Book List: 10 Children’s Books That Teach Empathy

Books That Teach EmpathyThe holiday season is upon us and we feel lucky to be surrounded by people that want to share in the togetherness and love that accompanies the colder months of the year, which is why we’re excited to share this roundup of books that teach about empathy.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” Books allow us to put ourselves in another person’s (literary) shoes, and show readers how characters relate and navigate the relationships they have with others.

sparkle boy

Sparkle Boy
by Lesléa Newman, illus. by Maria Mola

Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump trucks, and he also loves things that shimmer, glitter, and sparkle. Casey’s older sister, Jessie, thinks this is weird until an encounter with teasing bullies helps her learn to accept and respect Casey for who he is.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

lend a hand

Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving
by John Frank, illus. by London Ladd

Making a difference in the world can be as simple as planting a tree, giving up your seat on a bus to a disabled person, or training a puppy to become a guide dog. These are just a few of the simple acts of kindness featured in this collection of fourteen original poems.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

sam and the lucky money

Sam and the Lucky Money
by Karen Chinn, illus. by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Sam can hardly wait to go shopping with his mom. It’s Chinese New Year’s day and his grandparents have given him the traditional gift of lucky money–red envelopes called leisees (lay-sees). But when Sam realizes that his grandparents’ gift is not enough to get the things he wants, his excitement turns to disappointment. Even though his mother reminds him that he should appreciate the gift, Sam is not convinced — until a surprise encounter with a stranger.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

The Can Man

The Can Man
by Laura E. Williams, illus. by Craig Orback

In this timely story, Tim is collecting money for a new skateboard when he hears The Can Man down the street collecting empty soft drink cans. The clang of the cans in the homeless man’s cart gives Tim an idea. He will collect cans too, and cash them in for the redemption money. By the end of the week, Tim has almost reached his goal—until a couple of chance encounters with The Can Man change everything. Told with honesty and respect, this timely story shines a perceptive light on current social concerns.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

christmas makes me think

Christmas Makes Me Think
by Tony Medina, illus. by Chandra Cox

In this delightfully original Christmas story, our young narrator is thrilled. His favorite holiday is coming, and he looks forward to the presents, a great big tree, and baking a chocolate cake with his grandmother. But soon he starts to think — maybe he should give his extra presents to kids who don’t have any, and give homeless people hats, gloves, and scarves. He realizes that Christmas is really about community, people coming together and helping each other.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

irena's jars of secrets

Irena’s Jars of Secrets
by Marcia Vaughan, illus. by Ron Mazellan

Irena Sendler was raised to respect people of all backgrounds and to help those in need. She became a social worker and knew she had to help the sick and starving Jews who were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. She began by smuggling food, clothing, and medicine into the ghetto, then turned to smuggling children out of the ghetto. Using false papers and creative means of escape, and at great personal risk, Irena helped rescue Jewish children and hide them in safe surroundings. Hoping to reunite the children with their families after the war, Irena kept secret lists of the children’s identities.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

step right up

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
by Donna Janell Bowman, illus. by Daniel Minter

Here is the true story of an extraordinary horse and the remarkable man who nurtured the horse’s natural abilities. Together they asked the world to step right up and embrace their message of kindness toward animals.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

destiny's gift

Destiny’s Gift
by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illus. by Adjoa J. Burrowes

Destiny loves words, and her favorite place in the world is Mrs. Wade’s bookstore, where words abound. One day Mrs. Wade does not seem her usual self, and Destiny later learns the store may have to close. Destiny is determined not to let this happen. As she works to help keep the store open, she also creates an imaginative gift for Mrs. Wade that captures the warmth and special magic of the store forever.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

raymond's perfect present

Raymond’s Perfect Present
by Therese On Louie, illus. by Suling Wang

One day Raymond sees a young woman smile with pleasure when she is given a gift of flowers. Maybe I could buy Mom some flowers, Raymond thinks, to help her feel better now that she is home from the hospital. When Raymond realizes he doesn’t have enough money to buy flowers, he decides to grow them from seeds, but his mother has to return to the hospital before the flowers bloom. As the flowers grow and then begin to wilt, Raymond fears his mother will never see his present after all. The gift she receives instead is a total surprise, and more perfect than anything Raymond has planned.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

growing peace

Growing Peace: A Story of Farming, Music, and Religious Harmony
by Richard Sobol

J. J. Keki, a Ugandan musician and coffee farmer, was in New York when he witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He came away from this event with strong emotions about religious conflict. Why should people be enemies because of their religions? Back home, J.J. was determined to find a way for people who held different religious beliefs to work together. Why not enlist his neighbors, all coffee farmers like himself, in a cooperative venture around a shared goal? Together they would grow, harvest, and sell their coffee. At the same time, they would bridge religious differences to work and live together peacefully.

Find the Teacher’s Guide here.
Purchase a copy here.

Looking for more books to support Social Emotional Learning? Check out our curated Social Emotional Learning Diverse Book List!

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