Top children's books for teaching empathy

September 24, 2022

Empathy. It’s a word we use a lot, it’s a way in which we would describe a good friend and something we expect people to demonstrate on command. The number of times I can recall asking why someone didn’t display more empathy when I was down or that overwhelming disappointment when someone couldn’t try to understand how I was feeling are boundless.

Yet, we were never taught about empathy at school like we were history or maths. It wasn’t something that you could test or pinpoint yet it was something I consistently thought about how I could be better; how I could be a more empathetic human.

The question then becomes how does one teach empathy. Is it something you just learn or is there a way you can begin to instil it early on. It’s something we’ve had to think a lot about at Kanjo. How can you build empathy in a child when we don’t remember how we learnt it ourselves? 

Empathy’s most simple definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Stories are the most simple way to do that. We decided to build interactive story games for that exact reason. It was much easier to show a child what empathy meant by putting them into situations where they would have to invoke it themselves. 

As a team, we learnt a lot about empathy focused storytelling through children’s books- the real ones where you can hold it, turn a page and lose yourself for twenty minutes with your child. Below, we have recommended our favourite five to get you started!

 

Come with me

Ages 5-8

After seeing some sad news on television, a young girl asks her parents how she can help make the world a better place. She watches her father on a walk through the city greeting everyone he meets with kindness and is inspired to invite a young boy next door to join her on her next dog walk. A small act of kindness with notable impact.

 

How to be a Lion

Ages 3-7

Most Lions in this book are what you would expect a lion to be- aggressive, territorial and a little scary. However, Leonard is a thinker, who sits with his best friend ( a kind duck called Marianne) on the top of a hill. The other lions want to turn Leonard into a real lion but Marianne accepts him for the kind lion he is

 

Last stop on Market street, 

Ages 5-8

This book is so sweet. Taking place on a very simple bus route, it tells the story of a young boy and his grandmother witnessing different forms of empathy on their bus journey. I love how this shoes every-day kindness and how easy it is to reciprocate kindness.

 

The Whole Brain Child

For Parents

This book, written by Dan Siegal, a Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, has been foundational to my understanding of children’s emotional health and development. Whilst filled with facts, it remains exciting, compassionate and a deep dive into the psyche of our children.

 

These Shoes

Ages 4-8

This book introduces children to the idea of peer pressure and is an empowering story about generosity and empathy in the context of expectations of others.

Top children's books for teaching empathy

September 24, 2022

Empathy. It’s a word we use a lot, it’s a way in which we would describe a good friend and something we expect people to demonstrate on command. The number of times I can recall asking why someone didn’t display more empathy when I was down or that overwhelming disappointment when someone couldn’t try to understand how I was feeling are boundless.

Yet, we were never taught about empathy at school like we were history or maths. It wasn’t something that you could test or pinpoint yet it was something I consistently thought about how I could be better; how I could be a more empathetic human.

The question then becomes how does one teach empathy. Is it something you just learn or is there a way you can begin to instil it early on. It’s something we’ve had to think a lot about at Kanjo. How can you build empathy in a child when we don’t remember how we learnt it ourselves? 

Empathy’s most simple definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Stories are the most simple way to do that. We decided to build interactive story games for that exact reason. It was much easier to show a child what empathy meant by putting them into situations where they would have to invoke it themselves. 

As a team, we learnt a lot about empathy focused storytelling through children’s books- the real ones where you can hold it, turn a page and lose yourself for twenty minutes with your child. Below, we have recommended our favourite five to get you started!

 

Come with me

Ages 5-8

After seeing some sad news on television, a young girl asks her parents how she can help make the world a better place. She watches her father on a walk through the city greeting everyone he meets with kindness and is inspired to invite a young boy next door to join her on her next dog walk. A small act of kindness with notable impact.

 

How to be a Lion

Ages 3-7

Most Lions in this book are what you would expect a lion to be- aggressive, territorial and a little scary. However, Leonard is a thinker, who sits with his best friend ( a kind duck called Marianne) on the top of a hill. The other lions want to turn Leonard into a real lion but Marianne accepts him for the kind lion he is

 

Last stop on Market street, 

Ages 5-8

This book is so sweet. Taking place on a very simple bus route, it tells the story of a young boy and his grandmother witnessing different forms of empathy on their bus journey. I love how this shoes every-day kindness and how easy it is to reciprocate kindness.

 

The Whole Brain Child

For Parents

This book, written by Dan Siegal, a Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, has been foundational to my understanding of children’s emotional health and development. Whilst filled with facts, it remains exciting, compassionate and a deep dive into the psyche of our children.

 

These Shoes

Ages 4-8

This book introduces children to the idea of peer pressure and is an empowering story about generosity and empathy in the context of expectations of others.

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