, they'll have an easier time building their self-confidence and resilience and forming healthy relationships. SEL can be incredibly transformative, and you'll be amazed at how much these stories help your students understand themselves better!
Plus, with such a huge mental health crisis, it's so important to help students learn how to recognize and care for their emotional well-being early on. Students love to learn through stories, and these books can make a tremendous difference!
25 Best SEL Books for Kindergarten
The great thing is that there are tons of books out there to teach social emotional learning skills! Keep a stash of social-emotional learning books on a special shelf in your classroom. Accumulate titles that really reflect the challenges kindergarteners face.
Bring your favorite books out early on and add them as a regular part of your morning meeting or class discussions. They're a fantastic way to build an inclusive classroom community and resolve social problems early on!
This powerful children's book tells the story of a quiet, lonely boy struggling to make friends. As you reveal how alone this young boy is, your students will begin to realize how sad and lonely he must feel. It's a fantastic, gentle introduction to empathy, understanding others' feelings, and including others.
This is easily one of the best children's books for building empathy! Although it's so important to teach students to recognize and celebrate their differences, they must also learn that we have more in common than we think. This is a fantastic way to teach this lesson, and this will be a book you'll want on your bookshelves for years.
Many of your students will relate to Jeremy, a little boy who wants the cool new shoes everyone is wearing, but his family can't afford them. Jeremy has to learn that there are more important things in life than cool shoes, like having a loving family. This is a good book to open your students' eyes and help them understand that their fellow classmates might not have the same things they do.
When a little girl moves from Korea to America, she feels pressure to fit in and worries that her real name, Unhei, will be too different. She adopts an American name to fit in. When another student wants to learn more about her and her culture, she begins to realize how special her name is. This book is perfect for teaching children about accepting others and celebrating differences.
In this best-selling book, the main character, Chrysanthemum, adores her unusually long name until the first day of school when other kids make fun of her. Read this one during the first week of school to make sure your students know your classroom is a safe place for everyone to be their true selves! Plus, this book gently highlights why it's not okay to tease people for being different from us.
This picture book is extremely popular because it's funny and has great graphics, but it also has fantastic SEL lessons! This little sunflower seed is up to no good and proud of it! He's mean, rude, and not a very good friend. He comes to learn that he doesn't have to stay mean. This book offers such a valuable lesson about perspective and learning to respond to your emotions differently.
In this kid-friendly introduction to mindfulness techniques, your students learn how the power of slowing down and taking deep breaths to feel calm and peaceful anytime. Your students can use these powerful tips at any time, and you'll be amazed at how quickly they take to them!
When a little boy is really upset, he turns to his favourite animals for comfort. Unfortunately, everyone wants to give him advice and it never makes him feel better. Finally, he talks to a little rabbit, who listens. That was exactly what he needed!
You could create a classroom norm around this concept, reminding your students that sometimes we need to lend an ear like the rabbit.
This book differs from every other title on this list because it's a practical guide for recognising and dealing with emotions written directly to kids! Although kindergarteners will not be ready to read this independently, this is one of the best books to incorporate into your morning meetings or to turn to when emotions run high. It will help foster emotional intelligence and give your students some tips to work through different emotions.
It's normal to experience occasional anxiety and worry, but many students don't know how to handle those feelings. They lock their emotions inside, and they get bigger until they burst! Ruby feels alone with her worry until she shares it with a friend and realizes that other people worry too. This is a great way to offer your students a way to deal with their anxious feelings in the future.
What do you do when you can't stand someone else? When a new boy moves to the neighbourhood, he becomes the main character's enemy in this funny story. Fortunately, his dad has an unusual solution for dealing with an enemy, which includes spending a lot of time with them and making them an enemy pie. Your little ones will learn so much about overcoming differences with people they don't like, and I love the final message to get to know each other!
If you have a student or child struggling with anger, this is the perfect book! Young readers will be engrossed by little Ravi, who has an explosion of rage so powerful that he turns into a tiger!
Although it feels good to get the anger out, he realizes other people aren't treating him the same as before. Your students will be able to identify things he could have done differently to shrink his anger before it took over.
