11 Children’s Books Recommended for Social Emotional Learning for Teachers, Librarians, Counselors

/ August 3, 2019

Emotional Intelligence is a strong indicator of a child’s future happiness and success. These are some social emotional learning books we’ve put together.

Elementary schools are pushing standardized tests and curricula based around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or Common Core, however, future success is not just about best educational practices. This is why social emotional learning is so important.

Research shows that a child’s future success no only incorporates cognitive learning factors but social and emotional learning factors that can begin at an early age.  So one’s EQ (emotional quotient) is just as important as one’s IQ.  

Below are some top children’s picture books that we enjoy sharing based on educator and author feedback.

Unicorn Jazz incorporates social emotional learning…

childrens unicorn book, Social Emotional Learning

Author: Lisa Caprelli; Illustrator:  Davey Villalobos

Unicorn Jazz is unique with a musical note for a tail. In this unicorn fable, Unicorn Jazz moves to a new land filled with horses, geckos, giraffes, elephant, kangaroo & zoo animals.  Read why Woof the Crow has a name a dog should have and how he believes in her and inspires Jazz’s talent.  Social emotional learning is encouraged by teachers, counselors & school librarians in elementary schools.  Sing-a-long to the UNICORN JAZZ FRIENDSHIP song and this story comes to life with the Audible kids book version narrated by Tiffany Marz! Children’s unicorn books are made creative with this story teaching the importance of friendship, the power of being unique, the importance of believing in others, and belonging. This is a story that children love hearing and reading over and over again.

Unicorn Jazz is a children’s unicorn book series.  Unicorn Jazz is everything a great picture book should be. Jazz is a well-rounded main character who shy, introverted readers can relate to and all readers can admire. Meanwhile, Woof represents that rare breed of beings who aren’t afraid to be themselves and are a godsend for shy misfits who have trouble making friends.  The moral of the story is acceptance. It teaches you that if you feel different from everybody else, embrace those differences, and others will respect you for it. -Laura Smith, Mom Blogger


Where to Purchase: On Amazon – click here & also available at select Barnes & Nobles or your local bookstore, just ask!

Seeds and Trees 

seeds and trees

Author: Brandon Walden; Illustrator: Kevin & Kristen Howdeshell

Where to Purchase:  Click here

Seeds and Trees is a children’s book about the power of words. Words are seeds. The prince in the story is shown how to cultivate a garden in his heart and to learn what to do with the good AND bad seeds sown in his life.  This is important for social emotional learning.

“This book had every reader from age four to 34 captivated as we all felt its purpose and reasoning. Thus speaks to everyone. We are all touched by seeds of joy and sorrow planted and down throughout our lives without often understanding their origin, their roots. This beautifully illustrated book let’s us see the beauty and discord or such reality and reckon it with hope + courage. I have read and re-read this book since the first sitting, and will use it as a talking point + healing revelatory prose for years to come.” – Andrea Beim – Amazon 5 star review

The Wonderful Things You Will Be

childrens books on social emotional learning

Author:  Emily Winfield Martin; Illustrator: Emily Winfield Martin

Where to Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Wonderful-Things-You-Will-Be/dp/0385376715/ref=asc_df_0385376715/

From brave and bold to creative and clever, Emily Winfield Martin’s rhythmic rhyme expresses all the loving things that parents think of when they look at their children. This New York Times bestseller that celebrates the dreams, acceptance, and love that parents have for their children . . . now and forever!

“Even though I loved the artwork I previewed, I was a bit hesitant to buy this book because my daughter has a rare chromosome disorder that may immensely impact her life… to the point where she may not walk, talk, or be a functional, independent adult. I was afraid this book would focus on “the wonderful things you will be,” as in particular careers, activities, or things that required a lot of ability. Much to my delight, this book instead focuses less on specific activities and more on being kind, loving, adventurous, creative–things my daughter could still be, despite any limitations and obstacles she may face. This book emphasizes being UNIQUE, not necessarily being “able.” I really appreciate that. This book makes me cry because I don’t know what will happen to my daughter (nobody does–because her condition is so rare), but I love her and she is wonderful, and this book lets her know that!” – Mitri –  Amazon 5 star review

What Should Danny Do?

