15 Series To Strengthen Social Emotional Learning for Kids & Teens

Support young people with the following sets on character building, new literacy, and more.

School is meant to educate youth and prepare them for what the world offers. But often the teaching of important life skills is overlooked. While being educated in the basics, such as media literacy, is necessary, appreciating cultural diversity and finding one’s voice to speak against unfairness are also vital intelligences. Becoming an informed citizen is important, as is nurturing inner feelings to act constructively in the face of hardship. That’s what this season offers: social emotional learning for kids and teens. The following selections are excellent resources to assist young people in becoming valued members of society.


Borngraber, Elizabeth. The People and Culture of Venezuela. ISBN 9781508163077.

Emminizer, Ian. The People and Culture of the Dominican Republic. ISBN 9781508163084.

Krajnik, Elizabeth. The People and Culture of Puerto Rico. ISBN 9781508163091.

Morlock, Rachael. The People and Culture of Mexico. ISBN 9781508163107.

Shofner, Melissa Raé. The People and Culture of Cuba. ISBN 9781508163114.

Vargas, Maxine. The People and Culture of Costa Rica. ISBN 9781508163121.

ea vol: 32p. (Celebrating Hispanic Diversity). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.25.

Gr 4-6 –A solid mix of history and social studies awaits readers. Many of the volumes feature a “Language is Important” sidebar that defines Latino and Hispanic and implores students to not use them interchangeably and to respect the preferred terms of their peers. Each book covers the geographic, demographic, and cultural landscape of each nation. In addition, the matter-of-fact writing explores the histories and politics of each place, segueing into topics like colonization, slavery, and discrimination (while not discussed in great depth, they are not glossed over either). Spanish, African, and indigenous influences on each country are well explored, communicating a strong sense of pride and national identity. VERDICT Slim but mighty, a rewarding read for upper elementary students.

Clark, Rosalyn. Why We Eat Healthy Foods. ISBN 9781512482935.

––––. Why We Exercise. ISBN 9781512482959.

––––. Why We Go to the Dentist. ISBN 9781512482928.

––––. Why We Go to the Doctor. ISBN 9781512482904.

––––. Why We Go to the Hospital. ISBN 9781512482911.

––––. Why We Keep Clean. ISBN 9781512482942.

ea vol: 24p. (Bumba: Health Matters). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Mar. 2018. lib. ed. $25.32.

K-Gr 2 –Children are never too young to learn good habits for healthy living. This visually robust resource is designed for early elementary schoolers, including both the very young and emerging readers. The benefits of practices such as diet and exercise, personal hygiene and preventive medical care, are covered in clear, age-appropriate language, with new vocabulary defined in photo glossaries at the end of each book. Healthy Foods provides a schematic of beneficial food groups; Exercise, Dentist, Doctor, and Hospital each cover objects relevant to their respective settings; and Keep Clean provides a useful visual on proper handwashing techniques. High-quality photographs feature diverse groups of people engaged in a variety of gender-neutral roles. VERDICT An impressive introductory resource to encourage healthy practices among children.

Colby, Jennifer. Stories of Cooperation. ISBN 9781534107434.

––––. Stories of Courage. ISBN 9781 534107458.

––––. Stories of Diversity. ISBN 9781 534107441.

––––. Stories of Forgiveness. ISBN 9781 534107489.

––––. Stories of Friendship. ISBN 9781 534107427.

––––. Stories of Honor. ISBN 9781534107465.

––––. Stories of Persistence. ISBN 9781 534107410.

––––. Stories of Sharing. ISBN 9781 534107472.

ea vol: 32p. (21st Century Skills Library: Social Emotional Library). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $29.93.

