Back-To-School Book SELections

First things first; thank you, Barbie and Betty, for posting those promising practices about teaching empathy on our previous post. You BOTH have a book coming your way since I decided to match my publisher’s gift. Reach out to me at bgruener5 (at) with your postal address and I’ll pop those into our next shipment. Congrats and happy reading.

Speaking of reading, I curated a Back-to-School SEL calendar around school-themed books that can help you foster a caring climate and classroom community with your learners of all ages. Click {here} for your freebie download.

What are YOUR key read-alouds as you help your learners transition back to school, get acquainted with one another, make those compassionate connections, and settle in to a new school year?

The KEY To Connecting By Heart

What an exciting month June has been as Mr. Quigley’s Keys jingles its way into the hearts and souls of so many readers. I’m told that it is especially popular with Grandparents who are reading it to their grandchildren; people from all over are sending me these precious shots to show me how much fun they’re having reading together, finding the camouflaged keys and learning some American Sign Language.

It made my heart skip a beat to see the book in the Back-to-School display at our local Barnes & Noble earlier this week, even though we did end up locking the keys in the car and waiting for two hours for the storm to pass to get a locksmith out. Talk about a KEY opportunity to connect with my husband over how silly we feel about aging sometimes!

Perhaps the happiest my heart has been is in this magical empathy moment, when I put a copy of our book in the hands of my friend Jennifer Quigley, whose father inspired this special story.

He will always hold the key to her heart, so watching her slowly turn the pages and sink into his story was truly beyond anything that words can capture or describe. I just savored every second and pray we made her family proud as we worked with intention to keep his legacy alive.

I’ve also beamed at hearing what our young readers think about the book.

THIS fifth-grade imitation of one of my favorite illustrations really makes me smile.

As you read the book with your loved ones, look on every page for examples of the twelve keys to connection: Where do you see gratitude or gentleness? Empathy or joy? How about work ethic, creativity or self-control? Perseverance or peace? Which trait do you see that could be painted on the key behind his knee in the mural?

So much goodness and love as our book makes its trek around the world. And I’m grateful! If you’ve read the book and would like to share your feedback, we’d love your comments on this page and/or over at Amazon. It’s always helpful to prospective readers to hear from other friends what they thought about the book and how they’ll use it to help sharpen SEL skills for our future.

Oh, and the KEY to connecting by heart? I’m convinced that it’s empathy.

And love, of course.