Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Books to Foster Empathy

As I wrote in my last post, I am on a bit of crusade to find resources to teach empathy to my students. One way I believe you can do that is through literature. We incorporate Multiple Perspectives from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity. How does it feel to be that character? How does it feel to be a butterfly compared to a caterpillar? What do you see, hear, believe, wish for?

The first time I do this lesson I literally stand on a table, of course to the gasps of my students, a la Mr. Keating in Dead Poet's Society. I ask them how my perspective has now changed-what can I see that I couldn't see before? How does it feel? When we are getting ready to write from someone else's perspective I ask them to close their eyes and imagine they are that person or thing-use your five senses, what does it feel like? Then we go write. It's something that I can definitely see growth in throughout the year. They get better and better at thinking from another perspective, comparing perspectives.

Some books that I think are great for this are:

We feel for this little house that goes through a lot as the world around it becomes more industrialized. 

A classic, but for a good reason. We are pulling for this duck family to find the perfect home for their little ones and the whole community chips in. Did you see this real-life example of a school making way for their ducklings?

A wordless book about a girl who desperately wants a bicycle but when it's sold, she thinks about her brother instead.

A really cute story told from the perspective of a hamster who mistakenly is stricken with the idea to take an adventure into the world. You can see the world from his eyes and are rooting for him in the end.

Another classic, I know! But discussions can be had about why the Poky Little Puppy kept disobeying his mother and getting his siblings in trouble as well. You feel for the puppy and his need to explore but you also understand why mama has such rules in place.

And yes, you can have empathy for teachers too! I love this book because the student finally sees his teacher as a human being and figures out she's no so bad after all.

This is a really sweet story about a bear trying to find the owner of a lost bunny. He ends up getting attached to it and it's hard for him to give it up when the real owner comes along. Don't worry-it's a happy ending! :) But we feel for him, which is important.

And if you are looking for chapter books to read to your kiddos:

This is a graphic novel, but I think a really amazing story. She becomes deaf due to an illness and we see how she copes with school and everyday tasks. She imagines herself a superhero when the teacher forgets she is still wearing the microphone plugged into her hearing aid.

I love this story! Tua sees an elephant being mistreated by it's owners and decides to rescue it. We follow their adventures and feel for what they are going through.

My all-time favorite book for showing another perspective. It's told from the perspective of a character who has cerebral palsy. She is very, very smart but cannot communicate that. There are people in her life who finally figure it out (the part where the mom confronts a teacher with low expectations is just priceless). A little challenging even as a read-aloud to my Kinder students, but with some guidance they really were able to put themselves in Melody's shoes and be grateful for the things they can do.

There are tons of books that we can use to foster empathy, we just have to guide those discussions.

Pin It!


  1. Thanks for the book suggestions. I also would like to work on empathy. Some of these books I have and just haven't thought about them that way, so thanks for the change I perspective!

  2. I totally agree that literature is an amazing resource for teaching empathy. Have you read A Mindset for Learning? Empathy is one of the brain growers the book talks about.