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Over 45 Books to Teach Social Skills

September 20, 2021 by Suzanne Kelley




Are you starting to see some behaviors in your classroom, such as non-stop talking, bullying, and problems with sharing and staying kind? Me, too!!! Well, I love to use a ton of children’s books throughout my year to focus on specific behaviors and then allow my students to engage in some meaningful, problem-solving dialogue so we can end these behaviors quickly! But it is SO hard to search through tons of book titles! Right?

No worries! We have collaborated and put together a list of over 45 Books and Authors to help with social skills that you can use immediately! With each book or author, we have given a brief synopsis of the skills presented. If you don’t have the books yet, no worries because you can find many on YouTube 💻 for reading aloud! Here are our Over 45 Books to Help with Social Skills. I read #15, #16, and #21 more than once a year!

Some of My Personal Favorites to Read First for Social Skills

1- A Teacher’s Top Secret by LaNesha Tabb

Establishing good behavior means establishing a relationship with every child! “This book is what I like to call a “wink, wink” book because it’s all in good fun- but it also will show students how significant they are in the classroom community.” I love, love, love this book!❤ It is a great book to show that every kid within your class belongs there. Every kid is wanted there. Every kid is loved in your room. It also comes with a free companion pack download!

2- The Whatifs by Emily Kilgore

Have you had that child that gets stuck or cries over something new? In this story, Cora is always concerned and anxious about the whatifs. What if this happened, or that?  She can learn to manage her fears when she focuses on positive outcomes and not negative ones. With COVID, kids everywhere have felt so anxious. Anxiety is also significant when kids are in a new classroom with new classmates. This book can lead to a great conversation about the whatifs occurring for your students and how to focus on more positive outcomes.

3- The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubenstein

Making mistakes is human and a great growth mindset teaching tool. But, so many students are afraid to make mistakes and strive too hard not to make any (or meltdown over even the most minor mistake!). Beatrice doesn’t ever make mistakes until one day; she does right in front of everyone. Your students will enjoy listening to how Beatrice chooses to manage her mistake.

Every Year Books for Social Skills

4- Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

This book is about Wemberly, a little girl who worries about EVERYTHING. Imagine how big her worries become once school is about to start. I like to read this book at the beginning of the year and the top 3 because I want my kiddos to settle into our class family and feel safe. We all know that many of our students learn to love school because it is the one place they can feel safe and let their worries go away.

5- What Should Danny Do? School Day by Adir Levy and Ganit Levy

Do you have children in your room that always stray towards the negative? These books focus on the power to choose – and each choice has a negative or positive consequence. Demonstrating to students that their choices matter. There’s also a non-school edition of this book, which is excellent, and one I haven’t had the chance to read yet for On Vacation,’ as well as What Should Darla Do? They are super engaging ‘choose your own adventure’ style books with many stories in one. Each story follows Danny or Darla through situations that children could encounter daily. And, we hope they make good positive choices.

More Favorites

6- Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

The minimal rhyming text does not deter the message that sticking up for your friends is a big deal. The illustrations are excellent, 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.

7- Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage To Be Who You Are
by Maria Dismondy 

A boy at school teases Lucy because she is different. She dares to remain true to herself and make the right choice when that same boy needs help. Besides courage, several messages run through this book, such as friendship, bullying, self-esteem, and kindness. It teaches your students to be who they are and remain kind to others.

8- Can I Join Your Club? by John Kelly

This book became a favorite for teaching social skills when I had a particularly cliquey group of students one year. Duck wants to fit in. I mean, Duck really wants to fit in. He tries to get into the Lion Club, the Snake Club, the Elephant Club. He 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!

Jory John Books for Social Skills

9- 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! 

The Bad Seed kicked off the series and told the story of the baaaaaaaaad seed – a seed which 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.

 

Superheroes for the Win

10- Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelley Becker

I discovered this book when I had a student who struggled emotionally and was obsessed with superheroes. Thankfully, he liked it as much as I do, and it helped him manage his behaviors. The rhyming text and illustrations are all wonderful – and again, it focuses on the power of choice. 

11- Even Superheroes Make Mistakes 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!

Julia Cook Books

Julia Cook has an abundance of books (nearly 100!) for teaching social skills and working on behaviors– and since there are so many, you’re almost sure to find one that fits the topic you need. Some titles I love include: 

12- Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice 

13- The Worst Day of My Life Ever!  