social emotional learning childrens book

Author: Adir Levy; Illustrator: Mat Sadler

Where to Purchase: https://www.amazon.com/dp/069284838X/

What Should Danny Do? is an innovative, interactive book that empowers kids with the understanding that their choices will shape their days, and ultimately their lives into what they will be. Written in a “Choose Your Own Story” style, the book follows Danny, a Superhero-in-Training, through his day as he encounters choices that kids face on a daily basis. As your children navigate through the different story lines, they will begin to realize that their choices for Danny shaped his day into what it became. And in turn, their choices for themselves will shape their days, and ultimately their lives, into what they will be. Boys and girls both love and relate to Danny, while enjoying the interactive nature of the book–they never know what will come next! Parents and Teachers love the social-emotional skills the book teaches through empowering kids to make positive choices while demonstrating the natural consequences to negative choices. A “must-have” on every bookshelf.  This book is a fun series that demonstrates how our choices impact our days and it does a great job of incorporating social emotional learning! Your kids will love this interactive book.

“I am a pre-kindergarten teacher, so I have four and five-year-olds. I have checked out dozens and dozens of books on behavior from the library and tried many different techniques and I could not seem to get my students to grasp the concept of how making one choice can lead to another etc. etc. Not only do the kids in my class have so much fun choosing Danny’s choices in the story, but they also love seeing how the story can change depending on what they decide for Danny. They are finally grasping the concept that not only can one bad choice lead to another and have an effect on others, but you can also change a bad morning into a great afternoon or vice versa. My students constantly ask me if we can “hang out with Danny” and I have everyone’s attention when I pull out this book, even the most difficult behavioral students. I wholeheartedly wish there were more books like this! My students are actually involved in the story instead of just listening. Active participators certainly learn more! Five stars all the way!!!” – Kristin LeRoy – Amazon 5 star review

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

stand tall, social emotional learning childrens book

Author: Patty Lovell; Illustrator: David Catrow

Where to Purchase:  Click here

Be yourself like Molly Lou Melon no matter what a bully may do. Molly Lou Melon is short and clumsy, has buck teeth, and has a voice that sounds like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor. She doesn’t mind. Her grandmother has always told her to walk proud, smile big, and sing loud, and she takes that advice to heart. But then Molly Lou has to start in a new school. A horrible bully picks on her on the very first day, but Molly Lou Melon knows just what to do about that. At one point or another all kids will face criticism or teasing. This book gives a wonderful example of how to deal with negative comments from peers and teaches children to embrace their unique qualities.

“This is a wonderful book for children and even adults who worry about what other people will think of them. It encourages us to do it anyway. I am a psychotherapist and I will definitely use this book as a therapy tool. The illustrations are fun and exciting. Children love it. It arrived quickly and in perfect condition. I recommend this book to everyone!!!” – BLKS – Amazon 5 star review

The Way I Feel

social emotional learning childrens book

Author: Janan Cain; Illustrator: Janan Cain

Where to Purchase:  click here

Feelings are neither good nor bad, they simply are. Kids need words to name their feelings, just as they need words to name all things in their world. The Way I Feel uses strong, colorful, and expressive images which go along with simple verses to help children connect the word and the emotion. Your child will learn useful words, and you will have many chances to open conversations about what’s going on in her/his life. Recommended by parents, teachers and mental health professionals, The Way I Feel is a valuable addition to anyone’s library. This book is ideal for children with autism. The Way I Feel uses strong, colorful and expressive images along with simple verses The Way I Feel helps children connect the word and the emotion.

“As a preschool teacher this is one of my favorite books for young children. A simple book that quickly teaches about different emotions/feelings with identifiable (though exaggerated) illustrations, clear language, and relatable explanations. Just be aware that the board book does not include every emotion in the hardcover/paperback. The board book includes Silly, Happy, Angry, Scared, Proud, Excited, and Sad. (It is missing Bored, Jealous, Frustrated). I have both the board book (for it’s durability and easy to turn pages) and a hardcover in my classroom. Highly recommend the book.” – Jessie – Amazon 5 star review

I Am Enough

i am enough, social emotional learning childrens book

Author: Grace Byers; Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo

Where to Purchase: Click here

This is a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.  A beautiful book about learning to love yourself and being kind to others. I also love how the book features multicultural characters.