Gr 4-6 –Positive behavioral growth is a vital aspect of healthy character development among kids and one that is often overlooked in a formal capacity in school curricula. This series fills that role. Readers are first presented with a thought-provoking discussion on what each topic means, followed by detailed accounts of their expression. Inspirational stories feature a variety of people, situations, and locales, past and present, with varying degrees of popularity. Text boxes encourage pupils to reflect on these characteristics and apply them in their daily interactions. This is a valuable examination of character building with many academic uses for fostering communication and discussion. However, Diversity is a bit of an outlier in that it is not about a trait like the other books. The people profiled in this volume are also puzzling (Gandhi, Mother Teresa). VERDICT A useful tool for social emotional learning collections.

Harris, Duchess. The Fake News Phenomenon. ISBN 9781532113888.

Harris, Duchess & Sue Bradford Edwards. Advertising Overload. ISBN 9781532113871.

Harris, Duchess & Elisabeth Herschbach. Your Personalized Internet. ISBN 9781532113925.

Harris, Duchess & Laura Lane. How Journalists Work. ISBN 9781532113895.

Harris, Duchess & Laura K. Murray. Uncovering Bias in the News. ISBN 9781532113901.

––––. Why News Matters. ISBN 9781532113918.

ea vol: 48p. (News Literacy). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $32.79.

Gr 4-6 –The authors thoroughly discuss the news and its value to society, covering historical developments and the effects of technological advancements on the industry. The semantics and ethics involved in journalism and the skills and approaches effective journalists employ to successfully report information are also covered. The detailed discussions on fake news and its predecessors—yellow journalism and propaganda—are timely and will be of great use to educators and students alike. The role and power of social media is also a running theme throughout. Opportunities for critical thinking and writing development abound. VERDICT A welcome resource to strengthen media literacy skills in upper elementary schoolers.

Higgins, Nadia. Earning Money. ISBN 9781620318904.

––––. Needs and Wants. ISBN 9781620318928.

––––. Saving Money. ISBN 9781620318942.

––––. Using Money. ISBN 9781620318966.

––––. What Is Money? ISBN 9781620318980.

ea vol: 24p. (Money Smarts). glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!/Bullfrog. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $25.65.

PreS-Gr 2 –A gentle introduction to currency for little ones. Specific denominations fall outside the scope of this series; instead, the author focuses on more general concepts of wanting and needing goods, being compensated for one’s work, and the earning, saving, and uses of money. The importance of making smart choices about spending is emphasized, which is a refreshing choice for this audience. Bright, engaging photographs accompany the succinct narratives, which are direct and situational in nature. Ideas aimed at parents and teachers for fostering child engagement start off each volume, with some books also offering relevant activities. ­VERDICT An attractive set to inspire ­financial smarts in youngsters.

Middle to High School

Berne, Emma Carlson. Understanding How You Can Help. ISBN 9781543503166.

––––. Understanding Your Civil Rights. ISBN 9781543503197.

Gunderson, Jessica. Understanding Your Role in Elections. ISBN 9781543503180.

Micklos Jr., John. Understanding Your Legal Rights. ISBN 9781543503173.

ea vol: 32p. (Kids’ Guide to Government). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 6-8 –This series not only provides insight into U.S. political processes, but also acts as a guide to getting involved in government. The history behind U.S. legal rights and the documents ensuring their endurance are explored, as are the branches of government and how they coexist. The voting and election processes, civil rights violations, and organizations that work to protect citizens’ rights are also highlighted. The differences between civic duty and civic responsibility are thoroughly explored with concrete examples. Finally, each volume stresses the importance of youth involvement and provides ideas for readers looking to make a difference. VERDICT For the civic-minded, this is a useful tool for promoting thoughtful citizenship among youth.

Burling, Alexis. Surviving Your First High School Party. ISBN 9780766091931.

Donahue, Mary P. Surviving Bullies and Mean Teens. ISBN 9780766091948.

Gordon, Sherri Mabry. Surviving a First Breakup. ISBN 9780766091924.

Morris, Taylor. Surviving a First Date. ISBN 9780766091917.

––––. Surviving Prom. ISBN 9780766091894.

Torres, John A. Surviving Gym Class. ISBN 9780766091900.

ea vol: 48p. (Teen Survival Guide). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Enslow. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.93.

