Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) in picture books









Once upon a time, stories were meant to teach children to stay away from wolfs, to come back home before the sunset, to warn them of the jungles, etc. Nowadays, living isolated from nature, children face different problems. Besides, our understanding of the importance of mental health and a healthy childhood is exponentially expanded. Those once-upon-a-time stories archive the human journey until today. For today and tomorrow, our children need other types of stories; stories that improve their social and emotional skills.

You may have heard from editors and agents that picture books with themes of Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) are high in demand. To be able to write picture books which such themes, we need to know what those skills mean in the first place.

I research to find out and learn. This blog post is the first part of a six-part series of blog posts on SEL in picture books (You will see why six parts!).

Definition of Social & Emotional Learning

Let’s start with the definition of SEL:

The educational method that aims to foster social and emotional skills within school curricula is called Social & Emotional Learning (SEL).

This definition isn’t very helpful. I wanted to know more and looked for resources that tell me more. The leading source of information on SEL is the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and here is the website.

CASEL has introduced a wheel called CASEL wheel which conceptualizes the components and layers of ESL (image below). On this link, you can see the CASEL Wheel. It is an interactive image and when you click a layer or a section, a text will show up, telling you about that element.




What we need for picture books is learning about the CASEL 5.  By studying these components you will see some topics have a high number of published picture books, while some are barely touched. 

Five components of SEL (CASEL 5)

According to the CASEL 5, SEL has five main components:

  1. Self-awareness: The skill of having knowledge of one’s own emotions and developing a positive self-concept.
  2. Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s own emotions and monitor one’s own behaviors. This also pertains to intrinsic motivation and setting personal goals.
  3. Social awareness: The ability to have awareness of the emotions and social situations of other people.
  4. Relationship skills: The skill to foster relationships and communicate within them.
  5. Responsible decision-making: The ability to solve problems and hold one’s self accountable.


In the next following five blog posts of this series, I will look at each component and some examples of published picture books on each topic—Now you know why this series consists of six blog posts. The next blog post is about picture books published on the first component: self-awareness.

I write blog posts about the craft of writing picture books regularly. The list of the previous posts is on the PictureBookPedia. Also, I publish a quarterly newsletter that includes links to my recent blog posts.

Posted in PictureBookPedia.

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