Using Mentor Texts to Discuss Social and Emotional Topics

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By Shannon Anderson

One of my favorite ways to open discussions about social and emotional topics is to read a book with kids. There are many books that focus on issues you witness in the classroom or want to spotlight because of something going on in the world around us.

Using Mentor Texts to Discuss Social and Emotional Topics

I wore many hats as a teacher. One of them was working closely with our counselor to develop SEL lessons we could use with our elementary students. That is what prompted me to begin writing books for kids on SEL topics. I saw the power in sharing what a character in a story is going through as a vehicle for addressing underlying struggles.

Here are some examples:

Penelope Perfect is a book about a perfectionist girl who learns what she was missing out on by being so hard on herself at home and at school. She realized that it is still important to do her best, but perfection should not be the goal.

Coasting Casey
is about a boy who is very artistically and musically talented, but not much interested in other academic areas at all. He has to figure out a way to infuse his strengths and passions into the other subjects he is learning to realize how exciting and fun they can be.

Y is for Yet: A Growth Mindset Alphabet, Mindset Power: A Kid’s Guide to Growing Better Every Day, and Yay! You Failed! are all books about the power of having a growth mindset. Y is for Yet shares the positive mindset traits we can work on such as resilience, optimism, and perseverance. Mindset Power is aimed at upper elementary and middle school level. This goes deeper into developing healthy mindsets and habits for success. Kids can reflect through activities, examples, and lessons as they read. Yay! You Failed is a chapter book that takes a more humorous approach to the topic.

Too Shy to Say Hi
is about a girl who has social anxiety. She takes small, brave steps to get the courage to make a friend and learn how to speak up with agency.

I Love Strawberries
is a book about a girl with determination. She problem-solves and perseveres to come up with a way to grow and harvest her own strawberry patch. She uses journaling to reflect on her goals as she works toward them.

Of course, there are many other wonderful books on SEL topics and ways to use them. I present full-day workshops on ways to help our kids strive for better mental health using all kinds of tools, texts, and even toys! You can find free resources on my website for your classroom under my “resources” tab: I hope these mentor texts are helpful and that our paths may cross sometime soon. Reach out if you’d like to collaborate or have me visit your school for an author visit for kids or a PD for teachers.

About Shannon Anderson

Shannon Anderson taught for 25 years, from first grade through college level. A highlight of her career was being named one of the ten teachers who “awed and inspired” the Today Show in 2019. Shannon was also named the JC Runyon Person of the Year of her work speaking and writing to address social and emotional needs. Now an award-winning children’s book author, Shannon loves to visit schools to inspire kids and teachers through the power of reading, writing, and growth mindset. Learn more at

Using Mentor Texts to Discuss Social and Emotional Topics



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