Gr 9 Up –The teen years are filled with many firsts—and feelings of self-consciousness are a given. The authors use a light, youthful tone to offer heartfelt advice and encourage readers to embrace their personal bests. Each title explores the psychological aspects and common misconceptions behind the titular topic along with the influence of technology, common courtesy, and manners. The necessity of self-care is an underlying message, especially when dealing with negative encounters. Many constructive methods and coping strategies are provided throughout this series. While putting a positive spin on even harmful circumstances, the authors focus on the value of personal introspection. The reality of more serious subjects, such as teenage drinking, is not glossed over. VERDICT An honest and helpful exploration of many significant teenage milestones. Consider for YA collections.

Creager, Ellen. Life as a Somali American. ISBN 9781538322468.

––––. Life as a Syrian American. ISBN 9781538322482.

––––. Life as an Indian American. ISBN 9781538322420.

––––. Life as an Iraqi American. ISBN 9781538322444.

Kovacs, Vic. Life as a Nigerian American. ISBN 9781538322406.

––––. Life as an Afghan American. ISBN 9781538322383.

ea vol: 32p. (One Nation for All: Immigrants in the United States). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.25.

Gr 6-8 –An introductory look at several large immigrant communities living in the United States. In each volume, statistical data about population size in the United States and historical background information is provided. Two aspects are of special note: each title does generally present the topic population as heterogeneous, accurately addressing the many ethnic, religious, and cultural groups within each; and some unattractive aspects of political play, including the actions of the United States, are mentioned. That said, each book includes a chapter titled “Living as Americans” that often falls flat; for instance, “Somali Americans may eat American food and Somali food.” Furthermore, in Iraqi American, the U.S. occupation of Iraq is not discussed in much depth. In each book the achievements of many first-, second-, and third-generation famous people are highlighted, representing a variety of fields and endeavors. VERDICT An ambitious series that most libraries will want to consider.

Davis, Monika. True Stories of Teen Homelessness. ISBN 9781502631589.

Heing, Bridey. True Stories of Teen Refugees. ISBN 9781502631626.

––––. True Stories of Teen Terrorist Recruits. ISBN 9781502631688.

Micklos Jr., John. True Stories of Teen Prisoners. ISBN 9781502631602.

Thiel, Kristin. True Stories of Teen Soldiers. ISBN 9781502631640.

––––. True Stories of Teen Terrorist Hostages. ISBN 9781502631664.

ea vol: 112p. (True Teen Stories). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $42.79.

Gr 9 Up –Adolescence can be stressful under the best of circumstances; adding homelessness, incarceration, violence, and forced migration to the equation magnifies average stressors to levels far above typical teenage angst. Using history, research, and statistics as its foundation, each book builds on that with real and relatable personal anecdotes from affected teens. These issues are not simplified; the uniqueness of each individual’s experiences is repeatedly acknowledged. Each volume focuses on both short- and long-term effects to mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Secondary problematic behaviors and the differences in risk factors among genders are also examined. Societal perceptions and stigmatization are addressed as well. Maintaining that no single solution exists, the series describes many international efforts at relief, most of which are led by teen social activists. VERDICT A hard look at societal issues facing youths. Consider for YA collections.

Edwards, Sue Bradford. The Debate About the Electoral College. ISBN 9781635175264.

Fajardo, Anika. The Debate About Homework. ISBN 9781635175219.

Hutchison, Patricia. The Debate About ­Vaccines. ISBN 9781635175271.

Seigel, Rachel. The Debate About Playing Video Games. ISBN 9781635175240.

––––. The Debate About School Uniforms. ISBN 9781635175257.

Terp, Gail. The Debate About Animal Testing. ISBN 9781635175202.

––––. The Debate About Paying College Athletes. ISBN 9781635175233.

Ventura, Marne. The Debate About Legalizing Marijuana. ISBN 9781635175226.

ea vol: 48p. (Pros and Cons). charts. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Focus Readers. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $31.35.

