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Develop Social Emotional Learning (SEL) with Authentic Literature

February is the month when we honor our most cherished friendships and relationships. As such, it’s an opportune time to talk about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom. Authentic literature can help you seamlessly integrate important SEL content into your lessons. Here are just a few examples of books that are great for supporting SEL in your classroom:


  1. Building resilience

Mi vida feliz is a perfect book for grades K–3 that highlights the little moments that contribute to our everyday happiness. Through author Rose Lagercrantz’s cheerful protagonist, Dani, readers learn the importance of remembering these happy times when facing life’s challenges—a key component of resilience. Thankfully, being resilient is a characteristic kids can develop, and there’s no better way to introduce them to this concept than with engaging stories they can relate to.


  1. Doing what’s right

It’s not easy to be brave and do what’s right in the face of opposition. Readers in grades 3–5 can tackle this issue while enjoying Los fantasmas tienen buena letra by award-winning author María Fernanda Heredia. The story centers around nine-year-old Manuela and her two friends, Elvira and Javier. Manuela must find the courage to help Elvira, who is being bullied. Discussing the poignant topic of bullying through literature provides students with a safe space to explore their feelings and imagine how they would handle a similar situation.


  1. Dealing with loss

The classic Puente a Teribitia, an ALA Notable Children’s Book, has been a beloved story since its debut more than thirty years ago. This middle grade reader is a must-have for its themes of friendship and family and for tackling the tough subjects of tragedy and grief. Loss is painful and can be confusing for children, but learning how to cope with loss, as the protagonist Jess does, helps reassure them that there is a path forward after facing heartbreak.


  1. Resolving conflicts

Author Flor Aguilera hooks readers with first sentences from famous novels to begin the twenty-two stories collected in El día que explotó la abuela. She found inspiration in titles such as Rayuela, David Copperfield, El perfume, and La silla de plata. More importantly, one of the main themes touched on in these stories is conflict resolution. This useful skill is often overlooked but immensely valuable to students in grades 6–12 who are becoming more independent. Use these stories as a springboard for discussing conflicts of different shapes and sizes and brainstorm possible solutions for dealing with them.


By Kelli Drummer-Avendano

Also read: Incorporating Social & Emotional Learning: A Bridge to Success in the World Language Classroom

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