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In this article, we describe how books addressing social-emotional topics can be used by teachers of young children during class read-alouds to enhance students' social-emotional development. Teachers of young children typically choose books for class read-alouds based on curriculum topics and student interest; however, they may not be aware of valuable books that can be used for class read-alouds to develop students' social-emotional skills. We provide examples of negative student behaviors that teachers may witness and recommend books that can be used to address those behaviors. We also discuss the essential components of read-alouds and provide examples of questions to ask before, during, and after reading books, as well as activities teachers can implement to ensure students grow from the read-aloud experience, both in their literacy skills and social-emotional learning.

Social-emotional learning is a critical aspect of the school curriculum for young children. Social competence and the ability to negotiate and cooperate with others are essential skills for children's early development as well as their later academic success (Carman & Chapparo, 2012; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Welsh, Parke, Widaman, & O'Neil, 2001). When children act inconsiderately or engage in inappropriate behavior towards peers, it creates a negative classroom climate in which both victims and aggressors can experience social and emotional struggles (Heydenberk & Heydenberk, 2007; Kochenderfer-Ladd, 2004). In order to promote the well-being of all students, it is therefore critical that teachers of young children incorporate social-emotional learning into the curriculum.

Although researchers have explored a variety of interventions to address children's negative behaviors in the classroom, one easily integrated but commonly overlooked practice is the use of class read-alouds with books that address social-emotional topics. A search for peer-reviewed journal articles using the terms "read aloud" and "social emotional learning" in five electronic databases (Academic Search Complete, Academic Search Premier, Education Full Text, ERIC, and PsycINFO) returned just 10 articles published between 1990 and 2015. Only one of the articles focused on the use of read-alouds for young children to address social-emotional skills. Due to this shallow research base, there is limited understanding among teachers of how literature can be used to develop children's social skills (McTigue, Douglass, Wright, Hodges, & Franks, 2015).

Class read-alouds are a typical feature of early childhood and elementary classrooms; they are used to introduce children to the joys of reading and to develop children's listening skills, experiential backgrounds, vocabulary, and concepts of print and story (Fisher, Flood, Lapp, & Frey, 2004). Doyle and Bramwell (2006) aptly propose that reading books with social-emotional content along with strategic questioning and responding provides opportunities for children to develop both social-emotional skills and emergent literacy. Students' academic progress can be severely compromised when students have weak literacy skills with comorbid negative behaviors (Kamps et al., 2003). Therefore, simultaneously addressing behavior and literacy through class read-alouds increases young children's chances of success in school.

McTigue et al. (2015) propose that fiction can be used as a springboard for students to practice taking perspectives and analyzing conflict. Through insights gained from discussions around literature, children can develop interpersonal skills that prepare them to effectively resolve conflicts in their own lives. The use of literature to help children deal with emotional and personal problems stems from the field of bibliotherapy (Womack, Marchant, & Borders, 2011). In bibliotherapy, literature is used to help students learn how to manage their behaviors and replace inappropriate behaviors (Yuskevich & Doyle, 2005). The presuppositions underlying bibiliotherapy are that when readers relate to a character's struggle, they become emotionally involved in the story and as the character works through their problems, readers gain insight about their own situations (Myracle, 1995). When teachers conduct interactive read-alouds to address social-emotional skills, they can lead students in discussions that help them relate to characters and issues presented in the story, as would be done in bibliotherapy.


In order to find appropriate books for read-alouds, we searched on Amazon for children's books focusing on a range of social and emotional skills. After reading book descriptions and reader reviews, we obtained a selection of books and narrowed our recommendations for teachers to seven books with straightforward messages for young children. Although teachers may try to integrate books with moral messages in the classroom, they may not be aware of some valuable books written at levels appropriate for young children that address common classroom behaviors. Our recommendations are based on our experiences in kindergarten, first, and third grade classrooms.

While conducting field experiences as part of their early childhood education degrees, the first two authors read books with social-emotional themes to individual kindergarten students and conducted observations of students' responses. When the authors began teaching in a kindergarten and first grade classroom, they read books as whole group read-alouds and implemented class activities related to the readings. They documented conversations between students during the read-alouds and noted behavioral changes after the post-reading activities. Because The Energy Bus was more appropriate for older students, we collaborated with a third grade teacher to read that book with her students. The teacher shared feedback about student responses with us, which we incorporated in Table 1. Throughout the process of reading books to students, all four authors collaborated on selecting appropriate activities to supplement the read-alouds and analyzing anecdotal records of student responses.

