To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Open Circle Program at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), a provider of evidence-based social and emotional learning for K–5 kids, has released its list of the top 25 children’s books that connect to kids’ social and emotional development. The chosen books cover a range of important skills, such as self-awareness, self-management, empathy, dealing with conflict, and problem-solving. The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, tops the list.
“Of the countless books that teachers use to shed light on such issues as friendship, inclusion, empathy, problem solving, or understanding differences, some titles stand out for being especially authentic and memorable,” Open Circle says. “Like good friends, the books on this list are potential sources of comfort, validation, laughter, surprises, and new perspectives for children.”
1. The Hundred Dresses.* Eleanor Estes. Harcourt, 1944. Gr 3–5.
2. Crow Boy. Taro Yashima. Viking, 1955. Gr 2–5.
3. Yesterday I Had the Blues. Jeron Ashford Frame. Tricycle. 2003. Gr 2–5.
4. Henry and the Kite Dragon. Bruce Edward Hall. Philomel, 2004. Gr 3–5.
5. Crazy Hair Day. Barney Saltzberg. Candlewick, 2003. Gr 2–4.
6. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Kevin Henkes. HarperCollins/Greenwillow,1996. Gr K–3.
7. I Miss Franklin P. Shuckles. Ulana Snihura. Annick, 1998. Gr 1–3.
8. Danitra Brown, Class Clown. Nikki Grimes. Harpercollins/Amistad, 2005. Gr 3–5.
9. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.* Gary Schmidt. Clarion, 2004. Gr 5.
10. Wonder.* R.J. Palacio. Knopf, 2012. Gr 3–5.
11. Rules.* Cynthia Lord. Scholastic, 2006. Gr 3–5.
12. Anything But Typical. Nora Raleigh Baskin. S&S, 2009. Gr 5.
13. When Sophie gets Angry, Really Angry. Molly Bang. Scholastic/Blue Sky, 1999. Gr K–1.
14. My Name is María Isabel.* Alma Flor Ada. S&S/Atheneum, 1993. Gr 3–4.
15. Thank you Mr. Falker. Patricia Polacco. Philomel, 1998. Gr 4–5.
16. Yoon and the Jade Bracelet. Helen Recorvits. Farrar, 2008. Gr 3–4.
17. The Teddy Bear. David McPhail. Holt, 2002. Gr 3–5.
18. Mouse Was Mad. Linda Urban. Harcourt, 2009. Gr K–1.
19. Teammates. Peter Golenbock. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990. Gr 4–5.
20. Chrysanthemum. Kevin Henkes. HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 1991. Gr K–1.
21. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key.* Jack Gantos. Farrar, 1998. Gr 4–5.
22. Also Known as Harper.* Ann Haywood Leal. Holt, 2009. Gr 5.
23. How to Steal a Dog.* Barbara O’Connor. Farrar, 2007. Gr 5.
24. Becoming Naomi Leon.* Pam Munoz Ryan. Scholastic, 2004. Gr 3–5.
25. Willow’s Whispers. Lana Button. Kids Can Press, 2010. Gr K–1.
*chapter book or novel
For more information about several of the titles on this list and interactive ways that these books can be used to help engage children, a series of short videos, featuring Peg Sawyer, B.S.Ed., trainer and coach with the Open Circle Program, is available online.
The Wellesley Centers for Women is one of the largest gender-focused research and action organizations in the world. Scholars at the Centers conduct social science research and evaluation, develop theory and publications, and implement training and action programs on issues that put women’s lives and women’s concerns at the center.
(Editor’s note: What are your favorite titles for helping kids develop their social and emotional skills? Please comment with suggestions for new books as well as your perennial favorites.)