This collection of stories addresses topics relevant to social and emotional learning (SEL) for younger students. The stories feature themes of perseverance, coping with life’s challenges, and learning how to be kind to oneself and to others, for example. Collectively, the stories touch upon key SEL competencies and address skills such as managing emotions, setting and achieving positive goals, empathizing with others, maintaining positive relationships, and making responsible decisions. From a story about survivors of extreme hardships in Sudan to the tale of a mouse that’s being teased by his friends, these stories inspire listeners to explore social and emotional development and wellness in a variety of contexts.
Flags represent the shared identity of a group of people, and every country has a flag designed with colors and symbols that are meaningful to its citizens. Flags are often considered symbols of national pride, uniting people with shared heritage, culture, and values. They have also been used historically to help people distinguish friend from foe. Listen to hear how flags can bring people together or keep them apart and how learning about flags can help people understand and respect each other.
What makes a person unique? What makes a person similar to or different from others? People sometimes try to hide their uniqueness in order to fit in. In the story The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, Lucy is trying to find her place at school and on the basketball team. One girl doesn’t think Lucy, a short Chinese girl, should be the captain of the team. Listen to hear what happens at Lucy’s Halloween party when her great aunt comes to town and whips up some dumplings. Is what makes Lucy different actually what brings her closer to her peers?
Everyone has fears and worries of one kind or another. When dealing with them, it can be helpful to have support and to know that others have similar feelings. The book Guts, by Raina Telgemeier, is the story of Raina, a young girl who is experiencing stomach problems that continue to worsen the more she worries. Raina’s therapist helps her deal with her anxiety and gives her strategies to help her when she’s nervous, just like many therapists do in real life. Listen to hear more about the story Guts and to hear a psychologist talk about dealing with worries.
The people of Sudan, a country in northeast Africa, have faced many difficult challenges, including civil war, drought, and famine. This audio interview focuses on A Long Walk to Water, a story about two young survivors of extreme hardships in Sudan. One character, Salva, is based on an actual person who escaped from war and searched for his family. The other character, Nya, is a fictional composite of several girls from Sudan’s refugee camps. Listen to hear students discuss the book and learn how the author created a work of fiction based on a factual story.
Scapegoating, or blaming others for things they didn’t do, happens among both children and adults. While many children understand that lying is wrong, they might be hesitant to explore how it feels to be lied to or unfairly blamed for something for fear of feeling embarrassed or exposed. In this audio story, a children’s author discusses her humorous take on how a number of lies affect a little goat on a farm. Listen to hear how humor can help children feel safer exploring such topics.
The Old Truck is the tale of a hard-working truck that, after many years on the farm, comes to sit in the weeds until someone decides to bring it back to life. Two brothers worked together to write and illustrate the picture book. They created over 250 detailed handmade stamps to help bring the story to life. Listen to hear the brothers discuss their creative process, what it was like for them to work together, and how the lessons they learned as children continue to guide them.
When the world feels like it is continuously changing, it can be important to stop and think about all of the things in life that are constant. Rebecca Stead’s book, The List of Things That Will Not Change, finds the main character, Bea, adding items to her own list of things that will not change and working to understand her emotions with the help of a therapist. Her list brings her comfort and support during her parents’ divorce, and it makes the reader stop and think about what things in their own lives will not change.
Racism is a serious subject, and one that is a topic of conversation in the lives of many Americans. People across America are protesting the way some police officers have treated people of color, particularly those who are Black. Jason Reynolds confronts this difficult topic in his novel Miles Morales: Spider-Man, which features a Black superhero who fights racism. Listen as Jason joins Kojo Nnamdi for a conversation about racism in America, answers questions from kids, and offers ideas about what people can do to address problems caused by racism.
WNBA superstar Elena Delle Donne has been rookie of the year, a two-time MVP, and an Olympic gold medalist. Her successes on the basketball court have taught her valuable life lessons, but the challenges she has encountered off the court have also deeply affected her. Listen to Delle Donne reflect on what she has learned from sports and family, including how to persevere when things get tough, celebrate differences, and keep life in perspective.
Friendships can be hard to navigate, especially when what seems funny to one person feels unkind to another. Sometimes looking at an interaction from another’s point of view can help identify and fix the problem. Listen to a timeless tale about a busy little mouse and three hungry birds that shows how understanding another’s perspective can help repair bullying behavior and build new friendships.
The expression “being neighborly” may call to mind giving away a cup of sugar or watching over neighbors’ homes while they are out of town. Actions such as these are bound to produce good relationships between neighbors. But, what if a neighbor isn’t willing to share or help out? In this timeless tale, a woman refuses to share something special with her neighbors, but nature intercedes and changes her view. Listen to hear how nature steps in to change a tricky situation and demonstrate the value of sharing.
Chickens sometimes become broody. A broody chicken feels protective of its eggs, even if they are unfertilized and have no chance of hatching, and may act aggressively to intruders. Like chickens, humans often become fixated on and upset by things that aren’t real or important, but there is at least one key difference that sets humans apart. Listen to learn what broody chickens can teach humans about positive mindset, the value of self-reflection, and the importance of choosing peers carefully.
Poetry allows writers to express deep thoughts and feelings. In the classroom, it can strengthen bonds between teachers and students by helping them get to know each other better. For Valentine’s Day, poet Kwame Alexander asked teachers around the country to challenge their students to write poems about love. Listen to hear the whimsical, poetic, and practical responses of students of all ages to the prompt, “Love is…”
People with uncommon names often hear them mispronounced. They say it can be annoying, but also hurtful. A person’s name often reflects their background, identity, or family history. When others bungle the pronunciation, those with unusual names sometimes report feeling excluded and different, as if they don’t belong. Listen to people with less common names explain why they care about proper pronunciation and what people can do when they’re not sure how to pronounce a name.
During the pandemic, when people were isolated from one another, many people experienced feelings of weariness or sadness. Psychologists say that social isolation can cause people to focus too much on themselves and their own problems. Shifting the focus outward, however, away from personal worries and toward others and the larger world, can generate joy. Listen to learn about an online tool that helps people create positive emotions by finding delight in the daily sights and sounds around them.
The pandemic has affected kids in many ways. They have endured remote schooling, isolation from their friends, and worries about bringing infection home to family members. While each student’s experience is different, many face common concerns related to their disrupted lives. Listen to hear a sixth-grader describe how the pandemic has affected her and her family, and what she hopes people will learn from experiencing this historic event.
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