Descriptions of our seven recommended books and situations in which they would be beneficial for read-alouds are provided in Table 1. We also provide examples of student responses to the read-alouds based on our classrooms experiences. In Table 2, we suggest before, during, and after the reading questions for each book, along with enrichment activities that can be used to supplement the read-alouds.

In the following section, we give an overview of the theoretical background on read-alouds and the importance of selecting developmentally appropriate texts. After reviewing research on students' use of conflict-resolution strategies and problems associated with poor emotion regulation, we describe some literacy-based curriculum programs. Finally, we review best practices in read-aloud procedures, illustrated with specific examples from our recommended books.


A significant way that students increase their thinking, understanding, and comprehension of the world is through the intentional reading of books in the classroom setting. In particular, children's literacy development, expressive language, vocabulary, and background knowledge is expanded and strengthened through the process of teacher and student interactive read-alouds. Read-alouds can be used to teach content through the use of modeling, guiding, monitoring, and the incorporation of effective questioning techniques that stimulate high rates of student responses. Theoretical underpinnings from a variety of researchers (e.g., Clay, 2004; Fountas & Pinnell, 2006; Lennox, 2013; Shanahan et al., 2010; Wiseman, 2011) shed light on the power of teacher-student exchanges that are intentional and purposely focused. As students' knowledge systems are expanded through authentic interactions with the teacher, students are able to relate new insights and information to their own lives. According to Fountas and Pinell (2006): "Hearing written texts read aloud daily provides many opportunities for students to think inferentially, making connections between their own lives and what they read in books" (p. 218).

Rosenblatt's (1976) theory of transactional reading and writing supports the benefits of student-teacher interaction through the shared reading of books. Once students grasp concepts addressed in the interactive read-aloud, a transference takes place that can be molded and capitalized on by the teacher through practical applications. This transference is particularly pertinent when discussing the application of social-emotional learning introduced through interactive read-alouds. As young children respond to stories and hear the views of classmates, they negotiate new reactions and social decisions. Subsequently, students can apply their learning to interactions with peers and their approach to classroom conflicts (McTigue et al., 2015). The intentional focus on specific skills through read-alouds increases the likelihood that the targeted skills will generalize to other people and contexts (Womack et al., 2011).


Narvaez (2001) points out that just because a student has been exposed to a good story with a clear moral lesson, it cannot be assumed they will take away the intended lesson; what students remember is what made sense and was meaningful to them. This situation highlights the importance of the interactive nature of read-alouds in which teachers guide students in their understandings and provide students frequent opportunities for practical applications of the desired behaviors. To help students understand different, conflicting perspectives, Narvaez (2001) recommends asking questions such as, "Were there differences in what people thought, felt and wanted? What were the differences?" (p. 8) Teachers can also promote the concept of sacrifice for a greater good by asking questions such as, "How did the action affect each character in the story?" and "How did the action affect the community (e.g. classroom)?" (p. 8) Students' ability to respond to these questions will depend on their developmental levels, which, as Narvaez (2001) points out, underscores the importance of careful selection of texts for read-alouds.

The first author conducted an interactive read-aloud in her first-grade classroom that some students struggled to comprehend due to their inability to view situations from other perspectives and to understand metaphoric concepts. Students' responses to the read-aloud and related activities are presented in Figure 1. These examples demonstrate the importance of selecting developmentally appropriate texts for young children when introducing social-emotional topics through read-alouds.

Despite the first author's experiences of students struggling to provide examples of nice things they could do for others, the second author read the book with a kindergarten student and found that the student was able to share many examples of how she could influence the feelings of others and provided several instances of how she had made others feel better. An important finding from previous research is that children's generosity increased after children recalled a specific instance in which they were nice to someone (Tasimi & Young, 2016). Tasimi and Young (2016) shared how the psychological phenomenon of moral reinforcement explains why recounting prior good deeds increases subsequent prosocial behavior. Therefore, when conducting read-alouds to develop prosocial behaviors, teachers should prompt children to recall specific instances when they acted in the desired manner. In the following section, we describe previous research related to social-emotional skills and conflict-resolution strategies used by children.


Social-emotional learning encompasses skills related to conflict-resolution, emotion regulation, and social competence. Research on social-emotional learning indicates numerous benefits for children, including improved conflict-resolution skills, social skills, and academic performance (Heydenberk & Heydenberk, 2007). The following section outlines research on social and emotional skills that some students lack, how the lack of social and emotional skills contributes to negative outcomes, and the role of teachers in facilitating conflict-resolution and emotion regulation. Throughout this section, we provide book recommendations related to the social-emotional skills discussed in the studies.

