Picture Books about Relationship Skills for the Classroom

Picture Books about Relationship Skills for the Classroom

Teaching social skills gives your students crucial lifelong strategies to use. These relationship skills picture books promote establishing and maintaining healthy and diverse relationships.

Picture Books about Relationship Skills for the Classroom

Why Read Picture Books about Relationship Skills?

Relationship skills involve establishing and maintaining healthy and diverse relationships. Not a simple task, and it takes time for children to learn and develop. Positive social characteristics exhibit in different ways depending on age and experiences.

These picture books about relationship skills illustrate characters who share, cooperate and accept different perspectives. They offer an opportunity for discussions on working towards positive and healthy relationships.

The picture books show characters who: 

  • Establish and maintain positive and diverse relationships.
  • Communicate with and listen attentively to others.
  • Recognise inappropriate social pressure and resist getting involved in negative behaviours.
  • Cooperate with others in teamwork, including those who are not friends.
  • Negotiate and resolve conflict constructively.
  • Seek and offer help when needed.

Relationship Skills and Social and Emotional Learning

Relationship skills is one of the five components of social and emotional learning (SEL). The other components are self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and social awareness.

“Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.” CASEL

Relationship Skills and Social Skills

There are many reasons why children may struggle with their social skills. They may be loners, get caught up in dramas, struggle to compromise, or are immature or socially awkward. 

On the other hand, children with good social skills understand how their behaviour and emotions affect their interactions. They use empathy to recognise the mood, helping them build strong, healthy relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.

Benefits of Positive Relationship Skills

There are many reasons for promoting relationship skills in your classroom. Key benefits include:

  • Improved self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Confidence to ask and offer help
  • Making, keeping and dealing with friendships positively
  • Increased positive interactions in the classroom and school environment
  • Reduced conflicts in and out of school
  • Improved interaction with adults
  • Increased positive mood and behaviour
  • Having strategies to deal with difficult situations

Questions to Use With Picture Books about Relationship Skills

  • What characteristics did [character] have that made them a good friend?
  • What characteristics was [character] looking for in a friend?
  • Why was it important that [character] cooperated with [character]? 
  • Do you think [character] could accomplish their task by themselves?
  • What was the relationship between [character] and [character]?
  • How could [character] put aside their feelings towards [character] to work together? 
  • Why is it sometimes hard to cooperate??
  • In what ways did [character] depend on others?
  • How can positive relationships with others help us overcome difficult situations?
  • What characteristics make up a good/healthy/positive relationship?
  • What are the benefits of a good/healthy/positive relationship?
  • How can your actions affect a relationship with others?
  • How does (honesty, communication, empathy, etc.) affect relationships with others?

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Picture Books about Relationship Skills

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Send a message to your students that everyone is welcome, no matter their race, religion, gender, culture or background.

Use on the first day of school to discuss inclusion, kindness, empathyacceptance and community.

Change Sings: A Children's Anthem by Amanda Gorman

A young girl bands together with a group of children to influence change in their community. They realise they have the power to change the world for the better, big and small, with their words and actions and inspire others to do the same.

This first-person narrative poetry book promotes conversations about a sense of community, change, unity, hope, cooperation, kindness, activism and a growth mindset.

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems

Over the course of three seasons, City Dog and Country Frog become friends. One Winter City Dog returns to the countryside to find Frog is no longer there. Dog finds a new friend for his visits to the country, but Frog will not be forgotten.

Promotes the passing of seasons, relationship skills and wellbeing.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin considers the difficulty of entering a room where you don’t know anyone. In these situations, we are “an only” until we share our personal stories. Woodson reminds us that we are all outsiders and it takes courage to be ourselves.

Read to promote discussions on empathy, identity, growth mindset, open-mindedness, relationship skills, self-awareness and self-esteem.

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak

Juno communicates with his Korean grandmother through a series of drawings. She sends back letters along with photos and toys so Juno understands their meaning.

Reinforces themes of communication, letter writing and relationship skills.

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina

Best friends, Evelyn and Daniela, have to say goodbye when Evelyn’s family has to move away. As her house is packed up, the two girls play with each other in their favourite places. They know they will always be best friends, no matter where they live.

Promotes themes of resilience, adaptability, and relationship skills.

First Come the Zebra by Lynn Fulton

Two boys from rival Kenyan tribes realise they have more in common than they thought when they work together to save a baby.

Reinforces themes of self-awareness, relationship skills, and social awareness.

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca

No one expected Temple Grandin to be able to talk after being diagnosed with autism. But her ability as a visual thinker helped her connect with animals and invent groundbreaking improvements for the farming industry.

This biography promotes women in science, problem-solving, creative thinking and inquiry.

Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems

Today is Piggie’s favourite day and she can’t wait to tell Gerald it is HAPPY PIG DAY! When Piggie’s pig friends arrive Gerald leaves because he has a trunk, big ears and is grey. When Piggie and her friends realise Gerald doesn’t feel part of the celebration they explain “Happy Pig Day is for anyone who loves pigs!”

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox

Harriet has a series of naughty mishaps that tests her mother’s patience. But Harriet and her mum know that they love each other no matter what.

Promotes forgiveness, self-management and manners.

The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster

Everything happens outside Nanna & Poppy’s Hello, Goodbye Window in the kitchen. This window is magical for a young girl when she visits her grandparents. 

Promotes family relationships, perspectives and a sense of belonging.

Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

Musicians Herman and Rosie were both lonely. Herman hears Rosie singing from the street, and Rosie hears Herman playing the Oboe from the building next door. One day Rosie follows the music until they meet, and a new friendship begins.

A Home for Gully by Jo Clegg

A city sweeper cleans away Gully’s home every morning. Fetch the dog, and his fleas, help Gully find a new home and meet new friends.

Promotes discussions on resilience, perseverance, homelessness and relationship skills.

The Hueys in It Wasn't Mel by Oliver Jeffers

A city sweeper cleans away Gully’s home every morning. Fetch the dog, and his fleas, help Gully find a new home and meet new friends. Promotes discussions on resilience, perseverance, homelessness and relationship skills.

It’s Not Fair by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Different children experience ‘it’s not fair’ dilemmas, perceiving someone around them getting something more or better than what they have.

I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

After a yellow creature eats his friends, he sets off on a journey to find a new companion. At last, he comes across a monster who will be his friend. However, not all is well. The new monster is all alone on the last page, having just eaten his new friend.

Promotes themes of cause and effect, friendship and loneliness.

The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends by Brittany R. Jacobs

When a Kraken struggles to make new friends a great white shark gives him rules to help. Will they help this bad-tempered monster of the sea find a new friend?

Promotes courage, problem-solving, and relationship skills.

Let Me Finish! by Minh Lê

A young boy looks forward to reading his book but gets frustrated when noisy animals ruin the end of the story. What the boy doesn’t realise is they are warning him. Will it be too late?

A Letter to Amyl by Ezra Jack Keats

Peter writes a letter to Amy inviting her to his party. He wonders what his friends will think of him inviting a girl.

Reinforces the themes of communication, relationship skills, friendship and letter writing.

Lost and Found Cat by Doug Kuntz

An Iraqi family fleeing their home carries their cat, Kunkus. The frightened cat escapes on a boat to Greece, leaving the family brokenhearted. When aid workers in Greece find the cat, they put out a worldwide appeal to find its family. This true story has a happy ending.

Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival

Meesha finds it hard to make friends because she struggles to read and respond to social cues. It takes an overwhelming situation for her to realise her special skills can help her make friends. 

Promotes self-esteem, relationship skills, and mental and emotional wellbeing. 

