Now, more than ever, schools must help children learn crucial social and emotional skills so they can become kind citizens and be equipped to cope with life’s challenges. Children’s books that teach social skills and tackle social-emotional issues are such a useful tool.
Here are 50 children’s books that teach social skills that you can share to help kids of any age develop empathy, talk about their feelings, and identify with others.
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Books About Managing Fear and Anxiety
1. There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi
Lots of things at the beach scare Sukie. Lots. Because she is just a small dog, and the stairs are big and sandy, and the waves are big and whooshy, and the balls are big and beachy.
2. The What-Ifs by Emily Kilgore
Scary “Whatifs” follow Cora everywhere, and it only gets worse as she prepares for her big piano recital. Her outlook changes when Stella challenges her to turn her bad Whatifs into good ones.
3. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all.
4. The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann
Ernestine is super excited to go camping for the first time with her aunt and cousin—until they reach the campsite, that is. Then everything feels scary and she misses her dad.
5. Anita and the Dragons by Hanna Carmona
Fear of “dragons” almost overcomes Anita as she and her family prepare to emigrate from their home in the Dominican Republic. Her brother reminds her, “They aren’t real dragons. They’re just planes in the sky.”
Books about Risk-Taking
6. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
Zoom meets Beautiful Oops! in this book about the creative process, and the way in which “mistakes” can blossom into inspiration
7. Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka
Learning to ride a bike is one of the most important milestones of childhood, and this book captures the emotional ups and downs of the experience.
8. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
Meet Beatrice Bottomwell: a nine-year-old girl who has never (not once!) made a mistake.
9. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw – she’s no artist.
Books about Friendship
10. Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler
One morning, Jonah decided to become ruler of the playground. Everyone agreed to obey his rules to play in King Jonah’s kingdom … Everyone except for Lennox … because she wanted to rule the playground, too.
11. A Friend for Henry by Jennifer Bailey
Henry, who has autism, eagerly wants a new friend. But many of his classmates aren’t quite the perfect fit he imagines. Then he builds blocks with Katie and their tower is just right.
12. Daisy by Jessica Bailey
Teasing makes Daisy feel terrible. She spends much of her time alone, collecting treasures—until she realizes someone else is adding to her treasure shelf.
13. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party … until a new kid comes to class.
14. Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
When Stick rescues Stone from a prickly situation with a Pinecone, the pair becomes fast friends. But when Stick gets stuck, can Stone return the favor?
Books about Identity
15. I’m a Girl! by Yasmeen Ismail
Meet a little girl who’s spontaneous, fast, and strong and loves winning. Sometimes she’s mistaken for a boy, but she definitely isn’t one!
16. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town?
17. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that is much too small.
18. Home is In Between by Mitali Perkins
If you’re looking for children’s books to teach social skills related to code-switching—navigating multiple cultures—Shanti is a positive role model for students. When she and her family move to the United States from India, the world inside her home and the larger community feel very different.
19. My Very Own Space by Pippa Goodhart
A little rabbit is trying to read his book in peace, but there’s so much going on around him! Maybe he needs some space just for himself …
20. My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart
This child’s family is sure their shadow is blue, but it’s not—it’s pink. And it loves dresses, and dancing, and it definitely wants to be seen as it really is.
21. Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
This young girl is intensely proud of her “eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” She also loves that her sister, mother, and grandmother all share the same special feature.
22. Millie Fierce by Jane Manning
Millie is quiet, sweet, and mild. But the kids at school don’t listen to her.
Books about Overcoming Challenges
23. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
Mary Walker was born a slave and persevered through challenges her entire life. At age 114, she finally fulfilled her lifelong dream of learning to read. She’s an inspiration for us all.
24. Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau
Argyle Fox, with his signature style, wants to play outside on a springtime day, but the wind is wreaking havoc with his fun and games. As soon as he builds a card tower, climbs into a giant spider web, or takes up his pirate sword, here comes the wind: Woosh!
25. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s inspiring true story is nothing short of remarkable. Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams.
26. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray
Nadia Comaneci was a feisty and fearless little girl who went from climbing trees in the forests of Romania to swinging into history at the 1976 Olympic Games, where she received an unprecedented seven perfect scores in gymnastics.
27. Life by Cynthia Rylant
There are so many wonderful things about life, both in good times and in times of struggle.
Books about Kindness
28. The Smile Shop by Satoshi Kitamura
Disappointment washes over a small boy when he drops the money he’s saved down the drain. A stranger in a photography studio chooses to make an unexpectedly kind gesture.
29. Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein
Because Amelia smiles as she skips down the street, her neighbor Mrs. Higgins smiles too and decides to send a care package of cookies to her grandson Lionel in Mexico.