In a comparison of boys from a special education school for children with disruptive behavior disorders and typically developing boys, it was found that the number of conflicts boys engaged in was similar. However, children differed in their reconciliatory behavior; typically developing boys demonstrated reconciliation behaviors, whereas aggressive boys rejected post-conflict affiliation from peers. The researchers proposed that aggressive conflicts may escalate when children with aggressive behavior problems lack the ability to restore relationships after a conflict (Kempes, Orobio de Castro, & Sterck, 2008).

In another study on conflict-resolution, Hartup, Laursen, Stewart, and Eastenson (1988) found that friends more frequently used strategies involving disengagement (mutual turning away or distraction) than strategies such as standing firm. When friends resolved conflicts through disengagement, it typically resulted in an outcome involving equality. On the other hand, standing firm resulted in a winner-loser outcome. Standing firm and other responses to conflict, such as striking back, have been identified as not only ineffective, but as contributing to the likelihood of future victimization (Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1997; Perry, Williard & Perry, 1990; Schwartz, Dodge, & Coie, 1993).
                              Figure 1
"How Full is Your Bucket?": Example from a First Grade Classroom

Ms. Britt began her introduction to a read-aloud of How Full is Your
Bucket? with a discussion of ways students could be nice and show
respect for one another. The students were able to discuss how they felt
when a classmate said something pleasant to them or did something nice
for them. However, students struggled when asked to give examples of
nice things they could do for other people.
During the read-aloud, students were engaged in the story and answered
a variety of questions. Most students were able to make connections to
the boy and his sister fighting over his toys. When students identify
with book characters and conflicts, they have concrete examples to
reflect on during instruction and draw from during similar situations in
real life (Womack et al., 2011). Therefore, being able to relate to the
characters and conflict in the story contributed to students'
Although students understood the message that being nice fills up their
"bucket" as well as someone else's, some students were unable to
understand that the bucket shown in the illustrations represented a
metaphoric bucket to be filled. However, because the concept of filling
someone's bucket is an abstract concept, it can best be taught to first
grade students through a concrete representation.
After the read-aloud, students created "buckets" out of paper bags which
were hung in the classroom. In order to engage in a simulation of
filling someone's bucket, students wrote "bucket fillers" for three
different classmates. Ms. Britt modeled how to write a bucket filler
using the examples of "I like how hard you work in class" and "I like to
play with you at recess."
The students' "buckets" remained in the classroom and students were
supposed to fill them on an ongoing basis whenever they felt the need
to fill someone else's bucket, and by extension, their own bucket.
However, students did not write bucket-fillers after the initial
activity unless prompted by the teacher. The students enjoyed filling
each other's buckets and asked for more fillers to write after
completing the initial one; however, they did not seem to understand
the psychological concept of filling their own buckets (achieving a
sense of satisfaction from being kind) as they filled their classmates'

Using scenarios involving examples of peer victimization, Kochenderfer-Ladd (2004) analyzed different coping strategies that children reported using. She found that anger was associated with revenge-seeking whereas advice-seeking was predictive of children's attempts to stop the abuse by confronting their harassers cordially. A significant finding was that children experienced peer victimization with decreased frequency when they actively sought out conflict-resolution strategies and attempted to restore relationships.

Roseth et al. (2008) explored the impact of teacher intervention on the likelihood of preschoolers' independently resolving conflicts. They found that when teachers intervened in episodes involving physical aggression, children's physically aggressive conflict increased, but when teachers intervened in verbally aggressive episodes, children's verbally aggressive conflict decreased. However, when students separated after a conflict, they later reconciled with one another regardless of whether the teacher intervened. Although this finding indicates that preschoolers may independently reconcile after aggressive conflicts, teachers should aim to prevent children's aggressive behaviors from occurring in the first place though modeling of desired behaviors, opportunities to practice desired behaviors, and praise for displaying desired behaviors.

When teachers observe students engaging in post-conflict behaviors that indicate students lack appropriate reconciliation strategies (e.g., revenge-seeking, standing firm, or rejecting attempts to restore relationships), it would be beneficial to conduct a read-aloud using a book such as Zach Apologizes (Mulcahy & McKee, 2012a). This book teaches children how to reconcile after acting inappropriately towards others. We found that kindergarten students were willing to apologize to others after reading this book (see Table 1).

Many children benefit from not only explicit conflict-resolution strategies but also emotional coaching to explore their feelings and to develop socially appropriate emotional responses to social situations (Smith & Sandhu, 2004). Based on a comparison of aggressive and nonaggressive children, Priddis, Landy, Moroney, and Kane (2014) found that aggressive children were more likely to lack empathy; they scored significantly higher than nonaggressive children on measures of callous, uncaring, unemotional, and narcissistic behaviors. In addition to struggling with social skills and social competence, aggressive children were also more likely than nonaggressive children to exhibit symptoms of internalizing and affective problems, indicating problems with emotion regulation.

If teachers notice children displaying inconsiderate or hurtful behavior stemming from a lack of empathy for others, books that focus on perspective-taking would be beneficial. A book such as Stand in My Shoes (Sornson, 2013) would be an appropriate read-aloud selection to encourage students to consider the world from the perspective of someone else. Books that encourage perspective-taking also invoke critical literacy skills that prompt students to consider questions such as, "What view of the world is put forth by the ideas in this text? What views are not?" (Cervetti, Pardales, & Damico, 2001). Such challenging questions require children to consider the goals of other people. Research indicates that students' comprehension can be enhanced through taking other perspectives while reading (McTigue et al., 2015).

It has been found that experiencing intense emotional reactions and being unable to control one's emotions are the most significant risk factors for peer victimization (Schwartz, Proctor, & Chien, 2001). Therefore, teachers should pay close attention to students' ability to regulate their emotions. If they notice students exhibiting negative emotions and perceiving themselves as victims, it may be beneficial to conduct a read-aloud of the book, Zach Gets Frustrated (Mulcahy & McKee, 2012b; see Table 1). Teachers of very young students who struggle with managing their emotions may find it helpful to teach self-regulation strategies through a read-aloud of the book Calm Down Time (Verdick, 2010; see Table 1).


Research on social-emotional programs indicates numerous benefits for students. For example, Heydenberk and Heydenberk (2007) conducted a year-long bully prevention study in which kindergarten and first-grade students learned social skills and conflict-resolution strategies. Students shared their feelings in a group setting, which served to increase empathy for, and interest in, their classmates. They also provided examples of negative behaviors and alternative positive behaviors, which were displayed in the classroom as a daily reminder. It was found that students' prosocial behaviors improved after participating in the program and students were able to transfer their newly learned skills to situations outside the classroom.

In one of the few studies on an intervention designed to develop both social-emotional skills and literacy skills, Jones, Brown, and Lawrence Aber (2011) implemented the 4Rs Program: Reading, Writing, Respect, and Resolution with third grade students in nine intervention and nine control schools. High quality children's literature was used as a catalyst for teaching students how to effectively manage anger, listen, cooperate, and negotiate with others. The results of this study indicated that compared to students in control schools, students in intervention schools displayed increased social competence and conflict-resolution skills.

In another study of a program designed to address both social-emotional skills and academic skills, Blair and Raver (2014) conducted research on the kindergarten version of Tools of the Mind, which integrates activities to improve self-regulation and social-emotional development with instructional activities in literacy, mathematics, and science. In order to promote metacognitive strategies and reflective thinking, children met with the teacher weekly to review learning goals and reflect on their mistakes. In addition, intentional pretend play was used to develop students' text comprehension, language skills, and creativity. Findings from the study indicated that the program had a positive influence on children's executive functions, attention, and stress responses, indicating positive outcomes regarding students' self-regulation skills.

There are several other programs that incorporate literacy skills and social-emotional learning. For example, Zaner-Bloser's Language-and Literacy-Driven Social-Emotional Learning Program, for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, focuses on social skills and character traits needed for communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution in the 21st century workplace. The curriculum incorporates literacy goals, such as developing deep comprehension skills, learning to write for authentic purposes, and using oral language skills to resolve conflicts.

Another literacy-based social skills program is The Center for the Collaborative Classroom's Collaborative Literacy program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. High-quality authentic literature is incorporated with children's daily experiences to create a community of learners who support one another's reading and social development. Students read, write, and discuss texts in lessons that provide opportunities for students to work cooperatively and learn to respect different views.

Although integrated approaches to social-emotional and literacy skill development among kindergarten and elementary-aged students are promising, many of these programs require intensive professional development, training, and coaching for teachers (Jones et al., 2011). Read-alouds, however, involve little preparation and are routinely incorporated into classrooms for young children. Teachers may therefore find it preferable to conduct interactive read-alouds that address social-emotional learning when inappropriate behaviors are exhibited in the classroom. Such an approach will help to improve students' literacy skills as well as their social-emotional behaviors.

