Every school year is different. Combine that with a limited budget and on comes the mental debate! Which topics will I need books for most this year? Which books can wait? I really want to try that book, but I’ve been putting it off – what if I don’t like it? A social worker (or counselor’s) library is always growing. Whether it’s a need for a new topic or a different way of depicting something we already teach. Having a good foundation is key, especially when you are starting out. Below are ten of my favorites for any social-emotional book library! Interested in a larger range? I have included a link to my full library list at the bottom of this post.
1. The Empty Pot by Demi
This book is great for discussing honesty and trustworthiness. In the story, the time has come for an emperor in China to choose a successor to his throne. He passes out special flower seeds to all of the children in the land, and the child that shows the best in a year will take the throne. The main character is faced with a tough decision ending with honesty. My students never see the ending coming and the lesson taught is great! Recommended for use with 1st-3rd grade.
2. What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick
I always use this book when discussing responsibility. It introduces the idea that even if something might seem too small to make a difference, everyone is responsible for doing their part, and that can add up to something bigger. I would recommend this book for 1st -3rd grade – the examples are fun and relatable!
3. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Interrupting! Always so helpful and necessary to have books that cover this topic. This is one of my favorite books in my whole library. My students always crack up when the chicken gets caught interrupting. I use this book with K-2nd grade.
4. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
I own and recommend using the board book version for this one. I love using this book with students who focus on making things perfect all the time. It is an interactive way of helping them understand mistakes can be beautiful and are a normal part of life. This can be used with almost any age.
5. Bubble Gum Brain by Julia Cook
Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset. I often use this book as an introduction to those ideas. The book follows 2 characters, Brick Brain and Bubble Gum Brain, and how they handle the same situations differently. When discussing growth mindset, I think the examples in this book expand the idea of growth mindset a little more than others. I recommend using this book with 3rd-5th grade, but you may also be able to use it with some 2nd graders.
6. The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill
This book is great for discussing bullying and bossiness, and also offers a brief perspective of the bully’s side. My students always stay engaged with the rhymes and colorful illustrations, and I love that in this particular story, the girls are able to solve things on their own. I use this book with 1st-2nd grade.
7. Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker
This is another book with many colorful and engaging illustrations. Superheroes are often a favorite for elementary students, making this a great and easy book to relate to. It discusses using your powers for good when you are having a bad day. Great for 1st-3rd grade.
8. The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
I love this book for introducing more difficult feelings like disappointed, frustrated, jealous, etc. Each page depicts a different feeling and gives plenty of opportunity for discussion. I recommend using this book with 1st-2nd grade and possibly kindergarten.
9. What If I… by MC Bailey-Mckenna
You can find this book on the Social Thinking website. This one is my favorite to use for worry and anxiety. The examples are really easy to relate to and common, and the book shows that at times, worry can be a cycle. I recommend using this book with K-2nd grade.
10. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
This book gives the idea that when you do or say something nice to someone, you are “filling their bucket” and also “filling” yours. It also talks about what happens when you do or say something mean and gives a lot of extra opportunities for discussion. An all-around great book to have for encouraging good character. This book can be used with K-4th grade.
A few more favorites: One by Kathryn Otoshi, Hands Are Not For Hitting by Martine Agassi, A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko, Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey, and Sorry! by Trudy Ludwig. I hope you found this list helpful for you social-emotional book library!
Do you own any or all of the books on this list?