Gr 6-8 –The ability to value another’s perspective is a necessary life skill. By critically examining various sides of an issue, the authors urge readers to do just that. A brief history summarizing each topic kicks off the discussion, followed by three viewpoints arguing their pros and cons in straightforward yet insightful language. There’s a nice mix of familiar topics with more timely ones. Back matter in each volume includes a helpful “Pros and Cons Summary” and a thought-provoking quiz to develop critical thinking. The uses here are far-reaching, not only as a resource for teaching constructive listening and debating skills, but also for providing a balanced look at current cultural and societal conversations. VERDICT A useful offering for debate clubs and programs.

Falligant, Erin. Body Pro: Facts and Figures About Bad Hair Days, Blemishes, and Being Healthy. ISBN 9781515778783.

Raum, Elizabeth. Relationships Whiz: Facts and Figures About Families, Friends, and Feelings. ISBN 9781515778790.

––––. Social Media Savvy: Facts and Figures About Selfies, Smartphones, and Standing Out. ISBN 9781515778776.

Rissman, Rebecca. Fashion Guru: Facts and Figures About Couture, Catwalks, and Cutting-Edge Trends. ISBN 9781515778806.

ea vol: 48p. (Girlology). charts. chron. diag. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $31.32.

Gr 6-8 –Did you know that celebrated writer Mark Twain invented the bra clasp? Or that fingernails grow fastest on one’s dominant hand? Random factoids like these are given style and flair through palatable, if not entertaining, infographics. Body Pro discusses nutrition and exercise, biological changes, and self-expression and adornment and promotes a healthy sense of well-being. Readers receive behind-the-scenes access to the world of models, celebrities, and the garment industry in Fashion Guru. And though the topic makes an appearance in every volume, Social Media Savvy dips into statistics with sensible tips for online safety. Throughout the series, both the text and the photos evoke a cosmopolitan feel and reflect the larger world. VERDICT A lively and creative way for teens to see how their preferences and practices stack up against those of their peers—and a great pick for middle schoolers.

Gordon, Sherri Mabry. Confronting Class ­Discrimination. ISBN 9781538381700.

Heitkamp, Kristina Lyn. Confronting Anti-Semitism. ISBN 9781508177425.

Hurt, Avery Elizabeth. Confronting LGBTQ+ Discrimination. ISBN 9781538381748.

La Bella, Laura. Confronting Sexism. ISBN 9781538381823.

Lo Bosco, Maryellen. Confronting Racism. ISBN 9781538381786.

Mooney, Carla. Confronting Discrimination Against Immigrants. ISBN 9781538381670.

Nichols, Susan. Confronting Ableism. ISBN 9781538381625.

ea vol: 64p. (Speak Up! Confronting Discrimination in Your Daily Life). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen YA. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $34.45.

Gr 9 Up –The authors of this series encourage readers to speak out against discrimination. Some bigoted behaviors, such as microaggressions, can be subtle and difficult to identify, and much of the narrative contends with that challenge. The differences between lawful and unlawful discrimination and hate crimes are analyzed. Various laws protecting individuals are examined, reinforcing the vital importance of knowing one’s rights. Healthy coping strategies are also included throughout the set. With a “hear something, say something” mantra, this series empowers teens to be active upstanders with practical tactics for combating prejudice in a variety of settings. VERDICT A beneficial addition to YA nonfiction collections.

Harris, Duchess. Sexism in the Media. ISBN 9781532113116.

Harris, Duchess & Heidi Deal. Male Privilege. ISBN 9781532113079.

Harris, Duchess & Nadine Pinede. Sexism and Race. ISBN 9781532113086.

Harris, Duchess & Gail Radley. Sexism at Work. ISBN 9781532113093.

Harris, Duchess & Nancy Redd. Growing Up a Girl. ISBN 9781532113062.

Harris, Duchess & Christine Zuchora-Walske. Sexism in Politics. ISBN 9781532113109.

ea vol: 112p. (Being Female in America). bibliog. charts. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $37.07.