“I Am Enough is a delightful collection of positive affirmations; the perfect modem to initiate and/or reinforce the discussion with your young ones on acceptance of self, acceptance of others, and inclusion and diversity. Your young one will definitely recognize herself or her friends in the pretty illustrations that run throughout the book! This timeless piece is the perfect gift for every little kid out there! Everyone will benefit from the burst of positivity and inspiration from this all-round feel good book!” – Ewurabena M –  Amazon 5 star review

My Magical Words

my magical words book, social emotional learning childrens book

Author: Becky Cummings; Illustrator: Zuzana Svodova 

Where to Purchase:  click here

Becky Cummings book, “My Magic Words,” teaches children to use their words for positive self-talk by showing them how to say affirmations. Becky will be having another book coming in the fall! The book will be focusing all about the emotional learning and intelligence of choices.

“Kindness Counts (reviewer) This Book is a Family Hit! 

This is a beautiful book inside and out. Not only is this book a must have for families to enjoy and share together, but could also compliment a Social Emotional Learning curriculum in schools. Children will love the rhymes and the positive messages/affirmations that stretch from cover to cover. The illustrations are absolutely precious and will warm your heart. This book has been a new favorite in our house and I highly recommend it!”

Aidan the Wonder Kid Who Could Not Be Stopped: A Food Allergy and Intolerance Story

social emotional learning childrens book

Author: Colleen Brunetti; Illustrator: Dan Carsten

Where to Purchase: Click here

Colleen Brunetti’s book touches on accepting yourself/a food allergy diagnosis, even if that means having to give up favorite foods or eating differently than your friends. It also celebrates how we must each feed our bodies “just right” to have our own best super powers.

“I loved this book! 🙂 It is an important story about food allergies, but explained in a fun way. The boy, Aidan, learns of his allergies, when he often doesn’t feel well, and his mom helps figure it out. The book gives a positive spin to these problems that kids can have. I liked how the text/adjectives/words are wavy or changed, to show movement. The illustrations are beautiful! Nice additions of a letter from the author to children, a conversation guide, and access to curriculum guides. This book is awesome for kids with allergies, and for anyone to learn about them. Great book! :).” – Amazon Customer

Mili and the Dragonfly

Mili and the Dragonfly, social emotional learning childrens book

Author: Divya Mohan; Illustrator: Hend Moharram

Where to Purchase:  click here

Divya Mohan’s book is a story about the little trapped dragonfly, that Mili is about to squish, ever see its family again? Read along to find out what Mili’s little brother and her monkey friend’ are telling her. As children relate to Mili, they can understand empathy, in the simplest possible way. By practicing empathy, they will learn a charming way to handle situations. They will give a thought to others’ feelings and needs. This would be a small step towards getting less annoyed and more patient.

“If it’s a book about empathy, I’m in! Add a great story and great illustrations… and I’m ALL in!! What a fabulous book! I absolutely love how this book addressed the concept of empathy. It was so subtle yet impactful. I will be reading this book to my children over and over again! (They absolutely adored it as well!)” 

Who Am I? 

who am i, social emotional learning childrens book

Author:  Suzanne Mulcahy; Illustrator:  Patty O’Rourke

Where to Purchase:  Click here

This story focuses on the first skill level, of social and emotional development, which is self-identity.  The main character is a young panda who goes on a journey in search of himself and finally discovers his heart, which holds all of his special gifts. I am a retired educational psychologist and an administrator with over 30 years experience working with children. Suzanne Mulcahy is in the process of printing two more children’s books. One is about the second skill level, compassionate communication, entitled,  “Sharing Who I AM” and the other one is about teaching inclusive behavior entitled, “How a Bully Becomes a Friend.”

I gave copies of Border Buddies to my nephews 5, 5, & 6 years old) and they absolutely loved it. They also have other books from this author and enjoyed those too. This is a perfect book for them as they are learning to read and love animals! I definitely recommend this book for anyone that loves dogs!”

Learn more about Unicorn Jazz, creator of this social emotional learning blog in conjunction with Lisa Caprelli and Aisha Amer.  To learn more visit our website or contact us today.

Disclaimer: While this is some of our top books recommended for social emotional learning, emotional intelligence and more great reading for children, we realize there are several available for reading.  We led this blog with books based on feedback from educators about the importance and need for more books like the ones listed above.  We will be growing our list.  Come back soon!

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