There are many high-quality children's books, including The Invisible Boy, How Full is Your Bucket? and The Energy Bus that are effective for helping children learn how to adopt positive attitudes, handle adversity, and interact with and treat others. Our experiences with students in kindergarten, first-, and third-grade classrooms indicate that children can learn essential skills related to managing their emotions and treating others with respect through participating in interactive read-alouds (see Table 1). In the following section, we provide guidelines for using books that address social-emotional learning in class read-alouds.


Fisher et al. (2004) identified seven essential components of effective read-alouds: (a) selecting books based on students' interests and developmental, emotional, and social levels; (b) previewing and practicing books; (c) establishing a clear purpose for the read-aloud; (d) modeling fluent reading; (e) being animated and reading with expression; (f) stopping periodically while reading to ask meaningful questions; and (g) making connections to independent reading and writing. In the following section, we provide examples of how each of these components can be addressed when conducting read-alouds to promote social-emotional learning.

Text Selection

Traditionally, teachers select books for read-alouds based on students' interests, but in the case of books used to address social-emotional learning, books should be chosen based on needs of students in the classroom. For example, if teachers feel students are being uncooperative and creating a negative classroom climate, they may choose a book such as How Full is Your Bucket? (Rath & Reckmeyer, 2009). The book teaches students the value of kindness and emphasizes how performing kind acts not only helps others, but promotes a positive internal mindset.

Narvaez's (2001) research on moral text comprehension indicates that background knowledge and previous experiences influence how readers make meaning from texts. Just as teachers attempt to match the reading levels of texts with students' reading levels, Narvaez proposes that in moral and social education programs, teachers should match the moral reasoning level of texts with students' moral reasoning capacity. If students are able to analyze situations from multiple vantage points, they would benefit from a read-aloud of The Invisible Boy (Ludwig & Barton, 2013) in which the main character's invisibility represents both how he feels and how he is treated by others.

Previewing and Practicing

Before conducting the read-aloud, teachers should preview the text and plan specific questions and discussion points by deciding where they want to focus students' attention. Sticky notes with guiding questions strategically placed on pages can help teachers remember where to pause for questioning as they read. Teachers should also focus on specific vocabulary that will contribute to students' social-emotional understanding. Young children often do not have the language skills or vocabulary knowledge to effectively communicate how they are feeling. Significantly, Jones et al. (2011) found that preschool students who learned social skills and expressive language had fewer behavior problems and conflicts with peers in later school years.

Teachers need to help students learn vocabulary that will contribute to their ability to express their emotions. With a book such as Zach Gets Frustrated (Mulcahy & McKee, 2012b), it would be beneficial to discuss vocabulary such as "frustrated" and "tension." When previewing the text, teachers can encourage students to share how they feel when they experience these emotions. The second author found that kindergarten students were able to identify situations that frustrated them, such as, "When my mom doesn't let me play outside," as well as strategies they could implement to calm themselves down when frustrated, such as, "Think about my dog."

Establishing a Purpose

Books should be selected with a specific purpose in mind and teachers need to convey this purpose to students. Before conducting the read-aloud, teachers may tell students to pay attention to characters' faces, the dialogue, illustrations, or a repetitive text pattern such as the slogan "No bullies allowed!" (The Energy Bus; Gordon & Scott, 2012). In addition, teachers may display an anchor chart in the classroom addressing the skill being taught to which they can direct students' attention. The Invisible Boy (Ludwig & Barton, 2013) provides a variety of opportunities for teachers to address the purpose of the story. For example, the illustrations work in conjunction with the text, progressing from black and white to color to correspond with changes in the main character's emotional state and how he is perceived by others.

Modeling Fluent Reading

Becoming familiar with the story is an essential step for any successful read-aloud. Teachers should practice the text before conducting a read-aloud to minimize their likelihood of making errors while reading. The more fluently the teacher reads the book, the more engaged students will be in the story as their concentration will not be disrupted by the teacher's mistakes. A book such as Calm Down Time (Verdick, 2010), which is written in a rhythmic style, lends itself to reading with a cadence that demonstrates fluent reading. Fluency can also be promoted by asking students to repeat key phrases in choral fashion, such as "One, two, three... I'm calm as can be. I'm taking care of me" (Calm Down Time; Verdick, 2010).

