How To Develop Your Child’s Social-Emotional Learning Skills Through Literature

by Lee Scott, Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member
Three generations of a family sit on the couch together reading a story and looking at photos

“The early years of life provide the foundation for what is to come in terms of social, intellectual and moral development. A child’s capacity to think out problems, built from ‘lived experience’ is indicative of social skills, moral reasoning and intelligence,” writes Darcia Narvaez, professor of Psychology Emerita at the University of Notre Dame. This is a critical time for ensuring a strong foundation for what many call the “essential skills,” as social and emotional learning is shown to support the development of attitudes and skills that impact lifelong academic performance and interpersonal skills.

You will find that one effective method to help your children develop these skills is through reading high-quality literature. The stories help children extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, as well as providing opportunities for your children to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions. The characters within each story give children a framework for developing many essential social skills — cooperation, collaboration, listening and taking turns. For example, connections to characters such as Curious George, Sesame Street characters and classics (e.g., The Three Little Pigs, The Little Red Hen) help children learn about how things work and how people react to different situations while they are building vocabulary and developing emotional literacy.

Here are some of our favorite books from Wonder of Learning’s Life Lesson Library that you and your children will enjoy while learning valuable social and emotional lessons on friendship, collaboration, fears, mistakes, risk-taking, resilience and more:

  • Me First (Laugh-Along Lessons) by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
  • The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah (Author), Kelly DiPucchio (Author), Tricia Tusa (Illustrator)
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cory Doerrfeld 
  • Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont 
  • Oops!  by David Shannon 6. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
  • The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton
  • My Mouth Is a Volcano! by Julia Cook and Carrie Hartman
  • All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman 
  • Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker
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