When kids are faced with hard times, as they were during the 2020-2022 COVID-10 pandemic, we turn to books to help them find their way.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Books to Help Kids During Hard Times
Stories which include a theme such as resilience, courage, or kindness can encourage children and students to endure and fight through hard times. The connection between characters, plot, and theme can be blatant or subtle. Either way, the important thing is for the child reader to make connections between their own situation and the situations in the book.
Here are five examples of books that include SEL topics. Click the book covers for more information on a title.
FEVER: How Tu Youyou Adapted Traditional Chinese Medicine to Find a Cure for Malaria
Biographies of scientists often include SEL themes because scientific research can be difficult. Chinese scientist Tu YouYou won of the Nobel Prize for her research into a cure for malaria. She faced many problems: isolation from family, poor funding, dangerous work conditions, and testing the medicine on herself. In spite of these difficulties, Tu YouYou and her team found a cure for malaria and eventually won the Nobel Prize. This book is great for SEL discussions of courage, persistence, and resilience. Also include it in the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month discussions in May.
Longing for Normal
A boy unites an immigrant community and rebuilds his family–using a simple sourdough bread recipe.
Eliot Winston, a grieving son, must convince his new step-mother – now Griff Winston’s widow – to adopt him. But when she married Griff Winston, Marj hadn’t bargained on being the single mother of a twelve-year-old boy. Alli Flynn, a foster child new to the school, convinces Eliot that he must fight to keep his family intact and the best way to do that is to help Mrs. Winston with the Bread Project, a fund raising project for the school. With his whole future at stake, Eliot tries hard to please Marj; but as the deadlines near for the Bread Project and for Marj to sign his adoption papers, Eliot finds it harder and harder to hang on to hope.
This is a tender story of two lonely hearts looking for a place to belong. Talk about social and emotional learning!
A.I. How Patterns Helped Artificial Intelligence Defeat World Champion Lee Sedol
Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is all the rage right now with ChatGPT, MidJourney, DalE, and other methods of creating text or images with A.I. This book is a simple introduction to A.I. for elementary classrooms.
But it's also a story about SEL, because when Lee Sedol goes up against an A.I. program, it challenges him to the core. Can humans defeat machines? He struggles and yet loses. And loses again. How does Sedol find the courage to challenge the A.I. program again? When faced with insurmountable odds, the human spirit rises to the occasion. And THAT is SEL at its best!
Wonky: A Robotics Club Story
One of the most emotionally challenging days for kids is the first day of school.
Howie is worried. Will he find a friend? With high hopes, Howie goes to robotics club. But no one chooses him as a partner.
Then Lincoln bounds into the room. The strange new bird is too big and fluffy. Howie hides!
The teacher, however, puts the unlikely pair together. Will they be able to accept each other’s wonky ideas and become friends? Like the FEVER book above, this story combines SEL with STEM science topics.
Kirkus Reviews says: “. . .offbeat and clever. . . With pages filled with animals and robots, this tale will certainly appeal to kids. . . .”
The Plan for the Gingerbread House
Teams of kids are baking, building, and decorating. The project guidelines are clear: the winning house must stand upright on its own and a gingerbread boy and girl must fit inside.
Sounds easy? It would be except…cookies burn, the icing is too thin, the house caves-in, someone is eating the candy decorations, and—oh!—they forgot about the gingerbread boy and girl. The emotional challenges and the challenges of working as a team are strong social and emotional learning challenges in this story.
“Pattison’s text begs to be read aloud and Joven’s spreads offer dynamic visuals…” —Kirkus Reviews