30. Pass It On by Sophy Henn
When you see something terrific, smile a smile and pass it on! If you chance upon a chuckle, hee hee hee and pass it on. Should you spot a thing of wonder, jump for joy and pass it on!
31. We’re All Wonders by R. J. Palacio
Now younger readers can meet Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face, and his beloved dog, Daisy. Choose Kind.
32. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
A story that teaches of the tie that really binds. The Invisible String reaches from heart to heart. Does everybody have an Invisible String? How far does it reach, anyway? Does it ever go away?
Books about Grief
33. Evelyn Del Ray is Moving Away by Meg Medina
Equal parts affirming and hopeful, if you need a children’s book that teaches kids social skills for coping with a friend moving, this the one. Daniela can’t believe Evelyn won’t live across the street anymore. But, focusing on cherished memories and keeping in touch helps her manage.
34. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
There is a wonder and magic to childhood. We don’t realize it at the time, of course . . . yet the adults in our lives do. They encourage us to see things in the stars, to find joy in colors and laughter as we play. But what happens when that special someone who encourages such wonder and magic is no longer around?
35. The Memory String by Eve Bunting
Each button on Laura’s memory string represents a piece of her family history. The buttons Laura cherishes the most belonged to her mother—a button from her prom dress, a white one off her wedding dress, and a single small button from the nightgown she was wearing on the day she died.
36. Big Tree is Sick: A Story to Help Children Cope with the Serious Illness of a Loved One by Nathalie Slosse
Snibbles and Big Tree are best friends! They have always hung out together, and Snibbles loves Big Tree very much. When Big Tree unexpectedly falls ill with woodworm, Snibbles is very upset and angry.
Books about Feelings
37. Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold
An energetic group of young friends has big plans for the day—until big, hard feelings get in the way. It’ll take talking about it and being flexible to get the day back on track.
38. When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
Everybody gets angry sometimes.
39. Crabby Pants by Julie Gassman
When things don’t go Roger’s way, he gets crabby. However, Roger thinks he has found a solution to being such a crabby pants.
40. The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
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.
41. The Shadow Elephant by Nadine Robert
Elephant feels really down. All his friends keep trying to distract him, but it turns out what he really needs is a friend to be with him and his hard feelings until they fade away. This is one of our new favorite children’s books that teach social skills around being okay just sitting with difficult emotions!
Books about Honesty
42. Lying Up a Storm by Julia Cook
A Storm is Brewing… Whenever Levi doesn’t like the truth, he kinda, sorta makes up other stuff to say.
43. Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin
Ruthie loves little things-the smaller the better. So when she finds a teeny tiny camera on the school playground one afternoon, she can hardly believe her luck. She wants to keep the camera in the worst way, but there’s one little problem: It isn’t hers.
44. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no.
Books about Self-Control
45. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Lilly loves everything about school, especially her cool teacher, Mr. Slinger. But when Lilly brings her purple plastic purse and its treasures to school and can’t wait until sharing time, Mr. Slinger confiscates her prized possessions.
46. David Gets In Trouble by David Shannon
“When David gets in trouble, he always says . . . ‘NO! It’s not my fault! I didn’t mean to! It was an accident!'”
47. My Mouth Is a Volcano! by Julia Cook
All of Louis thoughts are very important to him. In fact, his thoughts are so important to him that when he has something to say, his words begin to wiggle, and then they do the jiggle, then his tongue pushes all of his important words up against his teeth and he erupts, or interrupts others.
47. YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! by Peter Brown
Today is the day the exuberant Lucy is going to make a new friend! But she finds it’s harder than she had thought–she accidentally ruins the giraffe’s breakfast and is much too big for the frogs’ pond.
48. Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale
Clark is a shark with zing, bang, and BOOM. He zooms into school, crashes through the classroom, and is rowdy at recess.
Books about Resiliency
49. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Gerald the tall giraffe would love to join in with the other animals at the Jungle Dance, but everyone knows that giraffes can’t dance . . . or can they?
50. Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña
Milo feels like a “shook-up soda” as he takes the subway to visit his mom, who is incarcerated. He copes with his feelings by imagining the lives of his fellow passengers—and imagines the time when his family will be together again.
Use this four-step process when reading children’s books that teach social skills to reinforce the skills featured:
DESCRIBE: Talk with your students, and have them talk with one another, about what they think the main point of the story was. What social skills did the story define? How do you know? Why are these skills important? Can you make a connection to the story from your own life? Make a poster together, or have the students write or draw in their journals about these social skills.
DEMONSTRATE: Have a few students act out what the social skills look like, feel like. Role playing different ways students can demonstratee these skills will help reinforce the behavior.
PRACTICE: Plan activities where each child has to take a turn to practice the featured social skills.
PROMOTE: Promote, support, and encourage children as they initiate and engage in behavior that demonstrates these social skills. Catch them being kind, flexible, honest, confident, etc.!