Books for Teaching Empathy

In My Heart, A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek is a FUN book about the different feelings that we humans have.  Learning about feelings is the first step in learning about empathy.  When kids can understand the different emotions and how they make them feel, then they can start to observe the feelings of other people.  This book is great for ages 3 and up.

Everyone by Christopher Silas Neal is a wonderful book to start teaching the concept of empathy to young children.  In this book the boy explores his different feelings and observes that everyone around him also has feelings.  By learning to identify these feelings in others, kids can start to empathize by remembering what they felt while having that emotion. This book is great for ages 3 and up.

Stand in My Shoes by Dr. Bob Sornson is a great book to teach children about empathy.  At the start of the book Emily asks her older sister what EMPATHY means.  Emily spends the next day observing others and how they are feeling and this leads to a great lesson in empathy for her. This book is a great springboard for discussions with your child about each situation and how Emily shows empathy to that person.  This book would be great for ages 5 and up.

You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders is a great book for introducing young children to the concept of empathy.  This simple and sweet story follows Quinn as he models empathy in many ways for the readers. This book The back of the book contains discussion questions and two pages of activities that you can do with your children to promote empathy, kindness and compassion.   This sweet book would be great for ages 3 and up.

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood–This is the sweet story about an immigrant girl who feels lost in her new country.  A girl in the park is kind to her and despite their language barrier they become friends.  Slowly she learns the language with the help of her new friend and her new home does not seem as cold and scary.


Someone New by Anne Sibley O’Brien–This book is the story of 3 new children immigrating to America from 3 different countries.  They come to school and  do not speak English and the children in their class work to find ways to reach out to them.  It is a beautiful story about even though we may seem very different on the outside, we have so much connecting us as humans on the inside.

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams is a great example that you can make a BIG difference right in your own home if you work hard and make sacrifices.  The main character does come home with her mother to a house fire.  This may be scary for some young children but is done in a gentle way and shows the love of the community and neighborhood and how they rallied around the family after they lost everything.  This book is about family, love, kindness and hard work.  I would recommend this book to ages 5 and up.

The Invisible Boy was written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice BartonThe Illustrations in this book are wonderful.  Life is very gray and dull for Brian because nobody seems to notice him or include him.  When a new child arrives in class, that all changes for Brian and slowly the illustrations change to full color as more and people start to notice him.  This book is a wonderful example of how one simple act of kindness and a little empathy can make such a big impact on another person.  I’d recommend this book to children ages 4 and up.

I am Human is another TREASURE written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds.  I LOVE this writer/illustrator team and have ALL of their books.  Their books do such a great job of packing in a powerful message for kids while entertaining them with fun illustrations. I am Human focuses on all of the ways that make us human (the good and the bad).  It touches on feelings, dreams, making mistakes, compassion, forgiveness and making good choices.  This book would be great to share with ages 4 and up.

The Lorax is my FAVORITE Dr. Seuss book and one of my top 10 FAVORITE children’s books (I also love the original movie from the 70s).  The story has an important environmental message told in a child friendly way.  This book is a wonderful way to spark rich discussions about empathy with your kids. This book is wonderful for ages 3+.

Books for Older Kids

Save Me a Seat by Sara Weeks is a story told from two perspectives.  Joe and Ravi are two students in the same class and on the outside their lives look very different. Joe is a kind and observant student who struggles in school and is picked on by the other kids. Ravi’s is a new student who just moved from India.  He is very intelligent but his accent leaves his teacher and classmates believing he needs special help and this frustrates Ravi.  These two kids are brought together by a common bully and they learn to be empathetic towards each other. This book would be great for ages 9 and up.

This timeless tale about bullying is perfect for ages 6 and up and is a book EVERY child should hear. From the publisher: Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” 

My children and I DEVOURED the book Wonder by RJ Palcio!!  It is a fictional story based on a real life experience that happened to the author, R.J. Palacio.  This book has endearing characters and the book shifts from one character to the next so that you get the different perspectives.  This BEAUTIFUL book is filled with powerful messages of kindness, acceptance and being yourself.  I believe this book is for EVERYONE ages 7 and up.

Fish in a Tree follows 6th grade Ally as she struggles in class to fit in and hide the fact that she can not read. Ally’s dad is deployed and their military life has led her to be enrolled in 6 schools in 6 years.  It is easy to fall in love with the characters in this book and your heart struggles right along with Ally as she tries so hard to be like everyone else.   If you enjoyed Wonder, you will definitely like this beautiful story about celebrating who you are and the gifts that make us all different. This book would be great for ages 8 and up.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden is an emotional book to read but it will inspire a lot of rich discussion about empathy, courage and kindness.  The book is about a seventh grade girl named Zoey who has a lot of responsibilities and worries for such a young girl.  As Zoey tries to navigate her unstable home life and the challenges of middle school her teacher forces her to join the debate club.  This will change her life in more ways than she ever imagined.  This heartbreaking and challenging book would be great for ages 10 and up.