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Literature Studies and SEL

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Discussions around shared reading

Read alouds and literature studies offer lots of opportunities for social-emotional learning and growth. When you engage children in discussions and writing around shared books, you are encouraging your students to use their SEL skills in many ways. Here are some examples of topics to explore during or after reading:

Character analysis

Ask your students to think about the characters in a story and their motivations, feelings, and actions. This can help kids to develop empathy and understanding for others.


Have your students put themselves in the shoes of another character and imagine how they might feel or think in a given situation. This can help kids to develop a better understanding of different perspectives and to be more tolerant of others. This article documents an intervention in a diverse third grade classroom which centers on teaching story comprehension through character perspective-taking: Beyond the Story Map.


Ask your students to think about how the characters in a story wrestled with making decisions. That can lead to discussions with kids about learning to make good choices.

Moral reasoning

Initiate a conversation about the “right vs. wrong” implications of the choices that the characters have made. This can help students to develop their own moral compass and to learn how to make ethical decisions.

Identifying emotions

Help your students learn how to recognize and understand the emotions of characters in through the dialogue and narrative language. In a picture book, the images can offer clues — look closely at the characters’ facial expressions and body language. Studying the characters’ relationships and moods can help kids develop emotional intelligence and understand how their own emotions affect their interactions with others.

Making connections

Encourage students to connect the text to their own experiences, knowledge, and values. Students can do this by thinking about how the text reminds them of something that has happened to them, something they have heard or read, or something they believe in. This strategy can help students develop self-awareness and understanding of others.


During reading you can ask your students to identify problems or obstacles that the characters are facing. Ask kids: what is the character’s goal? What possible solutions are there? This strategy can help students develop critical thinking skills and learn how to solve problems in their own lives.

Renée Watson: Stories bring us together

SEL booklists

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