Happy Back-to-School Time! This used to be one of my favorite times of the year when I taught elementary between setting up the classroom, meeting my students, planning with my colleagues, and talking with my families. I want to honor that we are coming out of a rough 2+ years in Education and Back-to-School will be exciting for some and harrowing to others. However you are feeling in your Back-to-School journey, I see you and I feel for you. 

The first few weeks of school are so important to set up a strong classroom community or get your own children ready to tackle the new year! Books are a great way to get these jobs done. As a teacher, the books I chose for the first few weeks of school were the ones I spent the most time considering: What messages do I want to convey? How can I get students excited about the new school year? What books went well with my first weeks of school activities? How can I teach social emotional learning and rules, routines, and procedures with these books? 

I have put together a series of book lists that I think are perfect for the first couple months of school! We will be releasing each list throughout the beginning of the school year. In our Back to School with Colorful Pages series, you will find: 

In this list of “Books to Introduce Social Emotional Learning”, we have diverse books that can be used to begin your Social Emotional Learning for your students or children. Social Emotional Learning is absolutely crucial for children in order to have the skills needed to feel empowered, loved, and psychologically safe at school and all places. I feature books that are mostly by Authors of Color and perfect for any classroom and home. Like usual, there are some ideas about what you can do with the books or why they are good for this topic. Check out the list below and Happy School Year! 

Sometimes, All I Need Is Me, by Juliana Perdomo

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation & Exploration

Age Range: 2-5 years old

Sometimes, All I Need Is Me teaches readers about the importance of developing self-care skills while also relying on others. In each couple pages, a little girl talks about something that helps her (like her calming house, her grandmother’s hugs, etc.) and how she can do something similar to help herself in that moment (like make herself her home, give herself a hug). The story ends with: “I can love myself and become whatever I need. Sometimes, all I really need is me.” Juliana’s simple but beautiful illustrations compliment the peaceful text of the book. 

I appreciate how this book talks about resiliency and helping oneself while also sharing that it is okay to rely on others. This good balance can be used to help your children transition back into the school year where they will be away from their home and loved ones for the day. You could read this book aloud and develop a T-chart where you list out how they can get help from others and how they can help themselves. 


The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, by Supriya Kelkar

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation & Exploration

Age Range: 5-8 years old

In The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, Harpreet loves colors and he has a different color from every mood and experience! One day, Harpreet’s mom shares that she got a new job and they have to move. After their move, Harpreet feels really lonely and sad no matter how much his parents try to cheer him up. Then, Harpreet meets a new friend and starts to wear more of his old cheerful colors. 

I love using this book to introduce feeling words and the Mood Meter in my own classroom. I usually photocopy different pictures of Harpreet and use them to define each feeling word. At the end, you can have students write and draw a Feelings Check-In and share with others how they are feeling. 


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

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Representation 

Age Range: 3-9 years old

my cold plus lemon pie bluesy mood by Tameka fryer brown

In this book, Brown writes a story about a young Black boy 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. Brown does a brilliant job using descriptive words and metaphors to fully flesh out each mood the boy experiences. 

If you have been following Colorful Pages for a long time, you know that I LOVE this book! This is another book I use to introduce feeling words and the Mood Meter in my classroom. I photocopy the different pictures of the young boy and have students come up and place them where they think they go on the Mood Meter. It is a great way to make the Mood Meter come alive and help students see examples of how to do a Feelings Check-In. 


I’m Gonna Push Through!, by Jasmyn Wright 

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

I’m Gonna Push Through! is a picture book that captures the Push Through viral movement of a teacher leading her students through self-affirmations. Jasmyn Wright writes about inspiring mantras that talks readers through pushing through challenges and never giving up. The illustrations in the book are vibrant and a perfect pairing to the energy of the text.

This is a great book to read to talk about resilience and determination, which are important SEL skills for every age. Educators and families can use this book by reading it aloud and having a discussion about these skills. One fun activity would be to write on slips of paper different scenarios where students would need to practice resilience and determination. Then, students can pull a scenario out of a hat to discuss with everyone and think about how to “push through”. You can also role play these scenarios, which is really fun for students and a great way to practice social emotional skills too! 


I Am Enough, by Grace Byers

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation (with a little Conversation at the end)

Age Range: 5-8 years old

I Am Enough is a picture book that has about a sentence every couple pages with an affirmation and ends with a discussion about worth. The affirmations from the narrator compares themself with an object or nature to share all the good things about themselves. It starts out with “Like the sun, I am here to shine.” and ends with “I am enough.”

Grace Byers writes such affirming diverse books that are great for social emotional learning within the classroom. You could use I Am Enough to have students create affirmations for themselves and the class. Help them by providing sentence stems they can use such as “I am ____” or “We are___” and make a class daily affirmation! 


Gracias – Thanks, by Pat Mora

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation and Exploration

Age Range: 4-7 years old

Gracias-Thanks is a Spanish-English bilingual book about a little boy and all of the things he is thankful for. The text is incredibly poetic as the little boy thanks everything from the bees that didn’t sting him to his family who supports him when he messes up. 

You probably already guessed it, but Gracias-Thanks is the perfect book to teach gratitude. I love talking about gratitude and thankfulness in my classroom because it helps students appreciate everything in life and it builds joy within the classroom. Gratitude is a very hard skill to develop since our brains are wired to look for the negative or what needs to be fixed. To help counteract that in your children or students, read this book and start Gratitude Journals. Or you can have them write Thank You letters to someone or something that they are grateful for. 


Today I Am Strong, by Nadiya Hussain

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation and Exploration

Age Range: 3-5 years old

Nadiya Hussain writes this picture book about a little girl who is telling her imaginary tiger about school. The little girl says that she loves school most days but there are times where she runs into a student who bullies her. She describes the bullying and how it makes her feel. Then, she shares how she is finding her inner strength and some of the strategies she uses when the bully is mean to her. 

Today I Am Strong can be used to talk about bullying and how to stand up for yourself respectfully. I would read this book aloud to my students and then make a class poster about “What to Do When Someone is Unkind…” where we think about what the main character does and other ideas my students have. You can also read this to your own children to help them develop skills to handle any unkind classmates in a respectful but strong way. 


Better Together: The ABCs of Building Social Skills and Friendships, by Dr. Melissa Boyd

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Representation

Age Range: 4-10 years old

Better Together is an alphabet book all about social skills and friendships. Each page has an idea about how to build and maintain friendships with an illustration. Some of the skills it covers include: Admitting mistakes; Listening; Polite Words; and eXpressing ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Dr. Melissa Boyd wrote a book that encompasses so many lessons about deepening friends that even adults could learn from. 

This picture book could be used to introduce social emotional learning around friendships, which is crucial especially at the beginning of the school year. I would read this book a couple pages at a time and teach more into each of the skills using puppets, role playing, and discussion. 


Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org where your purchases support local bookstores. I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for purchasing on our Bookshop! Any added funds are used to support Colorful Pages’s operations and keep our website resources free. 

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