Young Adult Books that teach Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), Equity and Inclusion


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Edweek confirmed what I suspected: the demand of SEL teaching materials is growing. Why not? More and more students lack social and emotional maturity expected of their age. Whatever the cause is, the result is the same: teachers like me are being asked to add Social-Emotional Learning to their long list of teaching requirements.

Fortunately, I attended the Georgetown University Course on Mind, Math and Multiliteracies where we looked at high interest HS books that can teach SEL, Equity (another buzz word) and, of course, ELA skills. Each one of them can be used to discuss acceptance, equity and inclusion. Moreover, each one has interdisciplinary connections and can be linked to Math, Science, Arts, Music or Social Studies.

Out of my Mind

Book Summary: “Eleven-year-old Melody is not like most people. She can’t walk. She can’t talk. She can’t write. All because she has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it. Most people—her teachers, her doctors, her classmates—dismiss her as mentally challenged because she can’t tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by her disability. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.”

Reading Level: Read Aloud for Grades 3 - 4 and Independent Reading for Grades 5 and up.

El Deafo

Book Summary: “Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.”

Lexile Level: GN420L or Recommended as Read Aloud for Grades 3-5 and Independent Reading for higher grades.

Accidents of Nature

Book Summary: “It’s the summer of 1970. Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy, but she’s always believed she’s just the same as everyone else. She’s never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.”

Reading Level: Independent Reading for Grades 8 and Above

A Time to Dance

Book Summary: “ An inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient /bharatanatyam/ dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.“

Reading Level: Independent Reading for 9th Grade and above

Shark Girl

Book Summary: “ On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything — absolutely everything — changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, “That’s her — that’s Shark Girl,” as she passes. In the meantime there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? In this striking first novel, Kelly Bingham uses poems, letters, telephone conversations, and newspaper clippings to look unflinchingly at what it’s like to lose part of yourself — and to summon the courage it takes to find yourself again.“

Reading Level: Recommended Read Aloud for Grades 4-5 and Independent Reading for Grades 6 and above.

Blind

Book Summary: “When Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a nightmare accident, she must relearn everything from walking across the street to recognizing her own sisters to imagining colors. One of seven children, Emma used to be the invisible kid, but now it seems everyone is watching her. And just as she’s about to start high school and try to recover her friendships and former life, one of her classmates is found dead in an apparent suicide. Fifteen and blind, Emma has to untangle what happened and why—in order to see for herself what makes life worth living. Unflinching in its portrayal of Emma’s darkest days, yet full of hope and humor, Rachel DeWoskin’s brilliant /Blind/is one of those rare books that utterly absorbs the reader into the life and experience of another.“

Reading Level: Read Aloud for Grades 6 to 7 and Independent Reading for Grades 8 and above.

The Dark Days of Hamburger Haplin

Book Summary: “Being a hefty, deaf newcomer almost makes Will Halpin the least popular guy at Coaler High. But when he befriends the only guy less popular than him, the dork-namic duo has the smarts and guts to figure out who knocked off the star quarterback. Will can’t hear what’s going on, but he’s a great observer. So, who did it? And why does that guy talk to his fingers? And will the beautiful girl ever notice him? (Okay, so Will’s interested in more than just murder... Those who prefer their heroes to be not-so-usual and with a side of wise guy will gobble up this witty, geeks-rule debut."

Reading Level: Recommended for Grades 6 and above

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel

Book Summary: “Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing. Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer…. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher’s mind. And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon’s choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally.“

Reading Level: Independent Reading for Grades 9 and above.

Owning It - Stories About Teens with Disabilities

Book Summary: “Chris Crutcher takes us on a wild ride through the mind of a teen with ADD, while David Lubar’s protagonist gets a sobering lesson from his friends. In Gail Giles’s tale, Brad can’t help barking at his classmates but finds understanding when he gives a comical (and informative) presentation to his entire school. And Robert Lipsyte introduces us to an elite task force whose number-one enemy is cancer. Whether their disabilities are physical or psychological, the subjects of these powerful short stories — written by ten outstanding young adult authors — meet every day with wit, intelligence, and courage.“

Reading Level: Recommended for MS and HS Students.

Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links are used and the book descriptions in quotation marks were quoted from the Amazon site as well.


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