Picture Books about Social Awareness and Perspective-Taking
These picture books about social awareness illustrate the importance of having positive and diverse relationships with empathy, perspective, an open mind and respect.
Social and Emotional Learning: Social Awareness
Social awareness is one of five social and emotional learning components. The other components are self-awareness, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and self-management.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) describes social awareness as “the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.”
Social awareness helps children cope in new situations and increases their well-being. It allows them to recognise how their emotions and behaviour influence their interactions, recognise the mood of others and consider different perspectives. Benefits of being socially aware include increased:
- Self-reflection of actions and goals.
- Empathy through perspective-taking.
- Responsibility for personal actions and consequences.
- Self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Academic and recreational achievements.
- Use of strategies to avoid or negotiate negative situations or behaviour.
Why Read Picture Books about Social Awareness?
Picture books about social awareness illustrate different examples of how characters deal with dilemmas in empathic ways and focus on respecting and considering the perspectives of others. In these picture books about social awareness, you will see characters:
- Showing respect for others.
- Maintaining relationships by using appropriate strategies to deal with unexpected situations.
- Taking on board and empathising with the perspectives of others from diverse backgrounds.
- Understanding the views of others will influence social interactions.
- Analysing social situations to recognise the emotions of others.
- Understanding how their mood and behaviour affect social interactions.
- Thriving within a community, experiencing acceptance and support.
Questions to use with Picture Books about Social Awareness
- When [character] had difficulties, how did they overcome this? What did they learn?
- [Character] didn't handle the situation very well. What could they have done differently?
- [Character] went through a lot of changes in the book. How well did they adapt to these changes? Could they have done anything differently?
- Why was it important that [character] listened to those around them before taking action?
- Why was it important that [character] reflected on their actions?
- How would the story have changed if [character] had/had not controlled their emotions?
- Was [character] willing to change their mind as the events progressed? Why or why not?
- How would it have helped [character] if s/he was more open-minded?
- Why was it essential that [character] was open-minded?
- Did [character] think about how their actions affected other characters?
- How could [character] have understood the feelings of [character] more sympathetically?
- How could [character & character] have dealt with their differences in a better way?
- Could [character] have used different strategies to deal with their situation?
- Did [character] take on board the opinions of others? Would it have made a difference?
- How would showing empathy have helped [character]?
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Picture Books about Social Awareness and Perspective-Taking
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, empathy, acceptance and community.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
I am Enough follows a girl as she makes positive affirmations for those who lack self-esteem and self-acceptance.
This book celebrates children for who they are and reinforces themes of acceptance, self-esteem and poetry.
I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu by Refiloe Moahloli
In southern Africa, there is a belief called ubuntu. It is the idea that we are all interconnected, and these connections are what give us purpose. Showing kindness to others is showing kindness to ourselves; harming others hurts ourselves.
Promotes discussions on kindness, empathy, community, interconnectedness, compassion, and unity.
The Bad Seed by Jory John
When a “bad seed' overhears negative comments, he decides to change his ways. He doesn’t change his behaviour overnight but takes it one day at a time.
Promotes a growth mindset, self-management, self-awareness and social awareness.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
Tanisha's classmate wants to help her feel better when she spills grape juice down her new dress. But what does it actually mean to be kind? Be Kind explores the different actions, big and small, that can make a difference, particularly to a friend.
Reinforces themes of empathy, relationship skills, thoughtfulness and kindness.
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.
The Day Saida Arrived by Susana Gómez Redondo
A girl befriends a new girl, Saida, who she thinks has lost her words because of her silence. She learns Saida speaks Arabic and has moved from her home in Morocco. They share their languages and learn about each other's culture which helps Saida feel welcome in her new home.
Use this translated book to discuss immigration, communication, open-mindedness, empathy, and respect.
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.
Don't Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller
Aria gets assertive when people touch her hair wherever she goes. Help children understand the need to ask permission and not cross personal boundaries.
Use to discuss respect, confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Chloe and her friends have been excluding the new girl Maya. When her teacher does a lesson on kindness Chloe reflects on her behaviour and regrets “each kindness I had never shown.”
Promotes relationship skills, inclusion, kindness and reflection.
