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25 Best Kids Books to Teach Social-Emotional Skills

These books help kids to understand and navigate the difficult world of emotions and social communication skills.

As a speech-language pathologist, I occasionally work with kids that lack social communication skills.  I love to use books as examples to teach certain skills and illustrate emotions.  I have compiled a list of my favorite picture books that help children develop empathy, relate to others, and talk about their feelings.

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Books for Kids About Emotions

  1. The Way I Feel  by Janan CainThe Way I Feel
    Using strong, colorful and espressive images along with simple verses The Way I Feel helps children connect the word and the emotion.
  2. The Way I Act  by Steve MetzgerThe Way I Act
    he Way I Act explores thirteen ways of behaving. The friendly verses and bold illustrations convey many positive ideas of how to act in a variety of situations.
  3. Today I Feel Silly  by Jamie Lee CurtisToday I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day
    Silly, cranky, excited, or sad—everyone has moods that can change each day. And that’s okay! Follow the boisterous, bouncing protagonist as she explores her moods and how they change from day to day.

    Point of View Books for Kids

  4. A Tale of Two Beasts  by Fiona RobertonA Tale of Two Beasts
    A little girl rescues a strange beast in the woods and carries him safely home.  But the beast is not happy and escapes! A funny and charming tale about seeing both sides of the story.
  5. I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems
    I Will Surprise My Friend! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
    In I Will Surprise My Friend!, Gerald and Piggie want to play a game and surprise each other-but the biggest surprise is the one they least expect.
  6. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
    The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
    In this hysterical and clever fracture fairy tale picture book that twists point of view and perspective, young readers will finally hear the other side of the story of “The Three Little Pigs.”

    Kids Books About Bravery and Healthy Risk-Taking

  7. Jonathan James and the What if Monster by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt
    Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster
    Whenever Jonathan James finds himself in a new situation, he hears his Whatif Monster asking all kind of questions to stop him trying something new: What if it’s scary? What if they laugh? Finally, Jonathan James has some questions of his own: What if they don’t? What then?
  8. I Am So Brave by Steven Krensky
    I Am So Brave! (Empowerment Series)
    Whether it’s petting a dog or waving goodbye to a parent, Krensky and Gillingham address the “small wins” of growing just a little bit braver.
  9. The Dot  by Peter H. Reynolds
    The Dot
    This empowering tale emphasizes the artistic process, gently reminding the creative spirit in all of us that there is no wrong way to create.
  10. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
    Jabari Jumps
    In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.

    Books About Friends for Kids

  11. How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson
    How to Lose All Your Friends (Picture Puffin Books)
    This book takes a light-hearted look at bratty behavior that will have children laughing in recognition while learning exactly how not to behave.
  12. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
    Enemy Pie : (Reading Rainbow Book, Children’s Book about Kindness, Kids Books about Learning)
    It was the perfect summer. That is until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy!
  13. Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt
    Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
    In his latest adventure, Scaredy Squirrel sets out to make The Perfect Friend. And once he’s spotted a perfectly safe candidate (with no teeth), Scaredy’s ready.

    Books About Differences for Kids

  14. We Are All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
    We're All Wonders: Read Together Edition (Read Together, Be Together)
    We’re All Wonders
     may be Auggie’s story, but it taps into every child’s longing to belong, and to be seen for who they truly are. It’s the perfect way for families and educators to talk about empathy and kindness with young children.
  15. Fair is Fair by Sonny Varela
    Fair is Fair
    Do special needs for one mean less love for another? This is the question explored in this short children’s story of three zoo animals. They learn that being equally loved doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re treated the exact same.
  16.  Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems
    Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
    In Can I Play Too? Gerald and Piggie meet a new snake friend who wants to join in a game of catch. But don’t you need arms to catch? Great book on including others who may be different.

    Books About Manners for Kids

  17. Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller
    Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners
    In her smart, playful style Laurie Keller highlights how to be a good friend and neighbor—simply follow the Golden Rule!
  18. What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick
    What If Everybody Did That?
    If you drop just one soda can out the window, it’s no big deal … right? But what if everybody did that? What if everybody broke the rules …
  19. The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell
    The Monsters' Monster
    In this playful tale from bestselling picture book author Patrick McDonnell, a very BIG monster shows three very BAD little monsters the power of boundless gratitude.
  20. Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems
    Waiting Is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
    In Waiting Is Not Easy!, Piggie has a surprise for Gerald, but he is going to have to wait for it. And Wait. And wait some more… This book teaches the value of patience.

    Problem-Solving Books for Kids

  21.  Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey
    Dog Breath: The Horrible Trouble with Hally TosisHold your nose! Because here comes the dog with the worst breath in the world! Watch as the kids in this book try to find a solution for this stinky problem.
  22. Let’s Go For a Drive by Mo Willems
    Let's Go for a Drive! (Elephant and Piggie) [Paperback] Mo Willems (author)
    In Let’s Go for a Drive! Gerald and Piggie want to hit the road! But the best-laid plans of pigs and elephants often go awry.
  23. When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins
    When Charlie McButton Lost Power
    Collins and Lester team up for a hilarious and timely tale that will crack up young computer addicts and those who love them!

    Dealing With Disappointment for Kids

  24. Not Norman  by Kelly Bennett
    Not Norman: A Goldfish Story
    With wry humor and lighthearted affection, author Kelly Bennett and illustrator Noah Z. Jones tell an unexpected — and positively fishy — tale about finding the good in something you didn’t know you wanted.
  25. A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
    A Perfectly Messed-Up Story
    Little Louie’s story keeps getting messed up, and he’s not happy about it! What’s the point of telling his tale if he can’t tell it perfectly? This is a story about embracing life’s messes.

I obviously like Mo Willems books because I included them in almost every category! Let me know if there are any other books that you think would be a great addition to this list.

Parenting--25 Best Kids Books to Teach Social-Emotional Skills--The Organized Mom

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About the author

Erica Mackay

Erica is a speech language pathologist at Northlake Pediatric Speech. She loves hanging out with her family, celebrating holidays, and taking on ambitious home projects.