Children's Books which Teach Empathy
The best way to teach children attitudes is through books
In an ever-changing world, we want to prepare our children for the challenges that lie ahead. But how do we do that? How can we get them to listen to us? The trick is to do it through reading. Either by you reading to them, or presenting them with books that have the message you want to get across. Now that might seem quite difficult. How do you know which books to choose? If you've ever walked into a book store, you will have seen a huge selection of books with brightly colored covers, just how do you know which ones to pick? There are so many books out there, many of them are just for entertainment and don't have much of an underlying message. You can ask the book shop assistant for advice, but chances are, they wouldn't really know what to say to you. I have decided to make it easy for you. I have created an A-Store on Amazon that has children's books in different categories. The categories are based on the TWELVE ATTITUDES identified by the International Baccalaureate's Primary Year's Programme (PYP), as critical to develop in children if we want to make the world a better place in the future. The twelve attitudes are: empathy, tolerance, respect, curiosity, integrity, enthusiasm, confidence, creativity, cooperation, independence, appreciation and commitment.
Empathy is a good attitude to develop in your child. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s place. Empathy is about gaining an understanding of others. Empathy is about knowing what someone feels like in a difficult situation. Empathy is walking in someone else's shoes. Imagine trying to explain empathy to a young child. You can't. But if you share a story with them, where the focus is empathy, then you can help them to understand what it means.
Give a child a book for Christmas
Here is a sample of some of the books in my A-Store on Amazon. With Christmas rapidly approaching, now is the time to look out for good books to give as gifts.
Masai and I by Virginia Kroll, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter A young girl from the city imagines how different her life would be if she were a Masai living on the East African plains. On each double page spread of this picture book, the illustration blends and links the two ways of life. The fact that the girl and her family are black and that she is exploring her feelings of kinship with the Masai gives an extra dimension to the story. (6 - 10 years)
Pumpkin Soup by Cooper
A delightful story about Cat, Squirrel and Duck and the problems caused when Duck decides he will stir the pumpkin soup instead of Squirrel. It takes a while but gradually everything is worked and cooperation reigns again.
You and Me, Murrawee by Kerri Hashmi illustrated by Felicity Marshall
A beautifully illustrated picture book which shows a young white girl camping on the banks of the River Murray with her family and through her eyes the life of a young Aboriginal girl Murrawee two hundred of years earlier, before the white settlers came.
Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer
Benny is devastated when he has to leave Ireland and his hurling friends and go and live in Tunisia. He is a rebel and finds the unthreatening friendly atmosphere of the international school very strange and feels more at ease with a young homeless Tunisian boy who is forced to live life on the edge. Colfer succeeds in giving a believable, unsentimental portrayal of poverty and homelessness. (10 – 15 years)
Bill’s New Frock by Anne Fine
One morning Bill Simpson wakes up and finds out that he is a girl and has to go to school dresses in a pink frock. The day is like a nightmare for him but hilarious for the reader as Bill discovers that girls are often treated differently by teachers and other children. (7 – 11 years)
Dreamwalker by Isobelle Carmody
created with illustrator Steven Woolman is a striking graphic novel. It is a fantasy story which also looks at the way stories are created and the way author and illustrator work together. It has a highly dramatic visual presentation. (10 – 15 years)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
This is a remarkable story about a futuristic time. Jonas is given enormous responsibility and comes to realise that the premises of the world in which he lives are based false memories and deceit. (9 – 13 years)
Storm Boy by Colin Thiele illustrated by Robert Ingpen
The well known story of the friendship between a boy and a pelican Mr Percival set in the beautiful but desolate coastal area of southern South Australia. (6 – 12 years)
Be Quiet, Marina! by Kirsten Debear
Two girls, one with cerebral palsy, the other with Down syndrome, learn to play together. An excellent story which shows that we can all get along despite differences and difficulties. Age: 4-8
Every child should get a book as a gift
There is so much we can teach our children through books. Especially, if you choose a book that has a message. Empathy should not be a difficult attitude to develop in our children. There are books which cover empathy for children in kindergarten right up to secondary. There are books which deal with cancer, divorce, refugees, war victims, children with special needs, what it's like to get old. You name it, there is a book that will deal with that subject. The thing is, is that to get the message across, you need to read the book as well, so that you can discuss it with your child. Reading could be a share-time in your family. You need to talk about the book, how do you think so and so felt?
If we encourage our children to develop empathy for others, we can create a world where everybody fits in and is accepted regardless of what they look like or where they come from. Maybe, we can even stamp out bullying in our schools.
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