7 empathy-boosting books for kids aged 5 to 14
Books are an enormously powerful tool for helping our children develop a stronger sense of empathy. Indeed, it’s one of the many vital benefits of a regular reading routine. Children who regularly read for pleasure have been proven to be more empathetic, inclusive and socially aware.
It’s our mission to get children reading, and reading more widely. The world of children’s books has never been more lively and diverse – our bookshelves are teeming with empathy-boosting books for kids!
This Empathy Day, here’s our guide to the best recent empathy books we think children should be reading right now:
An Alien in the Jam Factory by Chrissie Sains, illustrated by Jenny Taylor
This book is fun, inspiring and surprising! Scooter’s cerebral palsy affects how quickly he can move his body, but it doesn’t stop his brain fizzing with ideas. He’s a budding inventor and creative genius, but he’s lonely. That is until Fizzbee the friendly alien crashes through his window – and chaos ensues! Perfect for younger readers aged 5+.
The Elephant by Peter Carnavas
The Elephant tells the moving and ultimately uplifting story of Olive, whose family are in the midst of a terrible grief. Olive describes a large grey elephant following her father around, keeping him heavy and sad. Olive is determined to chase the elephant away. Carefully written and beautifully illustrated, this is the perfect book for reading together with children aged 5+.
No Man’s Land by Joanna Nadin
This book is a powerful and thought-provoking dystopian thriller for middle grade readers aged 8+. With far-right Albion on the brink of war with Europe, 10-year-old Alan and his younger brother are sent away to safety in No Man’s Land. Alan’s bravery says so much about the difference young people can make in a world turned upside down by conflict.
Fake by Ele Fountain
We are huge fans of Ele Fountain’s work, which is always packed with equal doses of empathy and adventure. Fake tells the story of Jess, whose sister Chloe is seriously ill and fading fast. Chloe’s medication is getting more expensive, so in a desperate bid to help her sister, Jess turns to the digital world, diving into classified territory and uncovering explosive truths. Perfect for 10+
Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah
Author and poet Benjamin Zephaniah needs little introduction. In Windrush Child he explores the moving and unsung stories of a key moment in our past. Leonard has just arrived in Southampton from Jamaica. His parents have promised a better life and he tries to make new friends and do well at school. But it’s hard when people hurt him with their words – and with their fists. Ideal for 9+.
Me, In Between by Julya Rabinowich
This moving story depicts the reality for so many young people in Europe today. Madina has fled war to seek asylum in Germay and begin a hopeful new life, starting a new school, learning the language and forging new friendships. But she is caught between her new life and the traumatic memories of her past – can she find the path that’s right for her? Perfect for 12+.
Proud of Me by Sarah Hagger-Holt
Proud of Me is a fun and moving family story, perfect for older readers. Becky and Josh are almost-twins, with two mums and the same anonymous donor dad. Josh can't wait until he can finally contact his donor, and he'll do anything to find out more. Becky can't stop thinking about her new friend, Carli. Could her feelings for Carli be a sign of something more?
For more about Empathy Day and the when, what and why of reading children’s books for empathy, head over to our Guide to Empathy Day and children’s books that encourage reading for empathy. You’ll also find loads more fantastic empathy-boosting book recommendations here.
If No Man's Land and Me, In Between particularly appeal you may also be interested in 13 children’s books exploring the impact of war and the refugee experience.
More from: Power of reading Reading for empathy
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