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Books to teach Social Emotional Learning

empathy Gratitude Ingenuity optimism persistence social emotional learning

Our children are growing up in a markedly different word from our childhood. They are exposed to shifting standards of ethics and morality in the world around them.  Still, home is the place where parents strive to teach their good values and books provide valuable ways in which to spark curiosity, empathy, bravery and thoughtfulness. 

Here are some South Asian books that promote social emotional learning through universal values. 


OPTIMISM: For children to have a positive outlook on life and see their problems in the light of what is possible is not only a life skill but can inspire hope in the bleakest of times. 

Malala’s Magic Pencil: From the mouth of babes: Malala Yousafzai's personal account of her journey from a carefree childhood to standing up for what she believed in. As a young girl, she wished for a magic pencil to right all the wrongs she saw around her. And continues to do so. 

A Bhil Story: When faced with drought, the Bhil village folk use their traditional wisdom to guide them to a solution.This story on the need for water conservation follows the villagers in what leads to a happy ending! 

INGENUITY: Learning the skill to solve problems calls for out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and a knack for problem solving. These books have it all: 

Pickle ManiaOne determined girl ready to fight the supremacy of spicy pickles! See how she tackles the problem of wanting your pickle and eating it too. Fair warning: it might lead to some culinary explorations! 

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: See how Iqbal uses an old broken umbrella and some tin foil to good use! Inspired by trying to change his environment, he develops something that can help combat pollution. 

PERSISTENCE: If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again. Despite difficulties and tough situations, these protagonists don't let hard knocks bowl them over. 

 Always Anjali: Disappoinment over not finding a license plate for her bike in her name, Anjali takes matters into her own hands. This heart warming story leads her to find a new meaning and strength in her name and identity.  

Bhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked WhyBabasaheb Ambedkar was born into a low-caste  family in a rigid society but his status and experiences informed his life choices. This book provides a biographical account of his life with the hopes of igniting young minds and bringing discussions on race and discrimination to the fore. 

EMPATHY: The ability to be in another person's shoes goes a long way to understand and share the feelings of others. 

Four Feet, Two Sandals: A serious yet hopeful story about two girls living in a refugee camp who each find one of the pair of sandals among the used clothing pile. They decide to share rather than fight over the sandals and this leads to a lifelong friendship. The book offers numerous opportunities for discussion on choices a child can make to help themselves and others.

Room in your Heart This heartwarming story is based on the Bhutanese tradition of hospitality. An old lady accommodates an ever increasing number of people in her home as they are stranded, despite lack of space. Sometimes it's not the size of the home that matters. 

GRATITUDE: To be able to acknowledge kindness with thanks is an important social emotional skill for kids (and adults!) to learn and spread into the world. These books do just that:

Bucket of Blessings: A monkey tries to help the dying forest by fetching water from the pond. The bucket has a hole and he ends up losing the water along the way. However, the water along the way springs a surprise and offers many blessings! 

To Each her Own: A fisher woman has to spend the night at her friend's the garderner's house. Both have a hard time being together but in the end they learn to appreciate each other's quirks! 


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