4 Ways Reading Challenges Help Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum

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A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health unveiled the remarkable connection between kindergartners' social and emotional learning (SEL) skills and their future success and overall well-being. This research not only demonstrated that children with strong social and emotional functioning are more likely to excel academically and professionally as adults, but it also revealed a decreased risk of criminal activity, substance abuse, and mental health issues.


These findings emphasize the importance of SEL in promoting student well-being. As a result, many states have integrated SEL into their curriculum, with approximately 60% of states mandating or strongly encouraging SEL instruction. However, effectively incorporating the five SEL core competencies (self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills) into the existing curriculum can present its own set of challenges. In this blog, we will explore four innovative ways in which schools are utilizing reading challenges to seamlessly integrate social and emotional learning into their classrooms.


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4 Ways to Implement SEL With Reading Challenges

1. Create homeroom communities.

In homeroom/advisory classes, the curriculum often focuses on building life skills, habits, and mindsets that support student success. One Beanstack client has gone in a slightly different direction, incorporating reading challenges into their advisory classroom to support SEL instruction. Why? Reading challenges help students build a habit of reading, which has been proven to reduce stress by up to 68%. They also create community—as students compete with one another and chat about the books they are reading, they will start to form stronger bonds. On top of that, advisors can use themed challenges, like Beanstack’s Mindfulness Challenge, to encourage students to practice other SEL skills.


SEL core competency supported: Relationship skills and self-management.


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2. Read about race and culture.

Many critical SEL skills, like empathy and active listening, also have ties to the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) curriculum. Via themed reading challenges, like Beanstack’s Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Pride 365 challenges, schools can encourage students to practice their social and emotional learning skills through reading. These themed challenges not only encourage students to consider new perspectives but also provide a foundation for discussions and workshops about the importance of diversity, identity, and culture.  


SEL core competency supported: Social awareness and relationship skills. 


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3. Promote mental health awareness.

According to recent statistics, one in six children in America has a mental health disorder, and 72% of children will experience at least one traumatic event before they turn 18. Social and emotional learning curriculum gives students tools to process their complicated feelings, identify when they are struggling, and learn how to ask for help. One way to raise awareness about mental health in schools is through storytelling. When students read about characters who struggle with mental health, they feel less alone, they have more context to reflect on their own experiences, and they are more likely to recognize signs and symptoms in friends or loved ones. Beanstack’s Mental Health Awareness challenge encourages students of all ages to pick up a book about mental health. It also opens the door for more thoughtful conversations about mental health and stigma in classrooms and school communities. 


SEL core competency supported: Self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness. 

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4. Share values through storytelling.

After the challenge of remote and hybrid learning, many schools are working hard to rebuild school culture and keep students connected. One of the ways that schools can do this is by uniting students around a shared set of values. Educators often refer to this as character education or a learning process that centers on core values like freedom, justice, and citizenship. 


Social and emotional learning is a vital part of character education because students can’t just learn about values—they also need to know how to act on them. That’s also where reading challenges come into play. Schools can create themed reading challenges based on the core values they want to cultivate and encourage students to read stories that express those values. For example, Beanstack's “Be the Change” challenge has activities that center around the seven habits of highly effective people, like being proactive and building mutually beneficial relationships. Through reading, students can see what it looks like to live out their values and how values can be challenged in the real world. 


SEL core competency supported: Responsible decision-making, self-awareness, and social awareness. 

Reading Creates Healthier, Happier Learners 

Social and emotional learning is about more than just checking off a list of standards or competencies. It’s about ensuring students have the skills they need to live happy, healthy, and successful lives. Reading challenges are the ideal tool to help kids relax, connect, and reflect—and because Beanstack’s reading challenges have fun gamification features like leaderboards and streaks, students have even more fun while they hone their SEL skills. 


Discover the wide range of reading challenge templates offered by Beanstack that are specifically designed to promote social and emotional learning goals. Get in touch with our team today to explore how Beanstack's reading challenges can effectively support the SEL efforts of your school or district.

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