The BEST Kid’s Books to Teach Vital Social Emotional Skills

Is there such thing as too many books? I’m asking for a friend. We love reading in our house and finding new books to read with my kids is one of my favorite things to do. I love books because they are an effective and fun way to teach our children vital social and emotional skills!

As a school psychologist I used bibliotherapy daily. Books are a great way to bring up tough conversations and teach our kids empathy.

So today I want to share the best kid’s books to teach these social skills.

Be sure to read until the end of this post. I share two secrets to creating a lasting change in your children’s behavior with books.

But first I want to share with you my favorite 20 books to introduce social emotional skills to your kids. The topics range from friendship, to handling negative emotions, to learning what anger feels like.

You don’t need to make reading time an intense learning experience. Have fun with it. Ask questions and allow your children to explore a whole new world through reading.

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Books are a great way to teach your children! Find a list of 20 books to teach your child important social skills, empathy, how to overcome fear and more. Read books together to build their emotional intelligence!

Top 20 Social Emotional Books for Kids

# 1: Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day:

One of my favorite books to teach kids about emotions. It covers a range of feelings and will help your children start to identify situations or times they may feel angry, sad, disappointed and joyful!  

#2: When I Feel Scared:

This is a great series for kids on all types of emotions (worry, sadness, anger, etc.). The author addresses the emotion and provides gentle suggestions on how to deal with the targeted emotion.

#3: My Mouth is a Volcano:

Kids get excited and often want to share all about their day or favorite toy. They may go on and on with out realizing their listener has lost interest. This book is great for teaching self-control and for a child who has difficulty waiting for his or her turn to talk. 

Best books to teach social emotional skills to kids!

#4: Wemberly Worried:

A great book for kid’s who are worried about going to school. It follows a mouse who worries about everything. By the end of the book she realizes school is fun and she shouldn’t wast time worrying! Everyone feels worried at different points in their lives so it’s important to address this emotion with kids who are struggling with it.

#5: Happy To Be Me!:

I loved using this book as a school psychologist. It explains self-esteem to a child in simple terms and encourages children to love who they are.

#6: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon:

At one point or another all kid’s 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.

#7: Jabari Jumps: 

A story of bravery and overcoming your fears. This book is perfect for the child who is slow to warm up to new experiences or scared to try something new.

Best books to teach social emotional skills to kids!

#8: The Way I Act: 

A book detailing what it is like to behave in certain ways. You can also use it as a discussion tool for the consequences of different behaviors. A great addition to The Way I Feel!

#9: Angry Octopus:

Not your traditional children’s book, but great for teaching the skill of deep breathing and muscle relaxation. As a school psychologist I used progressive muscle relaxation and found it to be very effective. This book is a good tool for parents who want to share this skill with their kids.

Best books to teach social emotional skills to kids!

#10: The Most Magnificent Thing:

A book that shares the message, it’s okay to make mistakes. A good read for a child who wants everything to be “perfect.”

The BEST 20 Kid’s Books to Teach Vital Social Emotional Skills

#11: How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids

A great book to teach kids how their actions and how their words impact those around them. They can either fill or empty other people’s buckets each day.

Must read books for preschool and toddler age children! Teach them social skills and social emotional skills with these 20 books recommended by a school psychologist.

#12: Chrysanthemum

A classic children’s book telling a story about teasing and acceptance. This book can teach children to love who they are even if they are different. Embrace the different!

#13: Sheila Rae, the Brave:

A great book to start a conversation about bravery and how to overcome our fears. 

#14: There Might be Lobsters: 

Overcome worries and fears with this adorable book. Your kids will love reading about Sukie’s experience at the beach.

Best books to teach social emotional skills to kids!

#15: I Can Do Hard Things: Mindful Affirmations for Kids:

Teach your children to listen to their inner voice and trust their instincts. 

#16: Listening to My Body:

A book filled with kid-friendly mindfulness activities. This book teaches kids to listen to the signals of their bodies and help them identify feelings.

#17: I Am Enough:

A beautiful book about learning to love yourself and being kind to others. I also love how the book features multicultural characters.

#18: What Should Danny Do?

A fun series that demonstrates how our choices impact our days! We have all the books in the series including What Should Darla Do? It’s one of our daughter’s favorite books. The stories have over 8 endings and it’s so fun to see how each choice impacts Danny or Darla. Your kids will love this interactive book. 

Best books to teach social emotional skills to kids!

#19: A Chair for My Mother:

This book doesn’t teach social and emotional skills specifically (like the other books listed) but this is a great story of family, hardworking and perseverance .

#20: The Invisible Boy:

A wonderful book about making friends. The Invisible Boy Includes discussion questions at the end. The book is a great choice for children who may experience shyness.

And a BONUS book! I recently bought the sweet book, In My Heart, and the kids love it. Another great book to bring awareness to our feelings.

Now for the the secret to success!

First, it’s not just about reading with your child. It’s about the conversation. Use these books as tools to open dialogue with your children.

That’s one of the best ways to build emotional intelligence in our kids. Talk about how they feel!

Not sure what emotional intelligence is? See this post on emotional intelligence: a guide for parents with young children.

After you read and during the book ask them questions like:

What was your biggest take away from the book?
How do you think ____ feels?
What would you do in that situation? 

Again you don’t need to make it an intense experience for your kids. Let the conversation flow naturally, but don’t be afraid to ask your children questions about their feelings or emotions.

Now we’d love to hear from you! 

Do you talk to your children about emotions and coping skills? What are your favorite books to introduce topics such as sharing or respecting others?

Let us know in the comments below!

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There are so many children's books on the market. Which ones are best? Here a school psychologist shares her favorite books to build social and emotional skills in young children.

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  1. Do you have any recommendations for the slightly older child? My son is almost 11 and has difficulty with expressing/recognizing his feelings.

    1. I have used a few workbooks with middle school students. I really liked this for students with social skills deficits (referral link to buy: http://amzn.to/2ft5tQN). I haven’t used the other workbooks in the series, but I imagine they are helpful as well. This publisher has books on anxiety, executive functioning, self-esteem, and emotions. I hope this helps! Referral link for series: http://amzn.to/2ft3e00

  2. Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal is also good. My 2.5 year old enjoyed it.

    Thanks for this list. Will look for these at our library.

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