Back-to-School Resources That Support Social-Emotional Learning

Jul 27, 2023 8:32:00 AM / by Beaming Books


There are so many different feelings associated with going back to school: excitement, nervousness, and uncertainty, just to name a few. Whether at home or in the classroom, it's important that we equip kids with the tools they need to thrive in every aspect of their lives. One way we can achieve this is through an emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL). SEL is the process of developing important social and emotional skills, like how to identify and manage emotions, feel and show empathy, and make responsible and caring decisions.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) lists five broad and interrelated areas of SEL competence: 

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making

While these can be difficult to teach to kids, especially at a young age, books allow kids to process these concepts in an age-appropriate and fun way. At Beaming Books, we believe in creating resources to help all kids thrive, especially when they are faced with challenges and changes. Below is our back-to-school reading list carefully curated to help kids prepare for the days ahead, covering topics like emotional intelligence, bullying, consent, friendship, and more. We've also included the CASEL areas for each title to help you incorporate these into your home, school, or library. When kids thrive, we all thrive.



The Kid with Big, Big Ideas

Britney Winn Lee

Following the bestselling The Boy with Big, Big Feelings and The Girl with Big, Big Questions comes a new story about a nonbinary kid with ideas so big and wild that grown-ups often dismiss them. What if we could be mermaids and swim to school? What if we could teach pets to talk? What if we could make the world safe and inclusive for everyone?

This innovative kid doesn't stop there, and with the help of their supportive Gran, they come up with the biggest idea yet. In a world that so often dismisses and excludes kids from decision-making, this book boldly suggests that not only should kids have a voice, but their ideas just might be the ticket to making progress.

Age: Preschool (3–5 years); Early grades (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-management; Social awareness; Responsible decision-making

Publication date: August 29, 2023

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The Big, Big Feelings Activity Book

Illustrated by Jacob Souva

Everyone has feelings. But BIG feelings like anger, sadness, jealousy, embarrassment, and fear can be hard to process. Finding different ways to work through each emotion can help—drawing, writing, exercising, singing, and even breathing techniques. This consumable activity book helps kids identify, regulate, and cope with big feelings.

Download the free Big, Big Feelings Activity Pack for a sample of activities from the book designed to help kids identify, understand, and use creative ways to work through big emotions.

Age: Early grades (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-awareness; Self-management

Publication date: July 18, 2023

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Kiki Kicks

Jane Yolen & Ariel Stemple

Kiki has watched her mama practice karate for a long time, and now she wants to learn too. She wants to become strong and steady like a mountain. The bullies at school are strong for the wrong reasons. They make Kiki feel small. But today at her first karate lesson, everything changes.

Award-winning author Jane Yolen joins forces with debut author Ariel Stemple in this picture book about reclaiming strength, confidence, and peace through martial arts. Kiki Kicks is a lyrical story of self-empowerment at a martial arts studio, woven around the poetic lines of Yolen's well-known poem "Karate Kid," used by educators and librarians for decades. Backmatter includes personal notes from the authors about how this story came to be and how martial arts helped save Stemple, who was bullied as a child.

Age: Preschool (3–5 years); Early grades (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-awareness; Self-management; Social awareness; Relationship skills

Publication date: October 10, 2023

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Kaia's Big Felines

Aura Lewis

Kaia experiences all kinds of emotions, and she relates them to various types of cats. Cheetah is fast and fearless, Leopard loves the spotlight, but Tiger has a temper. When Kaia's felines become overwhelming, she takes some time to herself to rest and reset. Kaia's Big Felines is an engaging look at emotional intelligence through traits of cats.

Age: Preschool (3–5 years); Early Grade (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-awareness; Self-management

Publication date: August 29, 2023

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Little Mole Goes to School

Glenys Nellist

It's Little Mole's first day of school, and he's nervous. What if he is the last to know his alphabet? What if he's not good at anything? With a good bit of anxiety, Little Mole heads to class and begins to compare himself to his peers. How will he ever measure up? But soon a crisis on the playground reveals that he has everything he needs in his own two paws to save the day.

In this third installment of the Little Mole series, author Glenys Nellist and illustrator Sally Garland spin another endearing tale of the beloved Little Mole, his encouraging mama, and his forest friends. Children will relate to Little Mole's feelings of self-doubt, will cheer him on when he discovers his unique gifts and talents, and will be inspired to confront their own insecurities and celebrate what they have to offer, too.

Download the free Little Mole Goes to School activity pack for kids to continue learning with Little Mole!

Age: Preschool (3–5 years); Early Grade (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-awareness; Self-management

Publication date: July 26, 2022

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Simon the Hugger

Stacy B. Davids

Simon the sloth loves to hug. He hugs plants. He hugs rocks. He hugs his friends. He even hugs himself! So when his best friend, Elsa the jaguar, and others around him start saying no to his hugs, he is crushed. Why wouldn't someone want to be hugged? After being rejected several times, he learns that both he and his friends need to want a hug at the same time so they both feel comfortable. Simon the Hugger, a lighthearted story about a lovable, huggable sloth, is a gentle introduction to the importance of receiving consent before offering physical affection to others, and respecting others' boundaries.

Age: Preschool (3–5 years); Early grades (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-management; Social awareness; Relationship skills

Publication date: November 1, 2022

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Sometimes Shy

Julie Bliven

Sometimes the inanimate objects in the world around us can be shy too. In Sometimes Shy, a boy notices everything around him that can be shy—a seedling slow to sprout, a marker timid to let its color out. On a seaside stroll home from school with his older brother, the boy doesn't feel shy at all. Because, like the ocean tides, sometimes we're shy, and sometimes we're like big, booming waves with a lot to say at the end of the day.

Download the free Sometimes Shy educator's guide to invite kids to consider the ways they are both shy and bold in their own lives. 

Age: Preschool (3–5 years); Early Grade (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-awareness; Social awareness; Relationship skills

Publication date: May 23, 2023

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Big Truck Playdate

Laurie Carmody

When Corey's school hosts a semi-truck extravaganza, his tires squeal and his heart revs. He can't believe it! But the crowd of classmates quickly leaves him feeling overwhelmed. Corey must find the courage to be his unique, enthusiastic self before missing the opportunity to have his very own big truck playdate. With insight and imagination, Big Truck Playdate is a heartwarming story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum that demonstrates how the power of play can connect us with new friends.

Download the free Big Truck Playdate educator’s guide to continue the fun with Corey and his trucks.

Age: Early grades (5–8 years)

CASEL areas: Self-awareness; Social awareness; Relationship skills

Publication date: March 7, 2023

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Topics: Resources

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