Animation and Expression

Teachers' use of animation and expression will help captivate students in the book. Changing voices to match different characters' expressions and using a tone that reflects the author's mood creates a dynamic read-aloud. Students are more likely to enjoy listening to their teachers read if teachers engage them through dramatic facial expressions, hand gestures, and movement. In the book, Stand in My Shoes (Sornson, 2013), there are numerous dialogue exchanges between characters, and using a variety of voices and inflections while reading will help to gain students' attention and enhance their comprehension of the story. In addition to the value of student engagement, is the element of dynamic teacher modeling. As teachers read aloud to students, children learn how story elements such as quotations, punctuation, and illustrations work to support the meaning of the text.

Discussing the Text

Strategic questions and discussion prompts before, during, and after the read-aloud must be clearly presented by the teacher. For books focusing on social-emotional learning, discussions should incorporate open-ended questions that emphasize characters' thoughts and feelings. McTigue et al. (2015) point out the importance of asking questions that prompt multiple interpretations to ensure that discussions go beyond simple retellings of the story. A combination of efferent and aesthetic questions during the read-aloud will contribute to students' comprehension of the story. Efferent questions help students understand information and details presented in the text and aesthetic questions help students engage with the text and make text-to-self connections (see Table 2 for examples of questions). The focus should be on students using text evidence, making text-to-self or text-to-text connections, and demonstrating clear understanding of ideas, particularly with regards to emotions (McTigue et al., 2015).

Independent Reading and Writing

Connecting writing activities to ideas presented in the read-aloud provides opportunities for students to process the story and enhances the lesson being taught. Teachers may provide students with a specific prompt related to the social-emotional area addressed that can be completed immediately following the read-aloud or later that day. To further extend the lesson, teachers can set up learning centers with related activities that focus on the central theme of the book. The example activity in the book Zach Apologizes (Mulcahy & McKee, 2012a), in which students complete a four-square apology organizer, is an independent activity that would be appropriate for a learning center. Additional activities may include writing sentences using new vocabulary and describing acceptable ways of responding in social situations.


Loneliness, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem have all been associated with peer victimization (Boulton & Underwood, 1992; Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Kochenderfer-Ladd & Wardrop, 2001). Without early intervention, young children who demonstrate adverse behaviors are likely to continue to exhibit conduct problems throughout adolescence and adulthood (Dodge, Greenberg, & Malone, 2008). Curriculum developers recognize the need for instruction in social-emotional development and have developed a variety of packaged programs to improve students' competencies. However, obtaining and implementing packaged programs involve finances, training, and time that may not be available to those in the school setting.

Interactive read-alouds combined with strategic questioning and enrichment activities provide opportunities for teachers to incorporate social-emotional learning into the regular school day. Tasimi and Young's (2016) findings that children can be motivated to do good by recalling times when they did good deeds in the past demonstrate the importance of purposeful discussions and questioning. When teachers are proactive rather than reactive in addressing children's social-emotional needs it will create a constructive classroom environment that promotes positive social-emotional behaviors and interactions between students.

Through interactive read-aloud experiences, young children can learn essential lifelong competencies related to being sensitive to the needs of others, becoming active problem-solvers, and seeing themselves as having control over their own life circumstances. Students' academic and social-emotional development are integrally linked; therefore, providing students with opportunities to simultaneously develop literacy skills and social-emotional skills increases students' chances of success in school and throughout adulthood.


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Shelby Britt

Laurens School District 56

Jessica Davis

Laurens School District 56

Julia Wilkins

Presbyterian College

Amy Bowlin

Greenville County Public Schools

* Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Julia Wilkins,
               Table 1
Book Descriptions and Classroom Implementation

