Helping children develop empathy is one of the most important things we need to do as teachers. Empathy helps our young learners connect with others who can be like them, unlike them, and everything in between!
Why Empathy is Important?
Empathy is an area that is so important, and we need to make sure to teach and develop empathy in our students. Empathy is so important because it helps us better understand how others are feeling, and it helps us know how to respond appropriately to any situation. These responses and thoughts can be very challenging for children, especially preschoolers. Empathy needs to be developed and taught in a purposeful way and can significantly benefit our young learners. Read more about why empathy matters here!
Why We Need to Help Preschoolers Develop Empathy
Every child should have help developing empathy from the adults, especially their teachers. We need to start a lot younger than people think. Helping our young learners develop a strong sense of empathy is beneficial. It helps them build stronger relationships with their peers and their teachers, gives them a sense of security inside the classroom, and puts them in an excellent position for learning. It also encourages tolerance and helps promote good mental health.
13 Must-Read Books to Help Teach and Develop Empathy
There are many fantastic empathy books, and they show us why empathy matters and help us teach children why and how they should have empathy for others. I have loved using these with my preschoolers and know you will too!
Invisible Boy- Trudy Ludwig
Brian seems to be invisible. No one in class notices him, he isn’t invited to birthday parties, and sometimes his peers do not even talk to him. But, when a new student joins the class, Brian is the first to say hi, and the two boys quickly become friends. While working on a partner project, Brian finds his time to shine.
Those Shoes- Maribeth Boelts
All Jeremy wants are the shoes everyone has. However, Jeremy and his grandmother don’t have the extra money for any “wants.” When his shoes start to fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to get “those shoes.” When he finds the shoes in a thrift store (too small), he soon realizes sore feet are not that fun and starts to realize all of the good things he does have!
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!- Maria Dismondy
Gabe is a new kid and is 100% nervous about going to the classroom. Why? Gabe doesn’t speak English, and he feels scared and intimidated. The teacher, however, goes out of her way to make Gabe feel welcome, but Johnny goes out of his way to be unkind.
If You Plant a Seed- Kadir Nelson
A book that discusses the process of planting and growing and how when you plant something, it will grow. But what if you plant a seed of kindness or a seed of selfishness? A great way to discuss the idea of how kindness and selfishness can grow into something beautiful or ugly.
We’re All Wonders- R.J. Palacio
Wonder has captured many hearts, and this book is no different. This book tells Auggie’s story but hits on every child’s want to belong and be seen for who they really are. It is the perfect book to help teach and talk about empathy and kindness for younger students.
Lovely- Jess Hong
Short, tall, curly, straight. This book discusses how differences make everyone unique, no matter how different we all are. We are all lovely!
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy- Susan Verde
Part of the “I Am” series. This one focuses on teaching and developing empathy within children. It discusses how everyone dreams, learns, and asks questions, and we also all make mistakes, feel sad, and have other emotions!
I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness- Kerascoët
Based on a true story, this beautiful picture book explores feelings of being helpless, anger that can come about when a classmate is mistreated, and how a single act of kindness can create a domino effect. The themes of why empathy matters, accepting others, showing compassion, and more are brought out through the fantastic pictures with no words!
The Monster Who Lost His Mean- Tiffany Strelitz Haber
Everyone knows that the M in “monster” stands for mean in this book. But eventually, one little monster just can’t be mean anymore and wonders if he is still a monster? However, he still attempts to be the monster everyone believes he should be, and it all goes very wrong! But with a bit of help from some new friends. He realized it is not your name that matters but who you are as a person (or monster).
You, Me and Empathy: Teaching children about empathy, feelings, kindness, compassion, tolerance and recognizing bullying behaviors- Jayneen Sanders
The title of this book says it all! A perfect book to help students develop empathy and show students exactly why empathy is essential and why empathy matters. Written in verse, Quinn is the ideal model of empathy, and throughout the story, he shows understanding, compassion, and kindness towards others.
Hey, Little Ant- Phillip M. Hoose & Hannah Hoose
Originally this book was a thought-provoking song written by a father-daughter team. A little girl gets a surprise when the ant she is talking to suddenly starts to talk back! The conversation between the tiny ant and the little girl can easily help your students develop empathy and start discussions about caring, kindness, and respect for people and animals!
One- Kathryn Otoshi
Using colors to help students understand emotions is always a great lesson, and students often can easily imagine their feelings as colors. In this book, Blue is quiet, and Red is a bully who picks on Blue. The other colors like Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like how Red treats Blue, but they do not say anything, and things quickly get out of hand. Then One comes along and shows all the colors exactly how to stand up, stand together, and count. A book showing differences and showing empathy and caring for one another is an excellent read for younger readers!
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler- Margery Cuyler
When Mrs. Ruler teaches her class that “kindness is cool,” they all decide to start completing good deeds and prove kids can make a difference. They eventually do so many good deeds they no longer fit on the good deed bulletin board. Count along and see if Mrs. Ruler’s class makes it to 100 good deeds.
Empathy can be taught in so many different ways, and we can help our students understand why empathy matters and how they can show empathy towards others!
Teachers are often searching for books to develop empathy, and this list is a great starting point.
There are so many other resources and books out there, and I would love to know about any books you absolutely love, to see what you are using to help develop empathy in your classroom.
Feel free to leave them in the comment section below.
One last thing:
If you are looking to develop more kindness and empathy with your students, check out these posts below 👇🏼:
Why Empathy is important Even in the Preschool Classroom
7 Fun & Engaging Activities About Friendship for Preschool Classrooms
5 Ways to Easily Fit Friendship Activities into Your Day
3 Main Areas to Focus on when Teaching Friendship Skills to Preschoolers
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