Table of Contents

What is SEL and why does it matter?

Social Emotional Learning is intended to teach children specific social-emotional skills like self-awareness, self-management, empathy, perspective taking and cooperation. In short, these are the lessons of emotional intelligence, which science has consistently shown is a greater determinant of success and happiness than IQ or academic ability.

The research behind the academic success of students immersed in social-emotional learning demonstrates the importance of these experiences for our children.

SEL Reading List

Title & AuthorDescription
Emotional Intelligence- Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel GolemanThrough vivid examples, Goleman delineates the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence, and shows how they determine our success in relationships, work, and even our physical well-being. What emerges is an entirely new way to talk about being smart.
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel GolemanOur reactions to others, and theirs to us, have a far-reaching biological impact, sending out cascades of hormones that regulate everything from our hearts to our immune systems, making good relationships act like vitamins—and bad relationships like poisons. We can “catch” other people’s emotions the way we catch a cold, and the consequences of isolation or relentless social stress can be life-shortening.
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine MazlishBestselling classic includes author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships, including innovative ways to cope with your child's negative feelings; express your strong feelings without being hurtful; engage your child's willing cooperation; set firm limits and maintain goodwill; use alternatives to punishment that promote self-discipline; understand the difference between helpful and unhelpful praise; resolve family conflicts peacefully.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura MarkhamFostering emotional connection with your child creates real and lasting change. When you have that vital connection, you don’t need to threaten, nag, plead, bribe—or even punish.
Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.DThe authors explain—and make accessible—the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. The “upstairs brain,” which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain. No wonder kids throw tantrums, fight, or sulk in silence. By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth.
Raising Human Beings, Dr. Ross Greene"I wrote Raising Human Beings because, for a very long time, it's been clear that kids who aren't classified as 'behaviorally challenging' benefit tremendously from being involved in the process of solving the problems that affect their lives. And because I've been really concerned about societal trends that have caused many kids to focus a lot more on 'me' than on 'we'…the problems that affect us all are going to require that we proceed in ways that are for the collective good rather than solely for individuals." —Ross Greene
The Explosive Child, Dr. Ross GreeneExplosive kids are lacking some crucial skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving, and they require a different approach to parenting.
How to Talk so Kids Can Learn at Home and at School, by Adele Faber and Elaine MazlishThis breakthrough book demonstrates how parents and teachers can join forces to inspire kids to be self-directed, self-disciplined, and responsive to the wonders of learning.
Love Your Family Again by Marcie BeigelLove Your Family Again is filled with concrete, action-based strategies that truly work. Within these pages you will learn how to: 1. Stop negotiating with your children 2. Raise kids that listen 3. Identify the actions needed to combat problem behavior 4. Build more happiness within your family 5. Take small steps each day that lead to big changes.
Yardsticks: Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4-14 by Chip WoodDrawing on decades of educational experience and a wealth of research, Yardsticks invites every adult who teaches or cares for children to celebrate the incredible developmental journey that occurs from ages four through fourteen. Combines easy-to-access information about the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical characteristics unique to each age with practical advice for how to apply this knowledge. A book for parents and teachers that shows us what kids are typically going through - their social development, as well as gross and fine motor, what to expect during certain grades in the school year.
"Teaching Peace in Elementary School," Julie Scelfo, The New York TimesFeeling left out? Angry at your mom? Embarrassed to speak out loud during class? Proponents of S.E.L. say these feelings aren’t insignificant issues to be ignored in favor of the three R’s. Unless emotions are properly dealt with, they believe, children won’t be able to reach their full academic potential.
How Youth LearnArticle highlighting the vital mutuality of academic, social, and emotional learning
"Impact of Social Emotional Learning on Academic Achievement," American Psychological AssociationStudents in schools randomized to receive an enhanced SEL program were more likely than those in the control group to achieve basic proficiency in reading, writing and math on independently administered state mastery tests in later grades
The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children by Alison Gopnik"Deeply researched . . . [Gopnik's] approach focuses on helping children to find their own way . . . She describes a wide range of experiments showing that children learn less through 'conscious and deliberate teaching' than through watching, listening, and imitating.” ―Josie Glausiusz, Nature
“What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?,” Mother JonesNegative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.
"How to Raise Kids with a High EQ," Aha! Parenting website, Dr. Laura MarkhamThe ability of a human being to manage his or her emotions in a healthy way will determine the quality of his life much more fundamentally than his IQ.
“We Must Teach Emotional Literacy to Boys” by Lily Howard Scott, The Washington PostA moving and brilliant piece exploring the flip side of gendered empowerment and the importance of cultivating emotional awareness in boys from former 321 teacher.

Empathy & Kindness Reading List

Every December a 321 teacher gives her students $1 and tells them they have to come up with create ways to spread as much kindness with $1 as possible (without combining funds).  Examples of things students have done:

  • Turned the $1 into 100 pennies and put them near a fountain with a sign to make a holiday wish
  • Buy a poster board and make a sign offering to carry groceries
  • Buy a poster and make a sign collecting money for a homeless man, collecting $40, presenting it to him and hugging him when he hugged her
  • Cut pine branches off a tree, bought a $1 bow and made a wreath leaving it anonymously on a neighbor’s door
  • Donate the dollar to a charity and emailed his parents’ contact list saying that he did it and hoped that they would also donate (we believe the charity ended up getting $400)

the list goes on and on. Why not do a $1 act of kindness every month? 

