Why Literature is a Great Tool for Social Emotional Learning

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We continue to be asked which social emotional learning (SEL) program is best for children and the answer is there isn’t one. We need to be begin with mindfulness and modeling. SEL has to be integrated into ours and our children’s lives. In a time where few of us can think of one more thing to do, be kind to yourself and begin with small steps. It can begin with literature.

We all have been told reading even to our youngest children builds a love of books, grows vocabulary, language and reading skills. But it can also teach empathy, relationship skills, problem solving, diversity, and both self and social awareness.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop shared these important words:

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. 

Sharing literature with our children causes us to pause and be present. Stories help us learn more about ourselves and others as we look through windows, into mirrors and enter through doors of all sorts of experiences and opportunities.

How to get started:

  1. Find time to pause, sit, and read together daily.
  2. Be sure to choose books showing diversity, to broaden your child’s world and experiences.
  3. Begin by looking at the title and cover, what do we think the book is about? Who are the characters?
  4. Pause and talk about how and why your child is feeling throughout the book. Talk about events in the story may create a change in emotions, allowing for self-awareness.
  5. Talk about the characters’ feelings and interactions. Do not be afraid to share honestly your experiences or lack of. Talking about what we are feeling for the character allows us to look out the window and grow empathy and social awareness.
  6. Following the story, reflect on reactions and responses of the characters discussing problem-solving, building relationships and choices. This is a great time to ask, “What would you do?”

Before long, you will see the fruits of your parenting labor, as your child shares with you a story about what happened during their day, perhaps through multiple perspectives. By taking this small step, you will created time to sit quietly with your child and fully be aware of the person they are becoming.

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