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How to Add Social and Emotional Learning to Your Classroom

Guest blog post written by Anya Gizis, First Book Development Intern. Anya is currently studying political economics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

When you help students develop empathy, set goals, and manage their emotions, you’re boosting their overall academic progress. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) creates comfort and assists in the creation of healthy relationships. First Book offers many free resources that can be used in the classroom or virtually at home. 

The Power of SEL 

Social and emotional learning is the process where students develop and manage their emotions, identities, relationships, and empathy. There are five core areas that learners should be competent in: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

Through a study conducted in 2020, by First Book Research & Insights, the survey found that 91% of our Network educators were very or extremely concerned about the mental and social-emotional health of the kids upon returning to normal classes and programs. The study also found 71% of these educators fear they do not have the resources they need to support their students’ mental health. 

First Book is committed to providing educators with the tools they need to help every student — which is why we have compiled free resources to help cultivate social and emotional learning. 

How to Build Through Books 

The First Book Marketplace supports more than half a million educators, providing brand-new supplies at a reduced cost helping those serving Title I schools stretch every dollar. The Social and Emotional Learning page features some of our favorite titles for teaching kids how to handle emotions, set goals, develop empathy, and make good decisions. They are sectioned out by character development traits, including Self Control & Mindfulness, Leadership, and Honesty & Integrity, to give kids stories and characters to help them grow. 

Books with reading guides 

Additionally, educators can explore the Healthy Feelings & Relationships section, created in partnership with CASEL and Molina Healthcare, which includes a curated collection of books for children (Pre-Kindergarten to 7th grade). Each book comes with a free downloadable reading guide, designed to promote SEL skills necessary for kids to manage their emotions and behavior. The resources for Pre-Kindergarten to 3rd grade also feature a letter for families (available in English and Spanish) to extend learning into the home. 

Diverse literature

Researchers have found that children’s diverse literature told by authentic voices can have a powerful impact on the central elements of SEL. Kids who see themselves in them gain self-confidence, while kids reading about experiences different than theirs gain empathy and healthy curiosity. The Stories for All Project™ organizes our range of diverse titles, from LQBTQ+ stories to books on the refugee experience, giving educators a variety of literature to add to their classroom libraries.  

First Book supporters, not currently eligible to join the network, can purchase books through to still directly impact kids in need; 10% of your order is donated to First Book. 

Download Our Free Toolkits 

Promoting Respect & Empathy 

With the help of the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), First Book has compiled best tips, activities, and book recommendations from our educator network, in the Promoting Respect & Empathy toolkit. Examples include roleplaying activities for younger kids and exploring news articles for older teens.   

Using Books to Support Student Through Grief, Loss, and Healing 

Grief, loss, and trauma are issues that many students face and educators are often the individuals most likely to help young students learn to cope. In collaboration with the New York Life Foundation, First Book has created a discussion guide — Using Books to Support Students Through Grief, Loss, and Healing (available in English and Spanish) — for students in elementary, middle, and high school to help educators offer coping mechanisms and activities to build resiliency. We have also created a curated book list to help offer guidance and foster healthy coping mechanisms to be used alongside the discussion guide.  

Trauma Toolkit 

With additional support from MSEA, First Book created the Trauma Toolkit which offers insight to frequently asked questions, effects of trauma, and how educators can feel supported along with their students. Nearly 35 million children in the U.S. have experienced trauma, and First Book’s toolkit helps educators have the tools they need to help kids cope in the classroom. 

Explore our free resources 

All our toolkits and guides were designed for our Network members to use in the classroom but are available to everyone to download from the Marketplace’s Free Resources section. 

Join the Network 

Educators can join First Book’s network — the largest and fastest-growing network of educators, schools, and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada — to bring new resources and supplies to the classroom. When you join the Network, you’ll be able to access free and low-cost books, while exploring our most recent research and guides. 

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