Recommended Children's Literature

Children’s literature provides both mirrors and windows1 for readers. Some books are mirrors, reflecting children’s experiences, feelings, and cultures. Other books are windows, giving children an opportunity to see the world through others’ eyes. Reading books that reflect our diverse population enhances children’s social and emotional development, especially the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others.


Featured Booklist

Taking Care of Yourself and Others

Self Care Others SEL Childrens Literature 2020It’s the start of a new year and maybe you’re thinking about a fresh start, and some new goals related to your school community and beyond. Maybe self-care and better relationships are on your list of resolutions. Practicing mindfulness is one way to reach those goals.

The titles featured here include children’s books about mindfulness practices and stories about showing compassion towards others. The pairing of these two themes highlights one of the many potential benefits of practicing mindfulness – the ability to enhance relationships through caring for others.

On their website, Mindful Schools describes some research outcomes suggesting that in addition to improved attention, emotional regulation, and reduction of stress, benefits of mindfulness include greater compassion. “People randomly assigned to mindfulness training are more likely to help someone in need and have greater self-compassion.”

For more information about mindfulness, view Open Circle's Mindfulness resource page.

Download a printable version (pdf) of this booklist.


Here and Now, By Julia Denos, E.B. Goodale (ill.)
Charlotte and the Quiet Place, By Deborah Sosin, Sara Woolley (ill.)
Steps and Stones - An Anh's Anger Story, By Gail Silver, Chistiane Kromer (ill.)


I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness, By Kerascoët
What is Given from the Heart, By Patricia C. McKissack, April Harrison (ill.)
Be Kind, By Pat Zietlow Miller, Jen Hill (ill.)


Children's Literature that address the Core Compentencies of Social and Emotional Learning

OpenCircle recommended SEL Childrens Literature 2019 150wThe following is a summary of recommended children's literature that address the Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning. For a more comprehensive list download Open Circle's Children's Literature List (PDF).

Open Circle also curates Children's Literature related to the following topics:



Recognizing & naming your emotions; having confidence and optimism

Crown Ode to the Fresh CutThe Colors of Us, by Karen Katz
Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes
How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods, by Saxton Freymann
In My Family/En mi familia, by Carmen Lomas Garza
Mama’s Sari’s, by Pooja Makhijani
My Cold Plum, Lemon Pie, Bluesy Mood, by Tameka Fryer Brown
The Three Names of Me, by Mary Cummings
Too Many Tamales, by Gary Soto



Managing emotions and behaviors; working toward personal goals

Jabari JumpsBig Red Lollipop, by Rhuksana Khan
Grump, Groan, Growl, by Bell Hooks
Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall
My Name is María Isabel
, by Alma Flor Ada (Chapter book)
Serafina’s Promise, by Ann E. Burg (Novel in verse)
Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, by Rachel Vail
Twist: Yoga Poems, by Janet Wong
Upside Down Boy/El niño de cabeza, by Juan Felipe Herrara


Social Awareness

Ability to take perspective of and empathize with others

I am New HereHalmoni’s Picnic, by Sook Nyul Choi
I am New Here, by Ann Sibley O’Brien
I Lost My Tooth in Africa, by Penda Diakité
My Name is Yoon, by Helen Recorvits
Nadia’s Hands, by Karen English
Rain School, by James Rumford
Suki’s Kimono, by Chieri Uekagi
The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin


Relationship Skills

Building & maintaining positive relationships

Make Way for Dyamonde DanielDanitra Brown Leaves Town, by Nikki Grimes
Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Williams
Grandfather Counts, by Andrea Cheng
Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, by Nikki Grimes
Margaret and Margarita/Margarita y Margaret
, by Lynn Reiser
Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco
Sumi’s First Day of School Ever, by Soyung Pak
Yo! Yes?, by Chris Raschka



Responsible Decision-Making

Making decisions considering the well-being of self and others

The One Day HouseHarvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, by Kathleen Krull
Hello Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly
King for a Day
, by Rhuksana Khan
Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice, by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova
My Heart Will Not Sit Down, by Mara Rockcliff
The One Day House, by Julia Durango
, by Christopher Myers
Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate


 Read more recommended children's literature lists.

1 Style, Emily. "Curriculum as Window and Mirror," Listening for All Voices, Oak Knoll School monograph. Summit, NJ, 1988.

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