14- It’s Hard to Be a Verb!

A Julia Cook book that I read EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Is: 

15- My Mouth is a Volcano. “Louis always interrupts! All of his thoughts are very important to him, and when he has something to say, his words rumble and grumble in his tummy; they wiggle and jiggle on his tongue, and then they push on his teeth, right before he ERUPTS (or interrupts). His mouth is a volcano! But when others begin to interrupt Louis, he learns how to wait for his turn to talk respectfully.” I always have a Louis in my class each year!

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. 

Additional Books on Social Skills

16- Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker by Christianne C. Jones

In my room, Louis’ best friend is Lacey! 🤣🤣🤣  Lacey talks and talks and talks. She talks all day. She talks all night. Lacey never stops talking until one day, she loses her voice. Then, Lacey is forced to listen, and she realizes she has missed out on a lot by never being quiet! Me, yep me. I was a (am still?) a Lacey!

17- The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill

This story is all about Mean Jean – the playground queen – 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.

18- 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 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!

More Social Skills Books

19- Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Enemy Pie deals with friendship issues 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 attend. 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. It 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.

20- Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray

Having a growth mindset is huge in this story based on Nadia Comaneci. She overcame adversity with determination to win an unprecedented seven perfect scores in her gymnast performance at the Olympics. This story can teach students how they can overcome their situations with hard work and determination. Plus, a little support from her coach (teacher).

Howard B. Wigglebottom Series by Howard Binkow

This series is full of titles like 

21- Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen

22- H.B. W. Learns It’s OK to Back Away: A Story About Managing Anger

23- Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Monkey on His Back: A Tale About Telling the Truth

24- H.B. W. Listens to His Heart,

25- Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along

26- 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 for kids. Many of the stories are available as animated books on the website linked above!

Don’t Miss Out on These!

27- Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems (and others like 28- Waiting is Not Easy! or 29- 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!

30- What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick

This book is the first in a series of three – 31- What if Everybody Said That? and 32- What if Everybody Thought That? are the other two. The illustrations and story perfectly portray what would happen if everybody did/said/thought that. You think that thing isn’t a big deal because it is just one person, one time, right? While some examples are a stretch, I still believe this can be a helpful 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.

Two Situations I Have Right Now!

33- When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really, Angry by Molly Bang

Being angry is ok! Everyone gets angry! This book shows what Sophie does when she gets angry and will lead your class into great conversations about all feelings are ok to have at some point. It is what you are going to do with those feelings that matter.

34- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

This story was a mentor text in my district and hit home – there are those students who don’t ‘take up a lot of space’ and sort of melt into the background. A few students, for various reasons, may monopolize our time in the classroom. 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 slowly becomes a little less invisible through a variety of situations. I adore how the illustrator uses color in this story – it is an excellent addition to the story and a fantastic discussion point.

Diane Alber ‘A Little Spot of’ Books (#35, #36, and #37)

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 eight books in each series of these three themes). This series, too, has 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 some techniques are immediately applicable to students. These are a must-have!

Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings Series

The Big Bright Feelings series is an excellent set of books for teaching social skills. I first found: 

38- Ruby Finds a Worry and falls in love with it. Ruby starts with a small 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 concerns and learns how to deal with them.

39- 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.

40- 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 as friends.

41- Perfectly Norman is about a boy who grows wings – which 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. 

42- 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.

Some Last, But Not Least Books

43- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrae and Guy Parker-Rees. 🦒🦒🦒

This one is full of rhythm and rhyme and is an excellent 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 and acceptance of others – however, they are. I could also easily see this book 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.

44- 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 or green boxes. 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.

I’m eagerly awaiting his new title in the series 45—the Smart Cookie – expected November 2021.

Well, we have shared over 45 of some of the best children’s books and authors on behaviors with their links above.  I love expanding all of my behavior books into great group chats with my kiddos, and then, I never forget to notice when my students are demonstrating something we read about at social skills time.

I also love mixing it up between reading the book to them myself, have them watch it read on YouTube, and on occasion, having a special guest reader (another teacher, school principal, social worker, parent, etc.). We must demonstrate the message of a school family, community, and teamwork (makes the dream work😜) often!

WRITTEN BY – SUZANNE KELLEY AND KRISTIN HALVERSON, NBCT

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