Our guide to Empathy Day and children’s books that encourage reading for empathy

Empathy Day was set up back in 2017 by the fantastic folk at EmpathyLab who are on a mission to help children become more empathetic, creating a generation that understands the power of this vital skill. Their aim is to reach a million children a year by 2026.

The reason we’re so enthusiastic about Empathy Day is that it focuses on using books and stories to help children step into someone else’s shoes and flex those empathy muscles.

Can fiction books really play a part in empathy?

Children lying on a white floor holding colourful books in front of their faces.

The short answer is yes! Research has shown that reading fiction has some very specific benefits for children and adults. Learn more by taking a look at our blog post - reading fiction and empathy: the amazing benefits of books for children.

Books aren’t just brilliant at developing empathy. There are a host of amazing benefits educationally, emotionally and socially. You may like to check out our top reasons why reading matters. Some of the health benefits of reading may surprise you too!

Which books can help boost empathy?

Collage of all the book covers included in the 2023 Read for Empathy collection

Any book which transports you into another person’s shoes is going to help boost empathy. But of course, there are some titles that do this particularly well, or weave themes of kindness, compassion, resilience and inclusion into the story in such a way that it super-charges the benefits to readers.

Each year EmpathyLab create a Reading for Empathy Collection with this in mind. It’s their top picks from the children’s publishing landscape and a fantastic resource for parents and teachers.

Of course, we’d recommend you check out the whole list but we’ve also picked top 12 from the collection to get you started.

What’s happening on Empathy Day in 2023?

Save the Date banner for Empathy Day taking place on 8th June 2023

On Thursday 8th June 2023, children, teachers, authors, illustrators and all manner of book-related professionals will be enjoying a day of activities and celebrations. This year's theme is Mission Empathy.

Excitingly, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2022-2024, Joseph Coelho, will be leading a nationwide, empathy-focussed National Assembly on the day. 

There will also be a return to live events, including a major event with Manchester Libraries.  And Sophy Henn, award-winning author/illustrator of the Pizazz and Lifesize series, will be Empathy Day’s first official illustrator.

Find out more and sign up for a free Empathy Day Toolkit here.