17 Books for Teaching Social Skills

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Social skills – all the other stuff that we need to teach students aside from the content – and wow, is it a lot of stuff. It seems like every year, students need more and more practice with this. No matter who they are, they all need practice in it – because they’re kids and they will make mistakes no matter who they are.

When it comes to social skills books, No, David! seems to make an appearance in all the things I see – but I just. Can’t. Read. David. Books. Maybe you love them, but I’m team #anythingbutdavidbooks… Especially when there are so many other quality books to help our students learn about appropriate social interactions, behaviors, and decision making. We’ve gathered together our favorite 17 books for teaching social skills to share with you so you can take your time this summer reading them and start off next year with a bang!

 

1 – What Should Danny Do? School Day by Adir Levy and Ganit Levy

There’s also a non-school edition of this book, which is great, and one I haven’t had the chance to read yet for ‘On Vacation,’ as well as What Should Darla Do? All of them are super engaging ‘choose your own adventure’ style of book with many stories in one. Each story follows Danny or Darla through situations that children could easily be faced with on a daily basis. They focus on the power to choose – and each choice has a negative or positive consequence. Clearly demonstrating to students that their choices matter. I love how they show that even if you make one (or a few) bad choices, you can still turn your day around.

Social Skills Book 2 – Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

The minimal rhyming text in this book does not deter from the message that sticking up for your friends is a big deal. The illustrations are great, the story is short and sweet and focused on kindness and compassion, and the play on words with the title can be a conversation all on its own.

3 – Can I Join Your Club? by John Kelly

This became a favorite of my books for teaching social skills when I had a particularly cliquey group of students one year. Duck really wants to fit in. I mean, really wants to fit in. He tries to get into the Lion Club, the Snake Club, the Elephant Club – and is denied by each even though he tries his hardest to fit the requirements of each. Duck decides to start his own club – with the singular rule that everyone is welcome. I love the focus on inclusiveness in this one!

4 – The Bad Seed by Jory John (The Good Egg, The Cool Bean, and The Couch Potato, too!)

Isn’t it great when books that teach are just really quality books anyway? Jory John is one of my favorites when it comes to books for teaching social skills. I love, love, love these books – and so do my students! I’m eagerly awaiting his new title in the series, The Smart Cookie – expected November 2021.

The Bad Seed kicked off the series and tells the story of the baaaaaaaaad seed – a seed who is just all-around bad. As the story goes on, the bad seed shows how change happens from within and focuses on the power of choice. The Good Egg is the second in the series and is about the good egg who struggles with the pressure of always having to be perfect. The Cool Bean is next and is about a trio of cool beans, and one bean that used to be part of the pod but ended up on his own, alone. Until the cool beans help him rebuild his confidence. He realizes it is what is inside that counts. The Couch Potato is, well, a couch potato. It is a call to leave your screens inside and venture out into nature where the couch potato finds a sense of balance.

Social Skills Book 5 – Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelley Becker

I discovered this book when I had a student who really struggled emotionally and was obsessed with superheroes. Thankfully, he liked it as much as I do and it helped him to manage his behaviors. The rhyming text, the illustrations, it is all wonderful – and again, focuses on the power of choice. There’s also Even Superheroes Make Mistakes which is another great one about not making excuses for mistakes, but rather making a positive choice to deal with them. I don’t know about you, but I certainly know some students who could use help with that one!

6 – Julia Cook Books

Julia Cook has an abundance of books (nearly 100!) for teaching social skills – and since there are so many, you’re almost certain to find one that fits the topic you need. Some titles I love include Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice, The Worst Day of My Life Ever!, and It’s Hard to Be a Verb! Her books are full of strategies that kids can put to use when they’re in certain situations. The strategies stick because of the fun and engaging stories and the all-around practicality of use. You’ve got to check these out if you’re a teacher or a parent.

7 – The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill

This story is all about Mean Jean – the queen of the playground – who no one dares to challenge because she is a big, bad bully. Then, Katie Sue, the new girl goes to recess and doesn’t know the rules that nobody does anything until Mean Jean does. Through kindness, Katie Sue helps to make the playground a better place for everyone. I love the colorful illustrations in this and the fact that Katie Sue stands up for herself. If you read this one, make sure to address the idea that Mean Jean is a bully because no one invited her to play or this could become a misconception.

Social Skills Book 8 – The Juice Box Bully by Maria Dismondy

This one is pretty explicit in its messaging and centered on a class at school – so it aligns perfectly to use at school! Pete starts at a new school and is less than well-behaved, exhibiting bullying behaviors. His classmates teach him about the promise that they’ve made to each other. To not be mean to each other or watch others be mean to someone. I’m not overly thrilled with the illustrations in this one, but I do appreciate that there is some diversity in the characters and the fact that it is so straightforward, kids aren’t going to miss the message here!

9 – Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Enemy Pie deals with issues of friendship when Jeremy Ross moves into the neighborhood and the main character thinks he is stealing his best friend Stanley. The main character is offended when Jeremy strikes him out and doesn’t invite him to a party that Stanley is invited to. His dad helps him bake a super-secret recipe ‘enemy pie,’ and says that all he has to do is spend the day with his enemy. Turns out, if you spend some time getting to know someone, they aren’t always that bad. The boy and Jeremy end up being friends.