Title & AuthorDescription
“Kindness and the Atheist Case for Karma” a TedX Talk by Christopher Willardkindness leads to happiness, and happiness leads to creativity and finding new perspectives and opportunities. (13:35 minutes)
Show Me Happy by Kathryn Madeline Allen (ages 3-6)"A sweetness in the images and the text elevates the book from sheer simplicity to usefulness in providing behavioral role models." —Kirkus Reviews
I Am Kind by Suzy Capozzi (ages 3-6)I Am Kind follows a little girl who sees kindness all around her. The little girl realizes that she, too, has the power to be kind, and that even small actions can have a big impact.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip Stead (ages 2-6)Amos McGee, an elderly man who works at the zoo, finds time each day for five special friends. With empathy and understanding he gives the elephant, tortoise, penguin, rhinoceros, and owl the attention they need. One morning, Amos wakes up with a bad cold and stays home in bed. His friends wait patiently and then leave the zoo to visit him.
Peace is an Offeringby Annette LeBox (ages 3-6)Peace is an Offering is an exceptional book with beautiful illustrations and a meaningful message that appeals to preschool through second grade level students. The book captivated students' interests and inspired open-hearted discussions that led to deeper project work. Students readily responded by talking about family, friends, walking away from conflict, acts of kindness, gratitude, and how to maintain a peaceful feeling. We read several books aloud to students, and Peace is an Offering received immediate comments from students about the illustrations and how much they like the book overall. This book should be in every lower grade level classroom.” Makes a mention of 9/11.
1: How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference? by Kathryn Otoshi (ages 3 and up)More than ever before, our world needs more goodness...more kindness... more caring...more courage...more YOU in it. But, what can one do? Here's the answer: Throughout your life there's a voice that only you can hear. It's a call to make a difference that only you can make. If you never hear it, something magical will be lost. But if you hear it and heed it, your life will become a wonderful romance and adventure. The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away. The place you are in needs you today. Your spark can become a flame and change everything. Instead of asking, "What can I get from life?" this book challenges and guides you to answer the question, "What can I give?"
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena (ages 3-5)Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi (ages 3-6)As budding young readers learn about numbers and counting, they are also introduced to accepting different body types, developing social skills and character, and learning what it means to find value in yourself and in others.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller (ages 4 to 7)rape juice on herself. In the language of a child's thoughts, Miller provides examples of kindness (giving, helping, paying attention), and acknowledges that it is not always easy to be kind, especially when others aren't.
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (ages 4-7)A celebration of the world’s diverse cultures, both our similarities and differences. Fox’s message is that no matter where we come from, within our hearts, “Joys are the same, / and love is the same. / Pain is the same, / and blood is the same.”
What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio (ages 4-8)acts and in simple ways..." ―R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder
Hey Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose (ages 3-7)Parable about mercy and empathy that asks readers to look at life from an insect's point of view
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud (ages 3 and up)This heartwarming book encourages positive behavior by using the concept of an invisible bucket to show children how easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation and love by "filling buckets."
How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath (ages 4 to 9)This book for young readers is based on the premise that each of us has an imaginary bucket that can be filled or emptied by the behavior or actions of the people around us. The message is that we should all strive to act in ways that fill another person's bucket, as opposed to emptying his/her bucket.
How Full is Your Bucket?: Positive Strategies for School and Life by Tom Rath (ages 9 to 12)Organized around a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, How Full Is Your Bucket? shows how even the smallest interactions we have with others every day profoundly affect our relationships, productivity, health and longevity. This is a version for young readers.
Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen (ages 4-8)A small boy, not allowed to have a dog because times are tight, finds a starving kitten in a trash can on the same day his father loses his job.
Auggie and Me by R. J. Palacio (ages 8 to 12)Auggie & Me is a new side to the Wonder story: three new chapters from three different characters: bully Julian, oldest friend Christopher and classmate Charlotte
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio (ages 4 to 8)A picture book by the author of Wonder, that explains for young readers how someone can look different but feel completely normal and how it feels to look different and have people stare at you. The message is “Look with kindness and you will always find wonder."
“Kindness is Complex,” An annotated list of Wonder-inspired books (ages 8 to 12)These are books about marginalized characters or characters facing difficult challenges who respond with courage. If Wonder helped your reader develop more empathy, these books will help build on their interest.
Love by Matt de la Peña (ages 4 to 10)"[A] poetic reckoning of the importance of love in a child's life . . . eloquent and moving."—People Magazine

"Everything that can be called love — from shared joy to comfort in the darkness — is gathered in the pages of this reassuring, refreshingly honest picture book."— The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice / Staff Picks From the Book Review
Amos and Boris by William Steig (ages 5-8)Amos the mouse and Boris the whale: a devoted pair of friends with nothing at all in common, except good hearts and a willingness to help their fellow mammal.
The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss (ages 5-9)Ideal for sparking conversations about tolerance, the need for compromise, and fear of the unknown.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (ages 6-9)This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. Any parent, teacher, or counselor looking for material that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children will find The Invisible Boy a valuable and important resource.
Stand in My ShoesShows kids how easy it is to develop empathy toward those around them. Empathy is the ability to notice what other people feel. Empathy leads to the social skills and personal relationships which make our lives rich and beautiful, and it is something we can help our children learn.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 5-10)Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (ages 10-13)This is a very cute story about kids learning to be friends with people who have different interests. It takes place as a competition between two school clubs and a rivalry spurred on when the principal calls out both clubs for not contributing to the school community. The characters learn to get past embarrassment and bad history, and that their actions have consequences not just for themselves but that also affect those around them. The artwork is beautiful and the cast displays many ethnicities & personalities.
Brave by Svetlana Chmakova (ages 10-13)A great middle school book on bullying. Jensen is a little overweight and spends a lot of time fantasizing about becoming an astronaut (even though he's failing math). He's an ordinary kid who tries too hard to belong. Kids sniff out that neediness and then it's open season. Jensen triumphs not because he loses weight, or becomes an athlete or a brilliant student. He finds his own place in the Middle School Jungle, through maturity of thought, while staying his own dreamy self.