Gr 9 Up –The authors pull no punches when it comes to examining historical and contemporary forms of sexism in the United States. Each volume is steeped in statistics, research, and newsworthy anecdotes. Ingrained gender stereotypes and the differences between sexism and misogyny are explored, with insightful coverage given to gender-based violence, the objectification of girls, and the psychology behind both. Self-image and self-esteem are also thoroughly examined, as is the media’s role in proliferating unattainable ideals. Discussions on intersectionality and its necessity when evaluating the specific brand of prejudice aimed at women of color is often overlooked in books for this age group, but this series does an excellent job explaining and exploring the concept. VERDICT An insightful and necessary purchase for teens.

Jankowski, Matthew. The Modern Nerd’s Guide to Esports. ISBN 9781538212073.

Keppeler, Jill. The Modern Nerd’s Guide to Tabletop and Card Games. ISBN 9781538212202.

Nagelhout, Ryan. The Modern Nerd’s Guide to Drone Racing. ISBN 9781538212035.

Rajczak Nelson, Kristen. The Modern Nerd’s Guide to Cosplay. ISBN 9781538211991.

Sciandra, Mike. The Modern Nerd’s Guide to LARPing. ISBN 9781538212110.

Shofner, Melissa Raé. The Modern Nerd’s Guide to Robot Battles. ISBN 9781538212158.

ea vol: 32p. (Geek Out!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 6-8 –The term nerd, once an insult, has taken on new life. In this set, tweens can explore a variety of game-based activities, from role playing to video and board gaming. In addition to the history, science, terminology, and tactics behind each game, associated groups and societies, organized events, tournaments, and the online community’s role of garnering followers are also described. Tips on becoming an active participant, costs, safety concerns, and the skills and equipment needed to get started are included. Clear photographs depict a variety of ages, genders, races, and ethnicities engaged in each activity. ­VERDICT Sure to strike a chord with middle schoolers, and a great selection for maker and gaming spaces.

Landau, Jennifer. Teens Talk About Anxiety and Depression. ISBN 9781508176473.

––––. Teens Talk About Body Image and Eating Disorders. ISBN 9781508176480.

––––. Teens Talk About Drugs and Alcohol. ISBN 9781508176503.

––––. Teens Talk About Family Issues. ISBN 9781508176497.

––––. Teens Talk About Leadership and Activism. ISBN 9781508176510.

––––. Teens Talk About Learning Disabilities and Differences. ISBN 9781508176527.

––––. Teens Talk About Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence. ISBN 9781508176534.

––––. Teens Talk About Suicide, Death, and Grieving. ISBN 9781508176541.

ea vol: 64p. (Teen Voices: Real Teens Discuss Real Problems). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen YA. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $34.45.

Gr 9 Up –When young people grapple with their self-identity, the resulting adversity can have lasting effects on their future. Sharing the journeys of their peers can be the therapeutic guidance that is needed. Landau combines factual information on each topic with many firsthand accounts from teenagers writing about their own experiences. Personal anecdotes from the Teen Health and Wellness Personal Story Project illustrate their experiences and provide a sense of solidarity and empowerment. Readers are encouraged to add their own voices to the conversation in the hopes that by doing so they will achieve clarity about themselves. Each volume offers a “Myths and Facts” section, as well as useful questions to kick-start counseling. Contact information for social organizations is included but is limited to resources in the United States and Canada. VERDICT Commendable for its use of teen-created content, this series will do well in counselor offices.

While this season offers a variety of wonderful resources, a few top series stand out. Capstone’s “Girlology” is a trivia-rich resource. On a related topic, ABDO’s “Being Female in America” takes a far more comprehensive view of girlhood. Enslow’s “Teen Survival Guide” discusses a variety of teenage milestones while offering advice and coping strategies. Growing up can be serious business, so let’s not forget to have some fun along the way; in Gareth Stevens’s “Geek Out!,” middle schoolers can delve into fantasy worlds with friends. No doubt, there is something here for everyone.

Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library

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