Books That Teach Empathy to Children

In my previous post, I stressed the importance of teaching empathy to children in school and at home in an effort to prevent bullying. Empathy, as opposed to sympathy or compassion, is a starting point for understanding both ourselves and other people from the inside out. In that vein, here are some wonderful books that can help teach your child about empathy. 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Empathy wonderStarting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. The book begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. Appropriate for students in grades 3-7.

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran. That was the second grade, but not much has changed by the seventh. But in the eighth grade everything gets turned upside down: just as Bryce is thinking that there’s maybe more to Juli than meets the eye, and that she may actually be pretty amazing, she’s thinking that he’s not quite all he seemed. Appropriate for students in grades 3-8.

Empathy islandIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. This book is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana’s quiet courage, her self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic. Appropriate for students in grades 4-7.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai. This book is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration. Appropriate for students in grades 3-5.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter. Little Man throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can Empathy Paperboybarely say a word without stuttering—not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he’s not exactly looking forward to interacting with the customers, but it’s the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, who stirs up real trouble in Little Man’s life. Appropriate for students in grades 4-6.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy, and she’s determined to let everyone know–somehow. Appropriate for students in grades 3-5.

For even more books that teach empathy, click here. All reading levels provided by Scholastic.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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