Saturday, July 25, 2015

Getting Ready for Back to School: Amazing Children's Books that Teach Social Skills

Two years ago, I wrote one of my first blog posts about some of the books that I like to read to my students during the first week of school. Since then, I've added a few more to my collection and I wanted to take this opportunity to link up with Primary Polka Dots and share them with you. I hope you'll add some of these great books to your read-aloud collection!

1. This first book is great for getting the school year off to a good start:

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is an absolutely wonderful book for teaching kids to understand how their actions affect other people. They find out that everyone carries an "invisible bucket" that holds their feelings about themselves. Students learn that people who fill buckets are those that show kindness and help others. People who are bucket dippers say and do mean things, act out of negative emotions, and hurt others. We do a lot of work during the first week that relates to this book. This is the anchor chart we created last year to think about ways to fill or dip into someone's bucket.

It really helps young children to use this language throughout the year.  I found whenever we started having some difficulties with getting along, revisiting the book and our chart really helped.

2. This next book generated discussions about respecting individual differences.

In The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Lily and Salma are best friends until an argument over what each of them eats for lunch causes hurt feelings and escalates into food fight. While my students laughed about the idea of throwing food in the cafeteria - don't worry, we had a talk about that, too! - they also understood the book's main idea: friendship can and should overcome any differences.  We talked about how friends can disagree or like different things, but still remain friends. This was one of the favorite picks in our classroom library after I read it.

3. This next book also became one of my class favorites and gave me a lot of bang for my teaching buck, too!  I used it for writing mini-lessons, in an inference lesson, in a lesson about wants vs. needs, and to teach about generosity.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts tells the story of a little boy who lives with his grandmother. He really wants a pair of cool shoes like other kids in his class, but his grandmother cannot afford them. His quest to get "those shoes" is both amusing and poignant. His act of generosity at the end of the book was touching.  Many of my students could definitely relate to the boy in the book and we had some lovely discussions about why giving can feel better than getting. 

4. Finally, this book is an amazing story about how acts of kindness, of the lack of them, can affect others.  I used it to start discussions about empathy and compassion. It's a great book for discussing bullying behaviors, as well.

We actually read Jacqueline Woodson's Each Kindness about mid-year. My students were more sophisticated readers by then and could make inferences throughout the text.  Behavior sometimes starts to slide about then and it was good to revisit the importance of showing kindness to others. I will warn you that many of my students were disturbed by the lack of a happy ending.  However, that actually drove home the point that sometimes we don't get the opportunity to make up for hurtful behaviors. We talked a lot about how both girls in the story felt and why they acted the way they did.

I'm looking forward to reading these books to my students this year. I also would love to hear about what books you read with your students.  Share in the comments or by linking up with Primary Polka Dots.

Until next time,


  1. Each Kindness is one of my very favorites. It teaches such a great lesson.
    Where the Wild Things Read

  2. I always read the Bucket Filler Book, too. I'm intrigued by Sandwich Swap. It really surprised me one year when my first graders thought friends had to have the same favorite song.
    Not very fancy in 1st