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
After a young clown bounces from a train, a reluctant farmer saves him. The grumpy, lonely farmer cleans off the happy clown’s makeup to reveal a scared child. Their growing friendship is interrupted as the train reappears and the clown is returned to his family.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
In a Peshawar refugee camp, both Lina and Feroza find a matching sandal. They build a friendship and share the sandals, wearing them on alternate days. Lina and her mother are chosen to emigrate to America and gives the sandal to Feroza. But Feroza hands it back, telling Lina they will share the sandals again one day.
Promotes a sense of belonging, compassion, friendship and social awareness.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Brian struggles to make himself stand out. When he befriends a new student from Korea, she helps him grow in confidence and feel less invisible.
Promotes themes of loneliness, kindness and relationship skills.
Joy by Corrinne Averiss
Fern decides to bring joy back to her Nanna’s life. She attempts to capture the joy she finds in her neighbourhood, but Fern learns that it is herself that brings joy to her Nanna.
Reinforces themes of empathy, love, thoughtfulness and kindness.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
A grumpy CJ and his nana ride a city bus full of wonderful characters. He wonders aloud why he doesn’t have the things his friends do and why they have to volunteer at the soup kitchen every week. His nana’s straightforward and positive responses help CJ see and appreciate what he has and what he can give.
Read to promote discussions on community, poverty, volunteering, kindness, and optimism.
Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou is a poem about bravery and confronting our fears and finding the courage within. Told from a child’s perspective. Use to teach how words and art tell a story, fears, confronting challenges and self-management.
Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier
Told from Maia’s perspective, the reader explores her special relationship with her grandmother. After her grandmother falls from a stoke, the adults around Maia sugarcoat the situation to protect her. Maia tells us how she copes with the changes as her grandmother’s health declines.
Use this translated book to discuss intergenerational relationships, illness, compassion, empathy and social awareness.
Masai and I by Virginia Kroll
At school, Linda learns about the Masai people who live in East Africa. She wonders what her life would be like if she were a Masai. “Would I live in an apartment building the way I do now? Would I have a pet hamster of a new pair of sneakers? What would my family be like if I were Masai?”
Use to promote making connections, perspectives, empathy, and open-mindedness.
Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy
Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California. A mural artist inspires Mira to transform her grey city into colour. She, in turn, inspired the community to add their voice to the mural.
Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña
Milo watches people from a train and sketches the lives he imagines they live. Nervous and excited, he visits his mother in prison, where he shows her sketches of their family eating ice cream outside their home.
Use in the classroom to discuss bias, judgement, observation, curiosity, and visualising.
Mirror by Jeannie Baker
Jeannie Baker creates two wordless stories designed to be read side by side. Mirror illustrates the daily activities of two boys, one in Morocco and the other in Australia. Promotes diverse family lives and different perspectives.
My Beautiful Voice by Joseph Coelho
A shy girl is unable to speak up in class. With patience and compassion, a teacher helps her and encourages her to write a poem. The girl builds her confidence and courage, finds her voice and reads her poem aloud.
Promotes discussions on confidence, self-awareness, empathy, self-expression, and overcoming fears and anxiety.
Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson
A little girl and her grandmother live and work in their general store. The grandmother is unsure of renting a shabby apartment to an interested couple. The girl intervenes, and the couple brings the building to life with their optimism and hard work. Their positivity spreads, and the grandmother slowly accepts the couple as part of the family.
Use this wordless book to discuss acceptance, different perspectives, open-mindedness, assumptions, and a positive attitude.
Rain! by Linda Ashman
A grumpy man and enthusiastic boy wake up to rain with very different attitudes. They cross paths at a cafe where an act of kindness from the boy helps brighten the man’s day.
Promotes optimism, kindness, perspectives, and a positive attitude.
Red by Jan De Kinder
At first, a girl finds it funny when another student is teased for blushing. Soon, she realises she must stand against the bully but is fearful. Through her compassion and integrity, she finds the courage to do what is right.
Use to teach inferring, integrity, courage, compassion, and social justice.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
Red’s label says red but no matter how hard he tries he can only create blue. Red’s new friend, Berry, suggests he casts aside his label, opening a whole new world to Red. Deals with adaptability, identity, self-awareness and acceptance.
The Remarkable Pigeon by Dorien Brouwers
A pigeon feels self-conscious when it visits birds at a zoo’s aviary. There are birds with colourful feathers, that fly backwards and sing sweetly. The pigeon realises it has something more precious than these birds. It is free.
Promotes discussions on self-awareness, self-esteem, identity, comparisons, freedom, and self-appreciation.
Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
Ruby has a Worry. It wasn’t very big, but it stayed with her all day so she stopped doing the things she loved. She finds discussing her worry makes it gets smaller until it was almost gone. Though the Worry appears every now and again Ruby knows how to get rid of them.
Read to discuss adaptability, self-awareness, self-management and self-esteem.
A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina
Keiko’s classmates want nothing to do with her because she is Japanese-American, and the Japanese military has just bombed Pearl Harbor. The government forces her family to move to an internment camp, but one classmate reaches out the hand of friendship to Keiko.
Use to discuss the effects of conflict, tolerance, prejudice, and empathy.
I See You by Michael Genhart
A homeless woman is invisible to everyone around her. Over a year, a small boy sees what she has to endure. In the act of compassion, the boy acknowledges the lady and brings the community together to help her.
This wordless book promotes discussions on homelessness, poverty, kindness, honesty, empathy, and social awareness.
Shelter by Céline Claire
All the animals are safe in their home as a storm approaches. When two strangers appear asking for shelter, the animals are suspicious and turn them away. As the storm worsens, a family of foxes find themselves in need of shelter. The two strangers show the kindness the other animals wouldn’t give.
Translated from French, Shelter promotes discussions on helping those in need, empathy, compassion, acceptance and immigration.
I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott
A boy’s stutter makes him feel isolated. With the support of his father, he realises his speech is like a river which is sometimes smooth and glistening and other times stutters as it moves.
Promotes discussions on bullying, self-esteem, self-awareness and poetry.
Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora
Omu shares her delicious stew with everyone in the neighbourhood. They follow the amazing smell for a portion of Omu’s meal. Soon the pot is empty, and her generosity means she has no stew left for herself. But the community show their gratitude by sharing their food with her.
Read to discuss community, kindness, gratitude, and generosity.
The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
A tired stranger arrives in a new place with its suitcase. It is met with suspicion and curiosity from the local animals. When it falls asleep, the animals break open the suitcase to find a broken teacup and an old photograph. The stranger wakes from a dream about finding safety to find the animals have fixed the teacup and recreated it
Use in the classroom to discuss immigration, kindness, empathy, trust, asking questions, and inference.
This Small Blue Dot by Zeno Sworder
An older sister explains to her baby sister how the world works. She shares her opinions on the environment, embracing our differences, the importance of imagination and how those living on this “small blue dot” are interconnected.
Promotes discussions on hope, optimism, perspectives, interconnectedness, and observations.
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
Jeremy is mortified when his old shoes fall apart and the school counsellor provides an unstylish replacement pair. He successfully searches a second-hand shop for a pair of ‘those shoes’, but they are too small. After some reflection, he passes the sneakers to a young child who Jeremy realises needs them more than him.
Read to promote discussions on peer pressure, compassion, empathy, generosity, kindness, sharing, and poverty.
Umbrella by Elena Arevalo Melville
Lonely Clara goes to the park and puts a discarded umbrella on a bench. The magical umbrella thanks her by showing Clara anything is possible. She shares this with those filling the park and brings the community together in positive ways.
This Amnesty International endorsed book promotes perspectives, kindness, generosity and forgiveness.
The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
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’re All Wonders by R J Palacio
Auggie shares how he likes to do ordinary things, but he just doesn’t look ordinary. He wants to believe someone will accept him for who he is.
Promotes self-esteem, identity, friendship and open-mindedness.
Why Do I Feel Like This? by Shinsuke Yoshitake
As she walks home from school, a child has thoughts about anger and being sad. She wonders how to make these thoughts go away. She realises it is okay to feel unhappy. “We can dwell on bad feelings, run away from them, or decide to face them. It’s up to us to choose what to do.”
This translated book promotes discussions on self-management and dealing with negative thoughts and feelings.
Windows by Julia Denos
On an autumn evening, a boy takes his dog for a walk. He catches a glimpse of his neighbours' lives through their windows. Windows promotes a sense of belonging and different perspectives.
You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown
Lucy travels through the forest to let the animals know they are her new friend. They all back off from her single-minded attempts at friendship. Will Lucy find the friend she is looking for?
Promotes themes of enthusiasm, friendship and patience.
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Social awareness helps children cope with new situations and increases their emotional well-being. It allows them to recognise their emotions and those of others and supports an understanding of how their actions affect their relationships.
Do you have any favourite picture books about social awareness? Let me know in the comments.