When a little girl is inspired to create "the most magnificent thing," she quickly gets frustrated when her good ideas don't quite work how she wants. Fortunately, her best friend, her dog, inspires her to take a break, giving her mind the space to dream up the perfect solution. I love how this book helps students think about how their brains work and that it fosters a growth mindset!
From the second he wakes up, Alexander knows he's going to have a terrible day. Sure enough, he has an awful day full of inconveniences and frustrations.
This book is a perfect way to discuss negative feelings and help your kindergarteners learn the power of changing their perspective.
Tasked with a project to share her idea of kindness, Minna struggles to choose just one thing to highlight. Instead, she decides to create an entire quilt dedicated to acts of kindness!
Take a leaf out of Minna's book and invite your kindergarteners to make their own kindness quilt to display in the classroom!
I share lots more kindness activity ideas in this blog post.
Younger readers always love this choose-your-own-adventure book! Throughout Danny's day, he has chances to make decisions. As your students decide for him, they can see the consequences of that decision for better or worse. Those decision moments offer great food for thought and can spark really wonderful discussions! Older children love this one, too!
I share more classroom management books in this blog post.
Teach positive social skills before you have any bullying issues! Mean Jean, the Recess Queen, is the ruler of the playground, and she leads with an iron fist. Your students will be amazed to see how quickly things change when a new kid befriends Jean and shows her a different way. This is a great book to explain what bullying looks like and to show how kids they can help stop bullying, too!
When a young girl, Molly Lou Melon, starts school, another student teases her for her funny voice and unusual size. Fortunately, Molly Mou was raised to believe in herself and knows exactly how to handle this challenge. This is an excellent reminder that we should embrace our differences (and reading it in her voice makes for such a fun read-aloud)!
When Jabari is finally old enough to jump off the diving board, his excitement quickly turns to fear. With a little help from his family, he works through his fear and finally jumps. This sweet story will encourage your students to think of moments when they were scared and to remember how they overcame their fears to achieve their dreams.
This is one of the best picture books on this list! It follows an artist through the creation process, highlighting all the little mistakes and how those errors make the entire piece even more special. This is a fantastic example of perseverance and the importance of making mistakes. Remember, mistakes make our brains grow!
Like the title above, this simple text emphasises the power of positive thinking and taking action. When Vashti can't think of what to draw in art class, he teacher gently encourages her to draw a simple dot. Her teacher frames this page, which encourages Vashti to make bigger and better dots. Before you know it, Vashti is painting up a storm!
Your students will love drawing their own colourful dots, but this playful story is a good reminder to try new things and stop worrying about being perfect.
This wonderful book shares common ways people are different, like how some bodies need to use wheelchairs while others may need glasses. It's a perfect kid-friendly exploration of diversity that can help your students understand that being different is normal! Especially since kindergarteners haven't met many people in their young lives, this is great way to expand their frame of reference and build compassion for others.
This is one of my all-time favourite social emotional learning books! It's a simple text, but the bucket metaphor is such a helpful way to think about kindness and happiness. Once your students get the idea, you can encourage them to become bucket fillers themselves with these bucket filling activities! This idea can really transform your classroom culture, so be sure to read this one at the beginning of the year!
Save this book for your unit on friendship! Making new friends can be so complicated and confusing for kids. Fortunately, this book makes it easy to see the signs of a best friend. This book offers ideas for how to tell if someone would make a good friend and what kids can do to show other kids they're friendly. I recommend reading this one several times throughout the year to really highlight these messages!
What a powerful book for kids with big emotions! When Millie is too friendly, she gets picked on, so one day, she decides to be fierce. Unfortunately, she learns the hard way that being mean doesn't always work either. I love that this book addresses the idea that feelings are connected to behaviours, and it can be eye-opening for a lot of kids.
This list of books is just the start! There are so many fantastic social emotional learning books, and I highly recommend curating a collection of your favourite stories to turn to when the need arises. Stories hold so much power, and they're the best way to teach subtle lessons about who we are and who we could be.
I hope you've found some amazing books to share with your class! Happy reading!
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