Wednesday, September 21, 2016

8 Children's Books That Teach Empathy

As parents we want our kids to be empathetic. We want them to not only be considerate of other people’s feelings, but we want them to be able to understand why someone may (or may not) respond or react in a particular way.

There are a couple of different ways we can teach empathy. The first and often hardest way is that we can model for our kids the kind of behavior we would like to see in them. For better or worse, kids are a mirror, reflecting back the best and worst of who we are. They remember with exacting detail the way we respond when someone cuts us off or the things we say about other parents under our breath.

The other way we can choose to teach empathy is by lecturing our kids, but we all know how effective that is. If you want to see a zoned out kid, just look for a parent on a soap box. Instead of lecturing our kids, let's try reading to them. 

Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” He wasn’t necessarily talking about emotional intelligence, but, I think the same principles apply.

Here are 8 books that demonstrate empathy and kindness. Note: middle grade books are typically meant for kids 8-14, while pictures books are meant for the younger crowd; however, these are just guidelines. Younger kids can easily enjoy the Trumpet of the Swan and bigger kids can benefit from the picture books.


Chrysanthemum, author Kevin Henkes - Chrysanthemum, when she was old enough to appreciate it, loved her name. She loved it until she got to school and her classmates teased her for being named after a flower. Then "she wilted."

Whoever You Are, author Mem Fox - This book that celebrates all cultures discusses about how we all feel love the same and pain the same, no matter where we live in the world.

Wemberly Worried, author Kevin Henkes  - Poor Wemberly is a worrier. She worries in the morning, at night and throughout the day. She worries about big things like going to school and small things like shrinking in the bath. At the end of the story, Wemberly overcomes her worry.

One, author Kathryn Otoshi – A book about colors and numbers and standing up for yourself and others. The different colors in this book learn there is strength in numbers, including the number one.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, author Kate DiCamillo  – Edward is a china rabbit, who lives with a little girl who loves him very much. Then one day, he is lost. On his miraculous journey, he learns that even china hearts can break.

The Trumpet of the Swan, author E.B. White – A classic about Louis the Trumpeter swan who doesn't have a voice. All is not lost, however, when Louis gets a real brass trumpet and a chalkboard.

Wonder, author R. J. Palacio  - August "Auggie" Pullman was born with a facial difference. The story begins with Auggie starting mainstream school in the fifth grade. This book is especially great because it's told from different points of view: Auggie's, his sister's, a classmate's, etc...

The War That Saved My Life, author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – Nine-year-old Ada has never been outside of her family's one-room apartment because her mother is too ashamed of Ada's twisted foot. When her younger brother is shipped out of London to flee the bombing of World War II, Ada escapes with him. 

1 comment:

  1. I sure wish I had seen this post before I stopped at Barnes and Noble today. I had a birthday gift to get for a 3rd grade girl and one of these would have been perfect. I will have to remember later this year for her sister's gift :)