Support Social and Emotional Learning with #ClassroomBookADay
BY JILLIAN HEISE
Some of the most common requests I see in conversations from those looking for new picture books for #ClassroomBookADay read-alouds are related to social and emotional topics. Let’s be real: we’re all working with children in confined settings, so there are bound to be interpersonal issues that arise. It’s the nature of what we do as educators.
Along with that, it is part of our job to help those same children figure out how to handle these types of situations. And that is when I turn to books.
But what does social and emotional learning really mean? What books should we be looking for to support these life skills? The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Clearly these are also goals for our classrooms and several are goals I established early on for #ClassroomBookADay: building community, developing empathy, and helping process emotions and reactions.
Soon after I committed to reading aloud a picture book each day, back when I was teaching seventh and eighth grade, I started to see the community being built around the stories that we were sharing. Not only that, but I saw how fluid and targeted I could be with my book selection as I was able to immediately respond to things I saw happening in the classroom, the hallways, the school, the town, the country and the world. Small and big, those things that happened could be addressed by the books I chose to share.
Whether trauma or drama, celebration or grieving, needing to be brave or needing to deal with emotions, history or current events, there was a book I could choose to help my students, and sometimes myself, work through it.
Picture books are valuable because they become the extra teacher in our classroom. They are the lessons to be learned about life. They are the lens through which we can see ourselves more clearly.
CASEL delineates five core competencies for SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. Many picture books, since they are targeted for younger children as a general rule, deal with SEL topics because picture books are designed to teach through story, and young children (and the not-so-young) then have a less intimidating way to learn them.
SEL is about figuring out how to be human. And with these 20 picture book recommendations, I hope they will help your students as much as they have helped my students, and me as well.
Jillian Heise is a Grade K-5 Library Media Teacher in southeastern Wisconsin. She previously taught Grades 7-8 ELA in the Milwaukee area for 11 years and is board certified. Jillian is a passionate advocate for student choice in reading and the power of shared stories through #ClassroomBookADay picture book read-alouds. She brings her literacy expertise and knowledge of books to her role as Chair of the WSRA Children’s Literature Committee. You can find Jillian talking books and education at Heise Reads & Recommends and on Twitter at @heisereads.
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