Empathy Day 2023 is taking place on 8th June. This fantastic event is organised each year by Empathy Lab, an organisation with the sole aim of promoting empathy through literature.
Empathy Lab believes, as do we, that reading books which explore different perspectives and experiences can help children and young people to develop empathy and understanding, and to become more compassionate and inclusive members of society.
Every year, they also compile a Read for Empathy Collection. Each book is carefully selected based on its ability to engage readers emotionally and encourage them to think deeply about the experiences of others.
The collection is a wonderful resource for both parents and teachers, featuring 65 books for readers aged 3 to 16. Chosen by an expert panel of teachers, librarians and academics these books explore important and timely themes including poverty, homelessness, identity and intolerance.
We'd thoroughly recommend you check out the full collection but if you're not quite sure where to start these are our top 12 fiction picks:
Chapter books for early readers that encourage empathy:
Sidney Makes a Wish by Lisa Thompson
This short, highly illustrated book is a heartwarming story about finding friendship and understanding. It's produced with a dyslexia friendly font and layout, perfectly designed for boosting reading confidence.
The Boy Who Grew a Tree by Polly Ho-Yen
Timi is unsettled by the arrival of a new sibling and takes solace in tending to a sapling growing at the local library. But it turns out there is magic afoot. This is a gentle tale about nature, connection and love.
Nikhil and Jay: The Star Birthday by Chitra Soundar
This charming book features four interlinked stories about brothers Nikhil and Jay and their family. They're vividly brought to life by Soofiya's illustrations.
All to Play For by Eve Ainsworth
A brilliant story about overcoming obstacles and never giving up hope, presented with illustrations throughout. Hard-hitting in places but ultimately uplifting, it will be especially popular with football fans.
Middle grade novels for 8 to 12-year-olds that encourage empathy:
Has Anyone Seen Archie Ebbs? by Simon Packham
Archie's seemingly perfect life is turned upside down when his family are forced into emergency housing. But that's not all - it seems that he's also becoming invisible! The issue of homelessness is tackled with compassion and humour.
The Good Turn by Sharna Jackson
This rip-roaring mystery adventure also tackles racism, social injustice and the Windrush scandal in a compelling and highly accessible way. Three friends decide to start their own Scout Troop but what starts as a fun adventure takes a more serious turn...
Cuckoo Summer by Jonathan Tulloch
This thrilling, wartime adventure was included in our August 2022 box for subscribers. When two friends find an injured Nazi airman in the woods they decide to keep him a secret, with unexpected consequences. We interviewed Jonathan about his inspiration which you can read here.
Can you Feel the Noise? by Stewart Foster
Sophie's band has made it to the semifinals of a Battle of the Bands competition but when she wakes one morning to find herself deaf her life is transformed. It's a moving and powerful story, based on the author's own hearing impairment, about perseverance, passion and the power of friendship.
No Man's Land by Joanna Nadin
We chose this gripping, dystopian thriller for our Cockatoo boxes in early 2022. It's a book about war and power, but ultimately it's about how resilient our young people are and the difference they can make to the world. Read our interview with Joanna, about the book and writing about politics for children, here.
Empathy-boosting books for early teens aged 12 to 14
Read Between the Lies by Malcolm Duffy
This is a powerful and gripping family drama that explores the joys and challenges of dyslexia. Tommy and Ryan couldn't be more different but when they are brought together they discover they have more than they think in common!
We sent this book to our Macaw subscribers recently and have a few copies of the box available to purchase here.
Nisha's War by Dan Smith
This atmospheric, historical ghost story explores grief, guilt, forgiveness and belonging. When, having had to flee Malaya, Nisha defies her stern Anglo-Indian grandmother's rules about avoiding an old tree in her garden, she is discovers much more than she was expecting.
The Secret Sunshine Project by Benjamin Dean
This is a heartwarming story about courage, kindness and love in all its forms. When Bea and her sister are forced to move to the countryside it hits the family hard. In a bid to cheer her sister up Bea decides to bring Pride to the village but meets resistance from the local residents.
You may also be interested to check out our Guide to Empathy Day and children's books that encourage reading for empathy.