Book               Content                          When to Use

Calm Down Time     Explores several strategies      When teachers
(Verdick, 2010)    children can use when they are   notice children
                   feeling sad, angry, or are       becoming
                   unable to express their          frustrated in the
                   emotions. Recommended            classroom.
                   strategies include taking a
                   break from the situation to
                   calm down, deep breathing,
                   and asking for help from
The Energy Bus     Provides students with           When teachers
(Gordon & Scott,   strategies for focusing on       notice children
2012)              positive situations in their     struggling with a
                   lives. Students learn slogans    challenge.
                   that help them develop
                   positive attitudes and deal
                   with a variety of challenging
                   central message is that
                   children should share their
                   positive energy and be kind to
How Full is Your   Outlines the importance of       When teachers
Bucket? (Rath &    treating others in a positive    observe students
Reckmeyer, 2009)   manner and helps children        expressing negative
                   understand ways in which they    emotions and
                   can demonstrate care toward      acting
                   others. The underlying theme     inconsiderately
                   is that people must have         towards others.
                   positive emotional energy
                   within themselves in order to
                   exhibit acts of kindness
                   towards others.
The Invisible Boy   Explores how children feel      When certain
(Ludwig &          when they are not included by    students are not
Barton, 2013)      others. Children see the         included in group
                   transformation the main          activities.
                   character experiences as he
                   forms friendships with peers,
                   and they learn the importance
                   of developing relationships
                   outside of their immediate
                   group of friends.
Stand in My Shoes  Teaches children about           When students are
(Sornson, 2013)    empathy by describing the        acting
                   value of paying attention to     inconsiderately or
                   other people's feelings and      appear oblivious to
                   expressing concern for their     the feelings of
                   emotions. The book also          others.
                   emphasizes the importance of
                   standing up for children who
                   are being treated unfairly.
Zach Apologizes    Outlines a four-square           When students fail
(Mulcahy &         apology model, which             to reconcile after a
McKee, 2012)       involves children identifying    conflict.
                   what they did that hurt
                   someone, how they think that
                   person felt, what they could do
                   differently next time, and how
                   they might make it up to the
Zach Gets          Provides children with           When teachers
Frustrated         suggestions for positive         notice children
(Mulcahy &         reframing to help them           focusing on
McKee, 2012)       employ an optimistic outlook     experiences that
                   when faced with negative         affect them in a
                   situations. Children are         negative way.
                   encouraged to develop a
                   mindset that helps them move
                   beyond perceiving themselves
                   as victims.

                                             Examples of
Book               Implementation            Student Responses

Calm Down Time     Teachers can prompt       Kindergarten students
(Verdick, 2010)    children to use one of    were able to provide a
                   the self-calming          variety of examples of
                   strategies described in    things they could do to
                   the book.                 calm themselves down,
                                             including: "tell the
                                             teacher you're upset,"
                                             "say nice things," and
                                             "get some peace and
The Energy Bus     Teachers can prompt       Third grade students
(Gordon & Scott,   students to adopt a       emphasized the
2012)              more positive mindset     importance of not being
                   toward themselves and     a bully and demonstrated
                   others.                   an understanding that, "if
                                             you don't treat people
                                             nice, they won't treat
                                             should "never let anyone
                                             bring you down."
How Full is Your   Teachers can              Kindergarten student
Bucket? (Rath &    encourage students to     stated that after she was
Reckmeyer, 2009)   demonstrate               mean to someone, she
                   thoughtful actions        felt "ashamed and
                   toward others and pay      ungrateful," indicating
                   attention to their own    that she was developing
                   state of mind.            appropriate emotions in
                                             response to her own
                                             negative behaviors.
The Invisible Boy  When engaged in           First grade students were
(Ludwig &          group activities,         able to empathize with
Barton, 2013)      teachers can prompt       main character who was
                   students to include       being ignored. They said
                   children who are not      they would be sad if they
                   part of their social      were him and expressed
                   circle.                   negative sentiments
                                             about the classmates
                                             who were ignoring him.
Stand in My Shoes  Teacher can encourage     First grade students were
(Sornson, 2013)    students to be attentive  able to give examples of
                   to how other people are   questions they would ask
                   feeling and to respond    to see how others were
                   appropriately by          feeling and identified
                   saying or doing           several people, such as
                   something considerate     parents, teachers, and
                   for them.                 friends, that they could
Zach Apologizes    Students can complete     Kindergarten student
(Mulcahy &         the four-square           who displayed frequent
McKee, 2012)       apology model and         anti-social behaviors was
                   identify appropriate      involved in a conflict
                   reconciliation            with another student.
                   behaviors.                Even though she claimed
                                             her aggressive behavior
                                             was an accident, she
                                             apologized to the victim,
                                             which she had
                                             previously been
                                             unwilling to do when
                                             engaged in conflicts.
Zach Gets          Teachers can              First grade students were
Frustrated         encourage students to     able to identify situations
(Mulcahy &         consider alternative      in which they got
McKee, 2012)       ways of viewing the       frustrated, such as during
                   situation.                math class, when
                                             students wouldn't share
                                             with them, and when
                                             siblings were mean to
                                             them. They were also
                                             able to describe
                                             strategies they could use
                                             to calm themselves down
                                             in negative situations,
                                             such as taking deep

              Table 2.
Read-Aloud Questions and Enrichment Activities

                   Social-Emotional     Before the Reading
Book               Skills Addressed     Questions

Calm Down Time     Strategies for       * What does it
(Verdick, 2010)    calming down         mean to be
                   when emotionally     calm?
                   triggered.           * What can you do
                                        to help yourself
                                        feel calm?
The Energy Bus     Overcoming           * Can you think of
(Gordon & Scott,   adversity and        a time when you
2012)              staying positive.    had a bad day?
                                        * What were some
                                        things that happened
                                        when you
                                        had a bad day?

