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The best books for helping children to learn about empathy this Empathy Day




Bishop's Stortford College Prep School librarian Lizzie Hall writes about the magic of storytelling...

Dear Reader. It is Empathy Day today (Thursday June 10).

Research shows that empathy can be learned through reading stories. When we read, our brains react in the same way as if the fictional situations were real.

Here are some books that help children to walk in someone else's shoes and encourage empathy.

Younger readers

The Lost Homework by Richard O'Neill and Kirsti Beautyman

The Lost Homework by Richard O’Neill and Kirsti Beautyman (47818459)
The Lost Homework by Richard O’Neill and Kirsti Beautyman (47818459)

Sonny devotes his weekend to helping his neighbours and fellow travellers with a variety of tasks.

He uses many skills, from calculating the amount of fuel needed for a journey to restoring a caravan.

In fact, the only thing he doesn't do over the weekend is his homework – his workbook is missing! What will his teacher say?

Tibble and Grandpa by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus

This is a touching intergenerational story of love and resilience.

Tibble loves talking to Grandpa, but Grandpa has stopped listening.

Mum says just give him time, but Tibble wants to talk to Grandpa now. So Tibble tries his favourite game, top threes, and something amazing happens - Grandpa starts talking again.

Tibble and Grandpa by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus (47818471)
Tibble and Grandpa by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus (47818471)

A moving story about love, loss and the wonder of families.

Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier, Kaatje Vermiere and David Colmer

Maia is an impatient little scamp, just like Grandma. When something pops into their heads, they want it now! Right away!

They get along like a house on fire, but one day Grandma falls ill and all her words become muddled.

The grown-ups can't understand her, but Maia knows exactly what she means!

A wonderful book to share with children and to treasure for years to come.

Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier, Kaatje Vermiere and David Colmer (47818467)
Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier, Kaatje Vermiere and David Colmer (47818467)

Older readers

The Boy in the Jam Jar by Joyce Dunbar

Dylan can't hear as well as he used to and he doesn't want to be different from his friends - he wants to be able to hear like everyone else.

As his hearing gets worse he becomes more and more isolated from his friends.

Luckily his dog Pluto is there to keep him down to earth...

A powerful and personal story from Joyce Dunbar about what it's like to experience hearing difficulties.

The Boy in the Jam Jar by Joyce Dunbar (47818465)
The Boy in the Jam Jar by Joyce Dunbar (47818465)

The Faraway Truth by Janae Marks

Zoe Washington never met her father, who was sent to prison right before she was born.

When she receives a letter from him on her 12th birthday, it's a huge surprise. Zoe's mum always told her that Marcus was a liar and a monster, but he sounds... nice.

Zoe starts to investigate the crime - and the deeper she digs, the more she doubts the conviction.

Is her father innocent? Or is he a liar? Zoe is determined to find out.

The Faraway Truth by Janae Marks (47818463)
The Faraway Truth by Janae Marks (47818463)

Talking to the Moon by S E Durrant

Iris' grandmother Mimi has started to put jam on her scrambled eggs and tie blue ribbons around her fingers to remind her of stuff.

Her house, always full of things, is becoming harder and harder to navigate. When Iris goes to stay, she feels as if a whole life is becoming muddled up.

As her grandmother's memory fades, a mystery is uncovered. Who is Coral and what happened to her?

A moving exploration of memory and stories, told through the eyes of a grandchild losing a beloved grandparent to dementia. Beautifully and engagingly told, this is an ultimately hopeful book for our time.

Talking to the Moon by S E Durrant (47818455)
Talking to the Moon by S E Durrant (47818455)

Teenagers and YA

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Omar and his brother Hassan, two Somali boys, have spent a long time in the Dadaab refugee camp. Separated from their mother, they are looked after by a friendly stranger.

Life in the camp isn't always easy and the hunger is constant, but there's football to look forward to and now there's a chance Omar will get to go to school...

A heart-wrenching true story about life in a Kenyan refugee camp that will restore your faith in real-life happy endings.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (47818473)
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (47818473)

The Missing by Michael Rosen

A personal, powerful and resonant account of the Holocaust by one of this country's best-loved children's authors.

Charming, shocking and heart-breaking, this is the true story of Michael Rosen's search for his relatives who "went missing" during the Second World War, told through prose, poetry, maps and pictures.

When Michael was growing up, stories often hung in the air about his great uncles: one was a clock mender and the other a dentist. They were there before the war, his dad would say, and weren't after.

Over many years, Michael tried to find out exactly what happened: he interviewed family members, scoured the internet, pored over books and travelled to America and France.

The story he uncovered was one of terrible persecution – and it has inspired his poetry for years since.

Here, poems old and new are balanced against an immensely readable narrative; both an extraordinary account and a powerful tool for talking to children about the Holocaust.

The Missing by Michael Rosen (47818461)
The Missing by Michael Rosen (47818461)

The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery

Japanese teenager Mizuki is worried about her grandfather who is clearly desperately upset about something.

He says that he has never got over something that happened in his past and, gently, Mizuki persuades him to tell her what it is.

We are taken to 1945, Hiroshima, and Mizuki's grandfather as a teenage boy chatting at home with his friend Hiro. Moments later the horrific nuclear bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.

What follows is a searing account of the blinding flash, the harrowing search for family and the devastation, both human and physical.

There is also the very moving and human story as the two teenage boys, with great bravery, search for and find Keiko, Hiro's five-year-old sister.

But then Keiko is lost when Mizuki's grandfather has no option but to leave her in a safe place while he goes for help.

Despite a desperate search in the aftermath of the bomb, where he leaves origami paper cranes for Keiko with his address on everywhere a survivor could be, he cannot find her.

A powerful novel that, despite its harrowing subject matter, has hope at its heart.

The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery (47818469)
The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery (47818469)


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