7 books that inspire empathy in children
April 3, 2019 By Selena Garrahan
Empathy is the ability to understand and experience the feelings of others, and to respond in helpful ways. It’s one of the most important life skills that parents can teach their children.
You may be surprised to learn that empathy isn’t an inborn trait, but rather one that must be learned – preferably during early childhood.
But it can be difficult to explain empathy to a child. Reading books with your child can make it easier.
As this Wall Street Journal article explains, reading fiction, although enjoyable on its own, can also increase our sensitively to others. In other words, it can help us become more empathetic.
Here are 7 children’s books written by authors from around the world, and available in Worldreader’s library, which can inspire empathy.
1. Why Is Nita Upside Down?
By Emma Hearne, Roxana Bouwer, Sarah Bouwer
Sometimes, we fear that others won’t accept us because of the things that make us unique – whether we look different to others, think differently or have other interests. The reality is that everyone of us is different in some way, and that is our strength. This wonderful children’s book celebrates individuality and encourages self-confidence in children.
By Rym Ghazal & Sahar Naja Mahfouz
It can be a struggle for refugees to adapt to new cultures and feel accepted by their host communities. Our ability to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes can help us empathize with people, like refugees, who are facing hardship. This beautiful children’s story is based on a real boy the author, Rym Ghazal, met during her humanitarian efforts. It’s a touching tale about a neglected refugee child and how a little kitten changed his life.
By Richa Jha
Young boys often struggle with the pressures to conform to traditional expectations of what it means to be a boy with stereotypically ‘masculine’ traits. The Unboy Boy is a beautiful story that raises questions of diversity, gender, and stereotypes and brings us on a journey that leads to Gagan, the main character, and others accepting him just the way he is.
By Kwasi Otopah
We all face challenges at some point in our lives. Receiving love, compassion, and support from our friends and family during these times can play a huge role in our ability to overcome these challenges. This children’s book tells the story of Big Dada, who works in the mines until one day he is laid off. His son’s admiration for his father teaches us all to be patient and understanding in times when it matters most.
5. Lara The Yellow Ladybird
By Martha Evans
The color of our skin shouldn’t influence the way that people treat us or the way that we treat others. It’s important for children to learn this from a young age. Lara is a yellow ladybird who is different from all her friends – they all have red shells. Lara doesn’t always like being different. What would it be like to be the same as the others?
6. The Lake Where Frogs Lived
By Helen Patuck
We all belong to certain social categories within society – whether they are linked to race, religion, or gender. Sometimes, a social group can create boundaries between itself and other groups. This is a tale about a lake in Iraq where frogs live. When refugees arrive, the frogs cannot understand why their new neighbours make camps on opposite sides of the lake. They make friends from Yazedi and Muslim communities and try their best to help people unite.
By Mary Mwangangi
The world around us is not always accommodating to children with disabilities. As a parent, teacher, or friend of a child with a disability, it can feel like a constant struggle to help make them feel like they belong. Being different can be intimidating, but it can also lead to children with disabilities embracing their own unique selves. Malaika and the Wheelchair tells the triumphant story of a young girl who turns her disability into a strength!
Worldreader believes that it’s crucial for all children to have access to books that enable them to understand the world around them, particularly books that will help them develop their empathy and kindness towards others.
These inspiring books and more are available to millions of children via our reading programs.