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald

Cartwheel’s new home is an immigration camp where she struggles to settle. With the help of a new friend, she makes a smooth transition and is no longer lonely

Reinforces themes of acceptance and belonging.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Descriptive language inspires the reader’s imagination when a little girl and her father go owling on a winter night.

Promotes love, companionship and patience.

The Pond by Nicola Davies

A young boy describes the loss of his father and how family members experience grief in different ways. They try to cope by rebuilding the pond he created when he was alive.

Reinforces themes of acceptance, bereavement, relationship skills and self-management.

The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Spending time with his grandmother is not how Nicky wants to spend his summer. She expects him to do boring chores, especially fishing. While trying to catch fish for dinner, a raft floats towards him. Adventures on the raft help Nicky become closer to his grandmother and appreciate his talent for art.

Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang

During China’s Cultural Revolution, Tai Shan was separated from his father after being arrested. They find a creative way of greeting each other by flying kites every day until his father is freed. Promotes relationship skills, hope, resilience and fears.

Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler

Everyone follows Johan's rules of the playground, all except Lennox. She wants to become the ruler of the playground. As playground politics and demanding behaviour increases, they lose all their friends. On reflection, they realise that they need to change their behaviour, and they come up with a plan to apologise.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

Zookeeper Amos McGee always found time to visit his good friends in unique and compassionate ways. One day, Amos wakes up with a cold and can’t make it to work. His friends, the tortoise, penguin and owl, return his kindness by visiting him.

The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley

Joe's mum tells him the new neighbours are asylum seekers, but he mishears this as ‘silence seekers'. In an act of kindness, Joe helps his new neighbour find a quiet place to be, and a new bond grows despite the language barrier.

Reinforces themes of immigration, thoughtfulness, social awareness and persistence.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

Stick and Stone become best friends when Stick rescues stone. What will happen when the situation is reversed?

Promotes themes of bullying, kindness, loneliness, overcoming adversity and relationship skills.

Stina by Lani Yamamoto

Translated from Icelandic. Stína lives in Iceland but does not like the cold. She loves being at home and is inventive in her ways to keep warm. She curiously watches children playing in the snow and wonders how they deal with the coldness of the snow. Stina soon finds out and makes new friends in the process.

Reinforces themes of courage, friendship, ingenuity, creativity and isolation.

The Visitor by Antje Damm

One day a blue paper aeroplane flies through Elsie's window. This event leads to a knock at the door, which she opens to a boy who asks for his plane. An unexpected friendship develops and brings colour and light to Elsie’s lonely life.

Read to discuss overcoming fears, cause & effect, relationship skills and risk-taking.

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne

Four different characters retell the events of a visit to a local park from their own perspectives. Check out the illustrations carefully, as they are full of meaning.

Promotes different perspectives, relationship skills, and asking questions.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Penelope Rex's first day of school doesn't quite go as planned when she eats her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the other children are scared of her. She finally learns a lesson that helps her understand how her classmates feel.

Promotes empathy, self-management and making friends.

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Two turtles use their integrity and willpower when they find a hat in the middle of the desert. The tension and humour build in three parts, concluding with a spectacular ending.

Promotes perspectives, friendships and responsible decision-making.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

A boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next to an old people’s home. His favourite resident is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper. When Wilfrid finds out she has lost her memory, Wilfrid goes on a journey to discover what memories are so he can help Miss Nancy find hers.

Promotes a sense of community, friendship, compassion and different perspectives.

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

You Hold Me Up illustrates the love and respect between intergeneration First Nations communities in Canada.

Use to discuss relationship skills, respect, a sense of community, empathy and resilience.

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What Next?

Teaching relationship skills take time, but it is worth it. Harmonious friendships take practice, and conflicts are common occurrences among children. Child Mind Institute has information about ‘Friends and Socializing’, which you can pass on to parents.

What picture books about social skills do you use? Let me know how you support your student’s relationship skills in the comments below.

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Picture Books about Relationship Skills for the Classroom

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