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Our top 10 picks from EmpathyLab’s Read for Empathy Collection 2022

Children reading together, working on empathy

The countdown to Empathy Day 2022 is on! Empathy Day was launched in 2017 as part of EmpathyLab’s mission to highlight the crucial role that books play in driving a stronger sense of empathy in our young people. This year’s Empathy Day falls on 9th June and is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the very best empathy books for kids published in the last few years. 

Each year as part of their Empathy Day celebrations, EmpathyLab pull together 60 recommended children’s books in their Read for Empathy collection. This year’s collection features books for 4 to 16-year-olds that help children and young people better understand what it is like to experience tough situations that they may have heard about but don’t have direct experience of themselves, such as becoming homeless or life as a refugee. There’s also a focus on inspiring positive action towards climate change, animals or other issues affecting their community.

There are some brilliant, inspiring and important books on this year’s Read for Empathy list and we highly recommend exploring the collection in full. If you’re not quite sure where to start, here is our pick of 10 of the best titles for family reading:
The Dog That Saved the World (Cup) by Phil Earle

The Dog That Saved the World (Cup) by Phil Earle

A careful and beautifully drawn picture of a parent’s mental health. Life is tough for football-mad Elsie and her dad. When disaster strikes and Elsie’s dream of playing at Wembley are shattered, it’s up to Pickles the dog to save the day, perfect for 5+.

Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister by Chitra Soundar

Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister by Chitra Soundar

This book transported us to India and to the heart of a vibrant family home. A gently, beautifully illustrated chapter book for kids aged 5+, this was a huge hit with our Parakeet subscribers when we sent it to them last year. You can grab a copy of the book and accompanying activity pack here

The Soup Movement by Ben Davis

The Soup Movement by Ben Davis

An engaging and sensitive story about one boy’s quest for social justice. Jordan is determined to improve the lives of the homeless people in his community, and one small act of kindness ends up leading to a whole inspiring movement. Ideal for 8+.

The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethel

The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethel

A wonderful new book by one of our favourite children’s authors. Set in the oceans around Papua New Guinea, it tells the story of Blue Wing who is desperate to become a shark caller to avenge the deaths of her parents. Brave and magical storytelling for 8+.

The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter

The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter

A moving, laugh-out-loud story for kids aged 8+ and one of our favourite books of 2021. Billy Plimpton dreams of being a stand-up comedian when he grows up. A tough career for anyone, but surely impossible for Billy, who has a stammer. How will he find his voice, if his voice won't let him speak?

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

This multi award-winning book needs little introduction. It’s a wonderful example of the role children’s fiction plays in informing and empowering the next generation on the issue of climate change. Plus, the storytelling is second to none. Perfect for 8+.

When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle

When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle

Another award-winning book that was a huge hit with our subscribers last year, this is a thrilling, moving and ultimately hopeful historical novel for older readers. At the height of the Blitz, Joseph strikes up an unlikely friendship with Adonis, a huge silverback gorilla – strong, dangerous, lonely, but also hugely vulnerable as the bombs fall around him.

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten

Set against a vibrant Caribbean backdrop, we love this intriguing, mysterious story and the beautifully drawn characters who star in it. Clara loves life in her small village - but she can't remember anything that happened last summer. And when a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change.

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicholl

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicholl

Author of the moment Elle McNicholl follows up her hit A Kind of Spark with this compelling novel that celebrates diversity. Cora, who has autism, becomes involved in the futuristic Pomegranate Institute where she faces some important questions. What is perfection? And are all humans valued equally?

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle

This passionate and important historical novel for older readers explores the true story of Tacky’s War against British slavers in 1760s Jamaica. Moa’s fight for freedom raises some tough questions about violence, retribution and some painful truths about the experience of slavery.

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.