Teaching Empathy through Children's Books

Discover effective strategies for using children's books to teach empathy. Learn how to select empathetic books, engage young readers with interactive reading techniques, and extend learning throug...


4/28/20242 min read

a little girl is sitting on a couch in a library
a little girl is sitting on a couch in a library


Empathy is a crucial skill that plays a vital role in nurturing relationships and understanding diverse perspectives. It is essential in the development of children. While books are often considered a source of entertainment for children, they are also a powerful tool that can teach empathy and understanding.

Why Books Build Empathy

Books have a unique ability to transport readers into different worlds and experiences. This opens up opportunities for children to understand the emotions and situations they haven't encountered directly. Studies have shown that reading fiction significantly enhances a person's ability to empathize with others because it involves understanding characters' emotions and actions from the inside.

Selecting Empathetic Books

Selecting appropriate books is crucial for encouraging empathy. It is recommended to choose stories that showcase diverse characters and settings, and present a range of emotional experiences and moral dilemmas. This helps children develop an understanding and appreciation for lives different from their own. For a collection of books specifically curated to promote emotional well-being, please visit our Mindful Reads blog.

Interactive Reading Techniques

"To enhance children's reading experience and promote empathy, try asking them questions that delve deeper into the characters' emotions and decisions. For instance, you can ask questions like "How do you think she felt when that happened?" or "What would you have done in his place?". By doing so, children are encouraged to think critically and empathize with the characters."

Examples of Empathetic Children's Books

Here are a few books that are excellent for teaching empathy:

  • "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio - A story about a boy with a facial difference who navigates the challenges of being new at school.

  • "The Name Jar" by Yangsook Choi - A book about a Korean girl who struggles with her identity as she decides whether to adopt an English name at school.

  • From our collection, Emmy's Diary, explores themes of family, friendship, and cultural diversity through the eyes of Emmy as she experiences life's various milestones.

Activities to Extend Learning

After reading, engage children in activities that reinforce the story's themes. Role-playing exercises, drawing the different emotions characters felt, or writing alternative endings from another character’s perspective can deepen their understanding and empathy.


Using children's books as a tool to teach empathy is an effective way to discuss complex feelings and situations in a nurturing manner. We encourage parents and educators to choose books that emphasize empathy and to discuss them thoughtfully with young readers. By promoting empathy through literature, we can help cultivate a more understanding and compassionate generation.