Social Emotional Learning Book Recommendations

mother reading to her daughter on the couch

Kindness, empathy, resilience, courage, and self-confidence are all important characteristics of social-emotional development in children. These skills are not fully developed at birth and must be nurtured and grown throughout life.  

Books are a helpful teaching tool for social-emotional learning because they allow children to gain insight into the feelings and actions of others and make connections with children’s own life experiences.  

Books for Infants and Toddlers  

Baby Happy Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli. A towering ice cream cone makes Baby HAPPY. But when that delectable treat goes splat, it makes Baby SAD. And how quickly HAPPY turns to SAD when a favorite red balloon flies away! Even the littlest listeners will relate to this playful look at a pair of emotions that are part of every baby’s day. 

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr. Explore a wide range of moods every reader will find familiar. 

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith. Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel are enjoying a perfect day until Bear comes along and messes everything up. Now only Bear is having a perfect day. A hilarious tale that illustrates how different our perspectives are.  
Show Me Happy by Kathryn Madeline Allen. Bright photos of children engaged in everyday activities invite conversation about emotions, actions, colors, and facial expressions.

Books for Preschoolers 

Beautiful You, Beautiful Me by Tasha Spillet Sumner. Follow Izzy as she finds the beauty of the differences between her and her mom in their interracial family. 

Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away by Meg Medina and Sonia Sanchez. Daniela’s best friend Evelyn is moving away, but the two girls get one special last day together. The poignant text and warm illustrations add to this appealing story.  
Friends Are Friends, Forever by Dane Liu. A charming picture book based on the author’s own immigration story, the infinite impact of friendship, and passing on love and kindness around the world.  

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson. A charming depiction of a grandmother and grandchild’s Sunday walk through the bustling city. This highly acclaimed book offers a subtle message of hope, imagination, and love.  
Leyla by Galia Bernstein. Leyla has a big, loving, loud family. They like to hug her. They like to kiss her. But sometimes it’s all too much. When Leyla runs away, she meets a lizard who teaches her to “sit perfectly still, feel the sun on your skin…and think of nothing at all.”  
Old Hat by Emily Gravett. Harbet loves his old knitted hat, but he discards it to keep up with the latest trends. Poor Harbet! Every hat he tries is already out of fashion – OLD HAT! Finally, he discovers that being himself is a lot more fun. Children will giggle at Harbet’s antics, and they’ll appreciate the story’s theme of independence and self-acceptance

Books for School-Agers 

Flight for Freedom by Kristen Fulton and Torben Kuhlmann. The inspiring true story of the Wetzel family who escaped East Germany in a hot air balloon, told from the perspective of Peter Wetzel, who was 7 years old at the time.  
Giraffe Problems by Jory John is a delightful tale about self-consciousness, acceptance, and friendship. Edward the giraffe doesn’t like his long neck and constantly compares himself to other animals. Then he meets Cyrus the turtle whose neck is too short to reach a banana that’s on a tall tree.  
Mananaland by Pam Munoz Ryan tells the story of Maximiliano Córdoba, a young boy who dreams of playing soccer and longs to know why his mother left. When Buelo tells him stories about a mythical guardian who guides travelers, Max eventually embarks on a journey to find his truth. Filled with compassion, humanity, and hope.  
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
mother reading to her daughter on the couch