10 – Howard B. Wigglebottom Series by Howard Binkow

This series is full of titles like Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen, H.B. W. Learns It’s OK to Back Away: A Story About Managing Anger, Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Monkey on His Back: A Tale About Telling the Truth, H.B. W. Listens to His Heart, Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along, and H.B. W. Learns About Courage. The books address a wide variety of social skills and come with tips and lessons for an extension. Howard is a lovable character and easy to connect with. Many of the stories are available as animated books on the website linked above!

Social Skills Book 11 – Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems (and others like Waiting is Not Easy! or My Friend is Sad)

What kid doesn’t love Elephant and Piggie? Mo Willems hit gold with this series – and I love listening to my students read these books with such expression and visible enjoyment – their giggles get me every time. The fact that I can use them as books for teaching social skills is a huge bonus! I can use them to teach and then they all want to have that book in their book box for independent reading time. So then they read it over and over – reinforcing the lessons learned!

12 – What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick

This is the first in a series of three – What if Everybody Said That? and What if Everybody Thought That? are the other two. The illustrations and story perfectly portray what would happen if everybody did/said/thought that. That thing that you think isn’t really a big deal because it is just one person, one time, right? While some of the examples are a stretch, I still think this can be a useful series in teaching students about being part of a community, citizenship, and rights and responsibilities. I appreciate that there is some diversity in the characters as well.

13 – The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

This story was a mentor text in my district and really hit home – there are those students who don’t ‘take up a lot of space’ and sort of melt into the background. So much of our time as educators can be monopolized by a few students – for a variety of reasons. Brian is that invisible student – the one who never gets invited, the one who doesn’t take up space, the one who doesn’t make a fuss. Justin is a new student at school and the others make fun of him. Brian makes a card for Justin and through a variety of situations, slowly becomes a little less invisible. I adore how the illustrator uses color in this story – it is a great addition to the story and a fantastic discussion point.

Social Skills Book 14 – Diane Alber ‘A Little Spot of’ Books

A Little Spot of Flexible Thinking: A Story About Adapting to Change, Perseverance: A Story about Not Giving Up, and A Little Spot of Patience: A Story About How to Enjoy Waiting are a few of the about 25 books in this series focusing on emotions, life skills, and taking action (with 8 books in each series of these three themes). This is another series where there are so many books, you’re sure to find at least a few that you need to incorporate into your classroom. The main idea is that each of us has a spot of (insert skill or emotion here), which the author clearly defines. You need to train that spot so it does what you want and grows big and healthy. The illustrations are cute and simple, and there are techniques that are immediately applicable to students. These are a must-have!

15- Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings Series

The Big Bright Feelings series is a great set of books for teaching social skills. I first found Ruby Finds a Worry and fell in love with it. Ruby starts out with a tiny worry, and that worry grows and grows. She tries to ignore it since no one else can see her worry, which doesn’t work, as the worry slowly consumes her. Eventually, she realizes that other people also have worries and learns how to deal with them. Ravi’s Roar is about Ravi – the smallest in his family. Ravi gets fed up with being the smallest – always last – and not getting to do the fun things everyone else gets to do. Ravi turns into an angry tiger who does whatever he wants and eventually learns how to deal with his anger and frustration.

Meesha Makes Friends is about Meesha’s struggle to make friends. She makes her own friends from her art supplies but learns that things can be even more fun when you let others in. Perfectly Norman is about a boy who grows wings – which definitely doesn’t fit into his ‘normal’ life. Even though he loves his wings, he hides them under a winter coat because he isn’t sure how others will react. He sheds his coat after being miserable with it and that he is just as he should be. Tilda Tries Again isn’t out yet (estimated for March 2022 release). There are six books in the set (although Ruby’s Worry and Ruby Finds a Worry are the same book, so technically there are five) and I appreciate the diversity of the characters.

16 – Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrae and Guy Parker-Rees

This one is full of rhythm and rhyme and is a great example of doing something you think you can’t do just because you don’t fit the societal expectation of that thing. I’ve used this to teach growth mindset and the power of yet, as well as acceptance of others – however they are. I could also easily see it being used for teaching self-love, perseverance, the value of being an individual, and how it is ok to be different. Purely for the variety of uses, this one is great – but I also love the rhythmic text and illustrations.

Social Skills Book 17 – Teal (A Book about a Little Crayon That Makes a Big Difference) by Renee Galvin

This one is all about problem solving, labels, and identity. Teal is a beautiful, happy crayon that hates clean-up time – he has no home – he doesn’t fit in the blue box or the green box. Talk about an identity crisis! Teal decides that just because his label doesn’t fit, doesn’t mean everyone can’t get along and belong. Teal comes up with a creative solution to the box and label problem.

What are your favorite books for teaching social skills? I’m always looking for new books to add to my collection – share your favorites below!

WRITTEN BY – KRISTIN HALVERSON, NBCT

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Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.