One of my favorite teaching strategies is using picture books to teach SEL skills. Picture books are powerful tools that make social emotional learning topics fun and meaningful. They are also very accessible. Even if you don’t have a robust collection of high quality children’s literature in your classroom library, you likely have access to books through your school library, public library, or on the internet. The best part is that students love listening to and discussing stories about relatable characters and storylines. They learn so much from them! In this post, I share my favorite read alouds for teaching goal setting.
All of the goal setting read alouds in this post are part of my Starts With a Story collection. Jabari Jumps, Mae Among the Stars, Amazing Grace and Salt in His Shoes are also part of our goal setting SEL Unit, which includes interactive read aloud lesson plans among tons of other resources for teaching goal setting. Check out the list of goal setting read alouds below!
10 Goal Setting Read Alouds
Below are 10 quality goal setting children’s books for elementary teachers. Your kids will love these read alouds! They are great for teaching goal setting, as well as many other concepts and skills.
1. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is at the pool with his father and sister. He has just finished swimming lessons and passed his swim test, so today is the day he can jump off the diving board for the first time! However, when he gets in line to climb the ladder, Jabari starts to feel nervous. Eventually, with the inspiring words from his father and deep breaths, Jabari dives in! This story reminds students about goal setting and how, with resilience and bravery, we can accomplish anything! My Goal Setting SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
2. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
Mae dreams of being an astronaut when she grows up. She reads books and researches how to become an astronaut. Mae’s parents tell her that if she dreams, believes, and works really hard, anything is possible. While reading this story, we are reminded that with resilience and perseverance, we can achieve our goals! Mae set a goal to become an astronaut, and by the end, her mission was accomplished. My Goal Setting SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
3. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Amazing Grace is a story about an imaginative little girl who wants to play the role of Peter Pan in her class play. When the other students in the class say that she can’t because she is a girl and she is black, Grace is determined to show that she can be the best Peter Pan. Amazing Grace teaches us about what can happen when you really want something and you put your mind to it. My Goal Setting SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
4. Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan, Roslyn M. Jordan, et al.
The book tells the story of Michael Jordan as a young boy. He grew up playing basketball with his brothers, however, he was the shortest boy on the court. After talking with his parents, Michael gained confidence to go back to the basketball court with his brothers. He was able to score the winning point for his team and went on to become a basketball star. This story lends itself to teaching about goal setting because we see Michael Jordan continually work towards, and achieve his goal of becoming a professional basketball player. My Goal Setting SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
5. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
The fifth book on this list of goal setting read alouds is Ada Twist, Scientist. Ada wonders about the world around her and tries to find answers to her questions, specifically, what the cause of a bad smell might be. As she conducts experiments to answer her questions, her parents get very frustrated with her. Eventually, the whole family gets involved with Ada’s curiosity and they work together to find answers to Ada’s questions. Students will see that when Ada sets a goal, she will stop at nothing to achieve it! This is what makes this story such a great resource for teaching about goal setting. Check out these Ada Twist, Scientist activities!
6. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Mike Mulligan had a trusted steam shovel named Mary Anne. Together, they have dug out land for canals, mountains for highways, and cellars for skyscrapers. Mike finds one last chance to show the world how impressive Mary Anne is by digging a cellar in the town of Poppersville. Join Mike and his machine on an adventure of resilience, dedication, and hard work! Check out these Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel activities!
7. Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian and Storyteller Pera Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise
Pera Belpre came to NYC in America in 1921, bringing along her beautiful stories. As the first bilingual assistant, Pera spreads stories like seeds, creating beautiful landscapes around of storytellers that still share her tales. It is clear that with hard work and a goal in mind, we can achieve our dreams, just like Pera Belpre did! Check out these Planting Stories activities!
8. Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
A boy named Peter wants to learn how to whistle. He sees a boy whistle and his dog come running after him and Peter wants to be able to do that with his dog Willie. Peter tries to whistle but nothing comes out. Throughout the story, Peter practices and practices how to whistle. At the end of the book, Peter finally learns how to whistle after all of his hard work. Peter whistles for Willie, and Willie comes running. This story lends itself to teaching about goal setting as Peter does not give up learning to whistle, even when obstacles come his way. Check out these Whistle for Willie activities!
9. Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
This book tells the story of a young boy named Alexander who likes money and wants to buy a pair of walkie-talkies. One day, Alexander’s grandparents come to visit and they give him and his brothers a dollar each. Everyone in his family has suggestions for what Alexander should do with his money. He eventually starts spending his money little by little, instead of saving for the walkie-talkies. Before he knows it, Alexander is out of money and left trying to come up with a way to get more. He learns an important lesson around setting goals and sticking to them- a lesson which many students can relate to! Check out these Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday activities!
10. The Art Lesson by Tomie DePaola
The last book on this list of goal setting read alouds is The Art Lesson. When it is time for art class, the teacher only allows the students to use one piece of paper and the school’s box of crayons. Tommy feels frustrated, as he brought his own. His classroom teacher and art teacher come up with a compromise so that he can work well in the art room, but also be able to use his own crayons. Students will learn that to achieve our goals, we must be flexible and be open to compromising when it is appropriate. This is a great resource to use with students who may have experienced challenges with rigidity and school routine! Check out these The Art Lesson activities!
Integrated SEL and Literacy Activities
Below are some integrated SEL and literacy resources for elementary teachers.
Our Goal Setting Unit, which is available individually or as part of a year-long SEL bundle, includes lessons for the first four books on this list. This unit is packed with lesson plans, teaching resources, games, and activities. Learn more about it!
SEL Book Companions
As I mentioned earlier, I love teaching SEL skills using picture books. That’s why I created the Starts With a Story Collection. High quality children’s literature supports elementary teachers in delivering meaningful and accessible SEL lessons. All of the read alouds on this list are part of this book companion collection. Check out the book companions below!
In closing, we hope you found this list of goal setting read alouds helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts: