SEL is more than just a buzzword. It's an incredibly helpful concept that can help you support your students.
Hear us out.
|They can't Bloom until we Maslow.|
And guess what? Reading just happens to be your best ally for achieving SEL greatness.
The CRL can sometimes been prone to hyperbole, but for real: reading IS social emotional learning.
There are a few different SEL models out there, but the one we use to ground our practice is Core SEL Competencies as Identified by the Collaboration for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
CASEL defines five different competencies: Self Awareness, Self Management, Responsible Decision Making, Relationship Skills, and Social Awareness.
Buckle up as we take you through each competency and highlight how books and reading can make you an SEL superstar.
CASEL defines Self Awareness as "The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior....to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a 'growth mindset.'”
Often, the first step in improving a skill in oneself is observing that skill in another. How do kids start to learn a new skateboarding trick? By watching others. LOTS of slow motion YouTube. Reading is like slow motion YouTube for self awareness. Students can read books about kids who are lacking in self awareness, like A Monster Calls by Patrick Hess. Or they can read books about kids who have a high level of self awareness, like The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. Either way, they're exposed to the concept safely between the pages of a book.
|Protagonist Ada struggles |
with Self Management
CASEL defines Self Management as "The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals."
As an AP tasked with managing student discipline, Mary often says that this competency sums up her entire job. In fact, Self Management pretty much sums up middle school! Books can be a hugely helpful starting point for difficult conversations. You can ask a student, "Why do you think Ada was so upset by having to go to the bomb shelter? Why did getting wrapped in a blanket help her? Have you ever felt that way? What helps you?" Seeing a character in a book have reactions and emotions similar to their own is incredibly validating for children. Some of our favorites are The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin and Twerp by Mark Goldblatt.
Responsible Decision Making
"The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others."
|Will he or won't he?|
"The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed."
|Gorgeous debut novel|
perfect for Relationship Skills
We tell our students, "everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be kind." It's a nice thought, but it's hard for adolescent brains to conceptualize. Books can give students insight into what their peers might face when they go home. Books teach empathy. Mary has used book characters to help her own children navigate complicated social situations. When 11 year-old Anna was frustrated by a peer, Mary was able to relate his behavior to the behavior of a book character (Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine), and Anna instantly understood. Though they never became friends, Anna was able to be less judgmental and more patient. We love Brigid Kemmerer's Letters to the Lost for this very reason. Both main characters have secrets that they're keeping, and readers will find themselves yelling, "Just talk to each other!" If we can get kids to see the benefits of open and honest communication, we've done our jobs.
"The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports."
So. Many. Books. If you have a social issue in your classroom or in your school, there's a book for that. If you want to educate your students about an issue, there's a book for that. Too many to name, but let's see what we can give you. (The CRL are generally not list people as new books come out so quickly that keeping lists updated is difficult, but here's a short one to get you started.)
Our top choice for race relations - middle grades - Blended by Sharon Draper.
Our top choice for race relations - older grades - Dear Martin by Nic Stone.
Our top choice for gender identity - middle grades - Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Our top choice for gender identity - older grades - The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
Our top choices for disability awareness - middle grades - Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Our top choice for disability awareness - older grades - Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
|For Social Awareness, |
you can't go wrong
with Ellen Hopkins
Pretty much anything else: sex trafficking, abusive relationships, mental health, religion - you can't go wrong with Ellen Hopkins. She writes in verse. Her books are super thick but because they read fast, kids can fly through and feel successful as readers. Check her out.
To Sum Up
Books can assist in developing self awareness, help initiate difficult conversations, increase a reader's capacity for empathy, serve as common ground, develop the ability to take alternative perspectives, aid as a tool for reflection, and connect generations.
If you're a literacy enthusiast and you're worried about how you're going to meet SEL goals, worry no more. You have the very best tools -good books - right at your fingertips!