SEL Book recommendations

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My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook




We’ve all been there, said something and then willed the words to come back into our mouth. This endeavor was as successful as trying to usher the toothpaste back into the bottle. In this story we are introduced to our protagonist Louis who narrates the story and tells us in the beginning that he has a lot of words to say and all of those words are very important to him. Through the use of repetitive phrases and rhymes we are taken through a variety of frustrating instances that Louis goes through when he gets in trouble for bursting out during other’s important words. By the end of the story Louis’ “important words” are interrupted by his classmates, this feels rude to him and he learns that this is how others feel when he gets excited and interrupts. The book teaches a breathing technique to regulate students who struggle with calling out so that they can “push the words out through” through the nose and not the mouth. 


How might this book help students 


Let’s face it, there will never be a perfect classroom with perfect students who listen attentively to everything we say and raise our hand every time they have a question. We wouldn’t be teachers if that was our expectation. Nonetheless, it is our job as educators to teach tools to all of our students. The book, My Mouth is a Volcano, is relatable to those students who have a thought it comes bursting out of them. According to the CASEL website students must have some level of self awareness before they can manage themselves. Self awareness is defined as “the abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.” 


This story can awaken that awareness in students as they relate to the text and then make connections from themselves to the character Louis. Often students can feel quite alone with their problems and understanding that it is normal can get students respite from any shame they may experience once they gain the awareness of this common problem. The educator going over the book may also experience success reviewing it a couple times as the action step suggested at the end of the story may have more impact as it is revisited over time. 


How might this book offer experiences to students that promote a sense of being a successful reader?

According to Paula Dugger author of, The Importance of Repetitive Text for Developing Young Readers [K–1], repetitive phrases are hugely beneficial to the growing reader, the more we hear it, say it, and read it, the more our neuron pathways will be formed. The developing reader will also be able to gather information about problem solving by studying the imagery in the book. According to the article, BLANK published in Fronterins, picture books about problem solving can best achieve the goal when students can look at the pictures and identify the problem and the solution (YEAR). This is certainly achieved in the illustrations My Words are a Volcano. The illustrator creatively uses the repeated phrases as part of the art showing how Louis feels when his important words build up in him and burst out. 

Alexander and The Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voirst 



Alexander is an illustrated book that goes through the day’s events of a normal child who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. A series of small things goes wrong, from waking up with gum in his hair, to getting uncool shoes, to conflict with friends, to the injustices that make up a kid’s daily life. Throughout the story he repeats how he could tell it was going to be a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” and that he might “move to Australia. By the end of the story, he tells his mom that his day was not good, and she tells that some days are like that, even in Australia. 


How this book might help students


In our story Alexander could tell it would be a bad day from the moment he woke up, from that point on, it was a bad day. The perspective we have when we wake up determines our day, but as kids it’s easy to not feel the crushing blow of each frustrating event. This can make classroom blowups common and easy to happen without proper social emotional learning explicitly taught. On the CASEL website, they discuss the acronym SAFE in which SEL lessons carried out are, sequenced, active, focused and explicit. To best follow this practice Alexander and The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, would be best carried out in a room of 1st- 3rd students. They should work on identifying the emotions that Alexander is experiencing and relate to them.


How might this book offer experiences to students that promote a sense of being a successful reader?


There are many different types of reading strategies for kids to promote classroom literacy. According to Reading Rockets, the read aloud can be a major source of literacy building as it promotes comprehension of spoken word and pictures. Instead of students being focused on the reading, they have more bandwidth to focus on the story and make connections between texts as well as connections to their personal experiences. Some students develop confidence in their reading capabilities if they discover a strength for comprehension (2001 Judith Gold, Akimi Gibson). 


The Good Egg by Jory John



This story is about a “good egg” who lives with eleven other eggs who are quite naughty. The other eggs’ antics strain The Good Egg, the worse her siblings become the more she strives to be good to compensate for them. This eventually leads her to “crack up.” At the advice of her doctor she takes a vacation from the carton to do some self care. She learns coping strategies and eventually makes peace that her siblings are more rambunctious than she is and she is not responsible for their actions. However, when she returns to the carton her siblings have taken on a new appreciation for her in her absence. Though they are still more rambunctious and The Good Egg is still good, they are at peace with each other and their actions. 


How this book might help students


The same way we have students who will strive for our attention by rolling on the ground or calling out, we will have a student who strives for our attention by being “perfect.” The Good Egg is all about leading a balanced life, so often quiet children are ignored in favor of the louder students which can lead them to “crack up.” Jory John’s book calls on students to practice both social awareness and self-management. According to the CASEL website self-management is defined as, “the abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations and achieve goals and aspirations.” This book calls on students to motivate their behavior for what will benefit themselves the most rather than what they assume the adults in their lives expect them to do. 


How might this book offer experiences to students that promote a sense of being a successful reader?


This book is categorized by Scholastic as an L level book, which means that hypothetically older students could read it independently without strain, allowing the brain to process the message of the story, themes, and pictures. This will not only build confidence in the student to experience fluent reading but it will also give them time and space to emotionally process the text. Students need to experience both, to have confidence in reading. 




Cook, J. My Mouth is a Volcano, (December 2020). National Center for Youth Issues 


Duggar P. (2022). The Importance of Repetitive Text for Developing Young Readers [K–1]  Hameray.


Gold, J., Gibson, A. (2001) Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension. Reading Rockets.


Strouse, A.G., Nyhout, A., Ganae, P.A. (February 2018). The Role of Book Features in Young Children's Transfer of Information from Picture Books to Real-World Contexts. Frontiersin

Voirst, J., Cruz R., (illustrator) (May 2012). Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Illustrated edition.