SEL Book List: Student
Social Emotional Learning Reading List for Students and Classrooms
Conversations around US school systems progressing through the Covid-19 pandemic are highlighting Social and Emotional Learning needs of all school stakeholders. The pandemic has made clear that students and teachers need intentional emotional support and attention as we continue to refine teaching and learning in unsteady settings.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) define Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
As teachers and school-based staff, we have a responsibility to teach beyond content-based skills by intentionally folding in SEL within our curriculum, which begins to create a systemic approach to fostering learning of the whole child.
Many school systems agree that more reinforcement for facilitating safe and positive learning is needed. In 2016, the Collaborating States Initiative was created to support “…states and school districts to help ensure that preschool to high school students are fully prepared—academically, socially, and emotionally—to succeed in school, at work, and in life.”
The initiative has worked closely with the Department of Instruction of the states that have joined to create aligned ELA standards that promote and teach social and emotional competence within curriculum.
To contribute to our students and school-based stakeholders SEL focus, we’ve compiled an aligned “Social and Emotional Learner Reading List” comprising titles of high quality and appropriately complex texts that provide content-enriched reading experiences for all levels of learners, from middle school on up to adult teachers and school leaders.
The list is divided into two blogs, one for student readers, and one for teacher and school leader readers. Check out the YA student titles below categorized under CASEL’S five SEL competencies, and available in your Glose for Education bookstore:
You Don’t Even Know Me by Sharon Flake · Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
In 9 stories and 13 poems, Sharon G. Flake gives readers insight into the minds of a diverse group of adolescent African American males. There’s Tow-Kaye, getting married at age 17 to the love of his life, who’s pregnant. He knows it’s the right thing to do, but he’s scared to death. James writes in his diary about his twin brother’s terrible secret, which threatens to pull James down, too. Tyler explains what it’s like to be a player with the ladies. In a letter to his uncle, La’Ron confesses that he’s infected with HIV. Eric takes us on a tour of North Philly on the Fourth of July, when the heat could make a guy go crazy. Still, he loves his hood. These and other unforgettable characters come to life in this poignant, funny and often searing collection of urban male voices.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera · Soho Press
In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson · Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, literally and figuratively, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore · Random House Children’s Books
A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity. Winner of the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for New Talent and soon to be a major motion picture directed by Michael B. Jordan!
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez · Penguin Young Readers Group
In this striking portrait of lives torn apart, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to light through poignant, vivid storytelling. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo · Quill Tree Books
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw · Roaring Brook Press
Laughing at My Nightmare describes the challenges faced as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to having a girlfriend and everything in between, Shane handles his situation with humor and a “you-only-live-once” perspective on life. While he does talk about everyday issues that are relatable to teens, he also offers an eye-opening perspective on what it is like to have a life threatening disease.
Dragon Hatchling by Galand Nuchols · iUniverse
Kris and Aunt Katherine have escaped Uncle Stan’s abuse, but memories of the past haunt Kris as he begins his new life in California. While Grandma says they are safe, Kris knows nothing will make him feel safe after what happened to Aunt Katherine. But danger from the past is not Kris’s only problem.
On The Come Up by Hannah Weyer · Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Based on a true story: On the Come Up introduces a heroine whose voice is irrepressible, dynamic, and unstintingly honest. Thirteen-year-old AnnMarie Walker dreams of a world beyond Far Rockaway, where the sway of the neighborhood keeps her tied to old ideas about success. While attending a school for pregnant teens, AnnMarie comes across a flyer advertising movie auditions in Manhattan. Astonishingly, improbably, and four months before she’s due to give birth—she lands a lead role.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone · Random House Children’s Books
Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter ·University of New Mexico Press
The Education of Little Tree tells of a boy orphaned very young, who is adopted by his Cherokee grandmother and half-Cherokee grandfather in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee during the Great Depression.
Fresh Ink by Lamar Giles · Random House Children’s Books
Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print. This collection addresses topics like gentrification, acceptance, untimely death, coming out, and poverty and ranges in genre from contemporary realistic fiction to adventure and romance. It will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.
No One Must Know by Eva Wiseman · Tundra
It is 1957 and Alexandra’s immigrant family is living the North American dream. Her father is a respected doctor, and she has a warm circle of good friends from church, from girl guides, and from school. Alexandra’s world is turned upside down when she discovers a secret that her parents have kept. They are not Catholic, as Alexandra believes. They are Jewish. Alexandra’s view of her parents, of her friends, and of the society in which she lives is turned upside down by her discovery. Who is she and where does she really belong?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas · HarperCollins
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas · HarperCollins
Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer Little · Brown Books for Young Readers
It’s here! #1 bestselling author Stephenie Meyer makes a triumphant return to the world of Twilight with this highly anticipated companion: the iconic love story of Bella and Edward told from the vampire’s point of view.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio · Random House Children’s Books
Kindness brings us together no matter how far apart we are. Millions of people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller WONDER and fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. A perfect read for back to school — no matter what that looks like!
The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody · Margaret K. McElderry Books
A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this whimsical and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.
RESPONSIBLE DECISION MAKING
Far From You by Tess Sharpe · Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice. The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick. The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.
Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali · Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee · Katherine Tegen Books
Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Party Girl by Lynne Ewing · Random House Children’s Books
The room smells of sweat, smoke, beer, and longing.
The music pulses, the lights flash, and Kata and Ana dance. For a moment the raucous crowd is tamed, and together the two girls soar above their lives. But then the deafening applause sends the dancers crashing down to earth, back to the gang wars, the gunfire, and the only way of life they know. In a neighborhood consumed by violence, every day may be a gang member’s last. And sometimes the only life you can hope to save is your own.
Integrating Learner Agency
Learner agency happens when students take active command of their learning through deliberate participation in their classroom communities.
Meaningful Engagement With Texts Through Close Reading
Through close reading, written works are examined multiple times for deeper understanding as learners naturally progress into higher levels of knowledge and cognitive processing.
Building Literacy-Rich Environments
Literacy-rich environments focus on students being actively and meaningfully engaged in reading, writing, speaking, and listening with consideration of both digital and written formats.
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