How Full is Your   Developing a         * How do you feel
Bucket? (Rath &    positive outlook     when people say
Reckmeyer,         toward self and      mean things to
2009)              others.              you?
                                        * How do you feel
                                        when people say
                                        nice things to
The Invisible Boy  Feeling like you     * How would you
(Ludwig &          don't fit in /       feel if you were
Barton, 2013)      learning to include  being ignored?
                   others.              * Do you ever feel
                                        afraid to join in
                                        and play with
Stand in My        How to show          * What are some
Shoes (Sornson,    empathy.             different feelings
2013)                                   you know?
Zach Apologizes    How to reconcile     * What does it
(Mulcahy &         with others.         mean to apologize?
McKee, 2012)
                                        * Have you ever
                                        apologized to
Zach Gets          How to identify      * What does "frustrated"
Frustrated         triggers and         mean to
(Mulcahy &         manage frustration   you?
McKee, 2012)       through positive     * Name one thing * How did Zach
                   reframing.           that makes you

                   During the           After the Reading
Book               Reading Questions    Questions

Calm Down Time     * Give your body     * Which of the
(Verdick, 2010)    a squeeze. How       calm down
                   do you feel?         activities would
                   * Can you ask for    you try?
The Energy Bus     * What are some      * How can you
(Gordon & Scott,   ways we can put      show kindness
2012)              "fuel" in our        to others?
                   * How does Joy,
                   the bus driver,
                   help the children?
How Full is Your   * How did Felix      * What could you
Bucket? (Rath &    "dip" from his       do to fill other
Reckmeyer,         sister's bucket?     people's buckets?
2009)              * What are some
                   ways that            * What are some
                   Felix's bucket       ways you can fill
                   dripped?             your own
                   * What put drops     bucket?
                   back into Felix's
                   * What happened
                   when Felix's
                   bucket was full?
The Invisible Boy  * How is Brian       * When you want
(Ludwig &          different from       to play with
Barton, 2013)      the other children?  someone, what
                                        are some things
                   * What happened      you can do?
                   to help Brian        * How can you
                   feel included?       include other
                   * How does Brian     people in your
                   change through-      activities?
                   out story?
Stand in My        * What does it       * What are some
Shoes (Sornson,    mean to have         new feelings you
2013)              empathy?             have learned?
                   * How does empathy
                   help us connect
                   with other
Zach Apologizes    * Why does Zach      * How does apologizing
(Mulcahy &         think he's right?    help you
McKee, 2012)       (p. 2)               feel better?
                   * How does Zach
                   look after he
                   apologizes (p.
                   20) compared to
                   how he looked
                   earlier? (p. 2).
Zach Gets          * What was           * How can you
Frustrated         Zach's real          make yourself
(Mulcahy &         problem? (p. 2)      feel better when
McKee, 2012)       you are frustrated?  skills.
                   connect his kite
                   problem to           * What are some
                   another problem      good thoughts
                   he had experienced?  that help you
                                        when you are

Book               Activities

Calm Down Time     * Practice how to
(Verdick, 2010)    take deep
                   breaths, role
                   play going to
                   time out/cozy
The Energy Bus     * Draw a picture
(Gordon & Scott,   of a bullying
2012)              experience and a
                   positive vision
How Full is Your   * Create a class
Bucket? (Rath &    bucket for students
Reckmeyer,          to place
2009)              statements of
                   positive feelings
                   towards others.
The Invisible Boy  * Participate in
(Ludwig &          class bonding
Barton, 2013)      activity, e.g.,
                   expressing gratitude
                   for classmates,
                   positive statements
                   peers, or sharing
                   a favorite game
                   or activity.
Stand in My        * Teacher think-aloud
Shoes (Sornson,    of scenarios
2013)              involving
                   different feelings
                   that allow
                   students to share
                   personal connections.
Zach Apologizes    * Create a four
(Mulcahy &         square apology
McKee, 2012)       based on a
                   recent conflict.
Zach Gets          * Complete frustration
Frustrated         triangle.
(Mulcahy &         * Practice chill
McKee, 2012)
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Author:Britt, Shelby; Davis, Jessica; Wilkins, Julia; Bowlin, Amy
Publication:Journal of Character Education
Date:Jul 1, 2016

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