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19 Children's Books and Classroom Activities to Teach Social Skills

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Photo of Holly (Teach Starter)
Updated | 6 min read

When I first started teaching, I was unaware of the great range of picture books that were available, to teachers and parents, that could assist when teaching those sometimes ‘difficult’ social skills to children, especially in the early years.

It wasn’t until I started to do some research about ‘tattling in the classroom’ that I discovered Julia Cook and her fantastic collection of children’s stories. She has a knack for effectively translating important adult behaviours and mental health information in a kid friendly way.

Julia Cook’s successful strategy is ‘Read a Book, Teach a Child a Life Lesson’. Julia is a former teacher and counselor who has authored over 70 books. Here is a collection of my favourite Julia Cook books.

Teaching the Appreciation of Differences

The Judgmental Flower

The Judgmental FLower

When a purple-petalled flower sprouts in a land dominated by Blues, there’s no welcome reception…just prejudice, mistrust and a chorus of “Ewww!”

This is a fantastic picture book that helps teachers talk to children about understanding and appreciating differences.

Classroom Activity Idea

Multicultural Classroom Activity

Students use our paper chain template to represent themselves and their cultural background.

Once they have drawn themselves, provide each student with a heart and have them brainstorm things that are on the inside such as; feelings, love and thoughts. Students then glue their heart to the back of their paper chain template and write the brainstormed words.

Join all the students together and hang up the paper chain – talk about how everyone looks different on the outside, however, they are all the same on the inside!

Accepting Responsibility for their Actions

But It’s Not My Fault!

But It's Not My Fault - Julia Cook

This is a fantastic story to teach your students the difference between whose fault it is and whose responsibility it is.

A great way to help children understand that they need to own up and become responsible for the choices they make!

Classroom Activity Idea

Comic Strip Template

Provide students with a scenario that can end in a blaming statement or a responsibility statement. For example:

  • You didn’t finish your homework because your brother made you play PlayStation.
  • Jose was being mean to you and you pushed him!

Students create two comic strips using our comic strip template, one comic will need to end in a blaming statement and the other end with a responsibility statement. A fun way to cement this important social concept.

Tackling Anxiety

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine - Julia Cook

Everyone feels fear, worry and apprehension from time to time.

This is a fun and humorous book that addresses the problem of anxiety. It is done in a way that children of all ages can relate to the story.

The goal of the book is to give children the tools they need to feel more in control of their anxiety.

Classroom Activity Idea

T Chart Template

Have students write different things that worry them on sticky notes. Using our T-chart graphic organiser, students sort their sticky notes into ‘worries they can control’ and ‘worries they can’t control’.

A cute idea is to have your very own classroom worry hat, students can put all of their worries they can’t control into the hat!

Teaching the Importance of Listening and Following Directions

The Worst Day of My Life EVER!!

The Worst Day of My Life Ever!

RJ has a rough day. He wakes up with gum stuck in his hair, misses recess because he’s late to school, receives a zero on his maths homework, and messes up his mum’s kitchen.

RJ begins to learn that his problems happen because he doesn’t listen or pay attention to directions.

Classroom Activity Idea

Being a Good Listener Social Story

Using our social skills story template – Being a Good Listener, talk with your students about what is happening in each picture. Students can role play being a good listener, then cut and sort the template in the correct order!

The Importance of Rules in Society

That Rule Doesn’t Apply To Me!

That Rule Doesn't Apply to Me!

A great story book for teachers who are searching for a fun and engaging way to help explain the importance of setting rules in the school environment.

The main character, Noodle, gets into trouble because he doesn’t follow the rules! He doesn’t think many of them actually apply to him! Can’t he just have a rule-free day?

Classroom Activity Idea

Class Rules Display

Look at your own classroom rules, discuss the importance of them and ask the students to brainstorm what would happen if each of the rules didn’t apply to them! As a class decide a fair reward and consequence for each rule.

Tackling Tattling in the Classroom

A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue

A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue

A beautifully designed children’s book teaching children the difference between tattling and telling.

No one likes ‘Josh the Tattler’ because he tattles way too much. But one night Josh wakes up to find that his tongue is very long, yellow, and covered in bright purple spots! Will a bad case of tattle tongue teach him a lesson?

Classroom Activity Idea

Tattle Monster Template

Create a classroom tattle monster. Kids love it, and it still allows students to voice their concerns.

You may also wish to display our Before You Tell the Teacher, Ask Yourself… Poster and have your students complete our Tattling vs Reporting Worksheet.

The Social Issue of Interrupting!

My Mouth is a Volcano!

My Mouth is a Volcano

This book is perfect for discussing rules about talking and interrupting others. It is a must have book to add to your back to school book collection!

Told from Louis’ perspective, this story provides teachers with an entertaining way to teach children the value of respecting others by listening and waiting for their turn to speak.

Classroom Activity Idea

Erupting Wheel

Each student creates an ‘erupting wheel!’ As a class, brainstorm what students can do if they are about to ‘erupt!’

Using four of the ideas, students create a spinning wheel using two paper plates and a split pin. Cut out a small quarter piece from one so that each strategy can be seen as you spin the top plate.

I used our Social Stories -Pictures and Templates for the images on the wheel.

Another resource that could be used is our social story – Waiting For My Turn to Talk.

Teaching the Concept of Personal Space

Personal Space Camp


This is a fantastic story teaching children about personal space! A witty story comparing ‘outer space’ with ‘personal space!’ The main character (Louis), a self proclaimed space expert, goes on a learning journey of personal space.

Classroom Activity Idea

With your class head outside and play tag using hoola hoops.

The students must hold the hoop around them as they run. The person who is ‘It’ tries to bump his/her hula hoop into the other students hula hoops. If he/she bumps anyone, that person is ‘It’!

Also, explain that if any player bumps another player’s hoop accidentally during the game, their bubble ‘pops’ and they are out! They must drop their hoop onto the ground and sit down inside!

Discussing the Important Topic of Bullying

Bully Beans


A fun story to teach your students to become proactive when it comes to bullying. It discusses why bullying happens and what they can do to stop it. Finally, a bullying book that speaks to the bystanders!

Classroom Activity Idea

The Crumpled Paper Activity has been widely publicised as a great way to visually depict the scars left behind from bullying.


Paula – A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it and really mess it upbut do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.” ~ Buzzfeed: Awesome bullying lesson from a New York teacher


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