Social-Emotional Read Alouds

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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Social-emotional learning is such an important part of our jobs as classroom teachers and can easily be pushed aside with all of the other curricular demands. One of the best ways to teach social emotional skills is to use mentor texts. Whether these are stand-alone social-emotional lessons or if they are combined with your read-aloud time to work on reading comprehension, these books will help teach the important social-emotional skills! These skills are the same 11 themes from my social-emotional curriculum, which you can read a bit about here.

A really great resource, for all these social-emotional themes, is Howard B. Wigglebottom. You can buy the books or watch the videos online for free! My students LOVE these stories. And the website has free teacher guides!

Listening

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This is the first skill I teach all year, so that all students know how to respectfully listen. I want to teach them why it is important to listen, not just to teachers, but to other students as well.

  • My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook is a great read-aloud for what to do when you have an idea that you really want to share and end up blurting it out. It talks about how other people feel when you blurt and also goes over some strategies for when you feel the need to blurt.
  • Whole-Body Listening Larry at School!: by Elizabeth Sautter and Kristen Wilson is a great introduction to the idea of listening at school, why it is important, and what it looks like.
  • Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann: this is a great book to discuss what happened when people do not listen. It is also a great book for the beginning of the year because it talks about why we have rules (to keep us safe!).

Feelings

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There are so many great books on feelings – more than I have on my amazon list for sure! The way I see it, there are books that talk about identifying feelings and there are books that are helpful for managing big emotions (including here a few books on mindfulness, which could be its own category!).

Identifying feelings:

  • The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
  • The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
  • Duck and Goose How Are You Feeling? By Tad Hills
  • In My Heart by Jo Witek
  • The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
  • Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis

Managing Big Feelings:

  • My Magic Breath by Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor
  • When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
  • B is for Breathe by Dr. Melissa Boyd
  • Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl

Independence and Persistence

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These two social-emotional themes are taught separately during the year, but a lot of the read alouds can overlap, so I combined them here. A lot of the read alouds are also perfect for talking about growth mindset, which is closely connected to the idea of persistence. For independence specifically, I include a couple a books on tattling because I teach my students ways to solve problems with peers on their own, unless someone is getting hurt.

My favorites?

  • Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
  • Ish by Peter Reynolds
  • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein

Thoughtful Choices/Self-Regulation:

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I am going to be honest – there aren’t a lot of books that I have found on self-regulation. If you know of any, please let me know! There is a good overlap, however, with the theme of thoughtful choices.

Every classroom definitely needs the book What Should Danny Do?  By Grand and Adir Levy. These books get across the idea that students have the “power to choose” and they get to choose what the character does – does he make a good, expected choice? Or does he make an unexpected choice? If so, what are the consequences to that choice? The students will love choosing how the story goes. My students, true story, spent an hour of their own free time reading and re-reading the book to make different choices.

Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook is a great one for talking about personal space, which goes along nicely with these themes, but I tend to use it as a read aloud when my students struggle with this concept.

Be Where Your Feet Are by Julia Cook could go here as well, in addition to listening. It’s about slowing down and focusing on what’s happening around you.

Kindness:

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There are so many great books on kindness and friendship right now – it’s such a buzz topic these days! I have included some of my favorites that focus on manners, making friends, and being a kind person. I do this unit pretty early in the year, but some of the read alouds, like How to Fill a Bucket by Carol McCloud, I read the first week of school when we are talking about classroom promises.

Kindness Must Haves:

  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizanbeth Wallace  – a great follow up activity is to make a classroom kindness quilt.
  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud – this is a classroom must have! We talk about being bucket fillers all the time!
  • What Does It Mean to be Kind? By Rana DiOrio
  • Making Friends is an Art! By Julia Cook – you’ll be saying the phrase from the book over and over again: “To have a good friend, you have to BE a good friend.”
  • Making Friends is an Art! By Julia Cook – you’ll be saying the phrase from the book over and over again: “To have a good friend, you have to BE a good friend.”

Cooperation:

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There aren’t a ton of books, that I could find, that are specifically for teaching about cooperation, as opposed to friendship or respect. For more about how I teach cooperation, check out this blog post. If you know of other books, let me know so I can add them to this list!

I like the book What About Moose? By Corey Rosen Schwartz because in the book, Moose is bossing around his friends but he later leans how to work with his friends.

The book Play With Me! by Michelle Lee is somewhat similar – the book shows how two friends might have different ideas of what to play together and how to navigate that social situation.

Respect:

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My social-emotional unit on respect comes at the end of the year and builds off all that we have previously done with kindness. The idea of respect can be way to abstract for our youngest learners and so I try to support them understand it with these read alouds.

The book Two by Katheryn Otoshi is a classroom must have. I usually don’t read it during this unit, but instead keep it for when the issue of “three’s a crowd” inevitably arises in my classroom. In this book two numbers are best friends, until 3 comes along and tries to play with one of them. This book does a great way of showing that your friends can have other friends and that’s ok!

The Ladybug Girl books are great books for showing how to solve problems with friends respectfully.

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a great book for talking about how people can have different opinions or ideas, and that is ok! We can respectfully disagree with our friends!

Empathy:

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This social-emotional theme can be way too abstract for most young children, so we focus on the idea that empathy is seeing how someone else is feeling and trying to help them.

Those Shoes and The Spiffiest Giant in Town are great books for this idea.

However, to take it a step further, I always read the book One by Kathryn Otoshi. This is another classroom must have. This book talks about the color red being a bully and how you can stand up to bullies. But it goes so much deeper than that. It shows why red is being a bully – he doesn’t know how to make friends. I love using this book, especially if I have a student that has a hard time working with peers. After reading, my students have the most amazing discussions about empathy and understanding that someone isn’t just bad because they make a bad choice. The Recess Queen and The New Girl are similar books for this discussion.

Bullying:

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Speaking of bullying, I don’t have a social-emotional theme in my curriculum on bullying, but it is a good idea to have these books in your library in case an issue comes up you want to address.

Now, I’ll be honest, I do not believe that a young child can truly be a bully. I think that when they show bullying signs, it is their way of telling us they need help interacting with their peers and making friends. I also think that the word bullying is being used too quickly before understanding the child. For this reason, even though I own all these books, if I have an issue in my classroom I use the book One (see reasons above) and The Recess Queen. I like these books because they don’t use the word bully in the title and you get a little glimpse at why the “bully” is acting that way.

Super Manny Stands Up! is a great book for talking about standing up for others (being a bystander). Peter Reynold’s new book Say Something! is also great for this reason.

I used the book My Secret Bully when I taught first grade and I had two girls who were really not nice friends to each other (one more so than the other) and yet they kept going back to play with them. It is a good book for older grades – I wouldn’t read it in kindergarten – and when this issue arises that the students can’t identify that the person isn’t a good friend for them.

Self-Image

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This isn’t one of my social-emotional units, but it is something I focus on all year long – this idea of being proud of, and loving, who you are.

I love all these books. My newest favorites include Princess Hair, The Day You Begin, and Not Quite Narwhal.

Conclusion:

I hope these social-emotional book lists are helpful to you! If you have a favorite book that I am missing, please comment below and let me know! And definitely share the books if you find them helpful!

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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