Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is so important for every child, no matter how old they are. In my classroom, I put a huge focus on SEL and our classroom community talks about how it is the time where we “learn more about being human”. During SEL time, children learn about social skills, emotions, emotional regulation, problem solving, and much more. It helps them become less dependent on teachers and increases their ability to self-advocate.

However, while creating my SEL lessons, I always run into the same problem/question: Where are all the SEL books with children of color??? This problem runs deeper than I can get into for a Fast Five Friday article, but, through this article, I hope that I can help temporarily alleviate the problem by showcasing you all some good and colorful books. Here are five multicultural books you can use for social emotional learning:

Five Multicultural Books for Social Emotional Learning

1. My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood, by Tameka Fryer Brown

The Spectrum for Multicultural Literature: Representation

my cold plus lemon pie bluesy mood by Tameka fryer brownI just found this book recently and have yet to read it to my students. I am very excited for it though! In this book, Fryers Brown writes a story about a young boy of color going through a new mood on every couple of pages. The boy associates each mood with a color and talks about what that mood feels like. Fryers Brown does a brilliant job using descriptive words and metaphors to fully flesh out each mood the boy experiences.

You can use this book to talk about emotions and how to identify them in oneself. You could either read the book all at once and discuss how one has many emotions throughout the day. Or, you could read a couple pages every day and have your students and you do a deeper dive into each mood/emotion.

2. Too Many Tamales, by Gary Soto

The Spectrum for Multicultural Literature: Representation with some Exploration

Too Many Tamales by Gary SotoIn this book, Maria is making tamales with her family and she thinks she accidentally loses an important ring. She enlists her cousins to help her eat the tamales to try to find the ring, but, eventually, Maria has to gain the courage to tell her mother about the ring. However, her mother is wearing the ring because the ring was never lost. Maria still decides to tell her mother the truth. To solve the problem, she is encouraged to help the family make more tamales and she feels better by the end.

Too Many Tamales could be used to talk about problem solving and telling the truth when you do something wrong. You can tell your students that Maria told the truth, but she also had to figure out how to make her wrong right. Tell your students that to fix the problem of the eaten tamales, Maria helped her family make more. Then, you can brainstorm a list of how they could solve problems in the classroom!

3. I Like Myself, by Karen Beaumont

The Spectrum for Multicultural Literature: Representation

I Like Myself by Karen BeaumontThis rhyming picture book features a little girl of color as she tells the audience about how much she likes herself. The little girl goes through how she likes everything about herself no matter what others say or think. At the end, she concludes, “I like myself because I’m ME!”

I Like Myself is a great book to use to talk to your children about having self-confidence and positive self-talk. Have them brainstorm a list of reasons why they like themselves or what they could tell themselves if they are feeling sad or disempowered. In addition, you could do a Self-Portrait project where students draw themselves and write what they like about themselves.

4. Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall

The Spectrum for Multicultural Literature: Representation

Jabari Jumps by Gaia CornwallIn this book, a little boy named Jabari is getting ready to jump off the diving board at a swimming pool. Jabari starts to make several excuses about why he cannot jump off yet, as his dad and little sister wait. Eventually, Jabari gets more courage and jumps off the diving board. At the end, his dad and he celebrate his big jump!

You can use Jabari Jumps to teach Growth Mindset and the Power of Yet. In addition, you could use this book to talk about Fear versus Courage. Students could brainstorm what they could tell themselves or others to encourage each other.

5. Matthew and Tilly, by Rebecca C. Jones

The Spectrum for Multicultural Literature: Representation

Matthew and Tilly by Rebecca C JonesMatthew and Tilly is a story about a White boy and a Black girl, who are best friends and play together all the time. However, Tilly and Matthew get in a fight over a crayon and decide not to be friends anymore. Each of them play separately, but realize it is not as fun. Eventually, Tilly and Matthew make up and become friends again.

Jones’s book can be used to talk about conflict resolution, empathy, and problem solving. As a class, analyze Tilly and Matthew’s conflict and discuss how each party feels. Then, you could brainstorm a list of ways to solve a problem with a friend or introduce a specific way to problem solve in the classroom community (if you have one that you want students to practice).




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