50+ Books to Help Build Compassion and Empathy

Drum roll please… Our family character trait(s) for February are… compassion and empathy! (You can read more about our 12 character traits for 2020 here and here.) With Valentine’s Day in February, we wanted to focus our month on love and kindness, but in terms of having family conversations about our behaviors, those are both very broad, general terms. The more we thought about how we wanted to help our girls grow, we realized we wanted to help them SEE others more. To see other people and notice how they might be feeling. To put themselves in others’ shoes and act on what they observe. So, while we also obviously hope our children are kind in every way and show love to important people in their lives, we really want them to start to notice. To pay attention to others. To stop and help if it seems that they can, or to make amends for their own choices if they need to do so…

In other words, to approach the world around them with compassion and empathy!

As Jamie C. Martin wrote in Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at at Time, “Books help your family grasp on a new level that what we have in common with our worldwide neighbors far outweighs what separates us… It naturally develops compassion… because we all have similar needs, hopes, and desires. Great stories build an empathic foundation that leads to a life of service and concern for others” (p. 26). To that end, we love to use children’s literature to help our children develop fully as people. So, of course, we’ll be reading a lot of books showcasing compassion and empathy in February! Below, I’ve got 50+ amazing books for you to read with your children. Check it out, read along with us, and let me know if I’ve missed any amazing stories that our girls need to know and love!

Of course, one of the best ways to help children develop compassion and empathy for others is to read books that feature a wide variety of people in a wide variety of situations who feel a wide variety of emotions. Three of our favorite books highlighting the diversity (and similarities) of children around the world are Global BabiesThis Is How We Do It (you can read my full review here), and The Barefoot Book of Children. We will continue to read those as well as fill our shelves with books that feature wide arrays of children, experiences, and emotions throughout the year. The books listed below were chosen for this specific compassion and empathy list because they all feature children who see and notice, and then react with compassion and empathy to the world around them.

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 12.50.04 PM

50+ Books to Help Build Compassion and Empathy

*** Affiliate links used. As an affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for considering making a purchase through my links! To read my full disclosure CLICK HERE.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.09.21 PM

Kindness Starts With You: At School by Jacquelyn Stagg, illustrated by T. Omaskat — For your youngest readers, this book does a terrific job making “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” tangible. These children aren’t yet ready to take on others’ feelings, but they can definitely understand how they want others to treat them. This reads almost as a checklist for children to walk through their day with compassion and empathy, starting with saying please and thank you when her mom makes breakfast, including inviting kids who are left out to play at recess, and fixing accidents when they happen. Stagg includes a link for a downloadable kindness bingo game, too. Ages 1-5.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.47.06 PM

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal — Oh man, this one is so important! Neal has given us an invaluable tool for teaching children how powerful words can be. She shows children how others’ words can both “make you happy” or “can really hurt.” She then goes one step farther to show how our own words have the same effect on others, changing the way THEIR hearts feel, too. She ends with the challenge to “Use our words to look after each other’s hearts,” and therefore, change the world. Ages 2-6, but terrific for children of all ages.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead — One of the first books I reviewed when I started my Instagram account, Amos McGee ranks at the top of my very favorite children’s book characters. I wish we could all be a little more like sweet Amos. He sees each of his friends as individuals and treats them with the unique respect and care that they individually deserve, rather than assuming that they all need the same things or enjoy the same activities that he does. You can read my Instagram review here. Ages 2-6.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.20.31 PM

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell — It is a lot easier to show compassion and empathy for people who are like us. This nearly-wordless Caldecott Medal Winner beautifully illustrates how two people who are even quite different, maybe even classified as natural enemies, can stop to offer help and protection to each other when the need it most. Ages 2-6.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.26.32 PM

Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen, illustrated by Kristina Swarner — While this book is about all sorts of good and kind things that people do, Gillen includes a few concrete examples of compassion and empathy that I love to discuss with my girls, such as an older boy helping a scared young child on a slide, and a classmate stopping to help a friend with a skinned knee. Every page in this book allows for deep, lovely conversation, but you could take extra time with these pages if you wanted to focus on stopping, noticing, and helping people around you. You can read my Instagram review here. Ages 3 and up.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.54.50 PM

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld — Delightful in many, many ways, The Rabbit Listened is terrific for helping children learn different ways to cope with big emotions, as well as for helping children learn different ways that they can help their friends cope with these big emotions. You’re going to love this one and want to come back to it again and again. Just trust me on that! You can read my Instagram review here. Ages 3-5, but terrific for children of all ages.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.55.26 PM

To the Sea by Cale Atkinson — A friendship book in which brand-new, drastically different friends repeat “I see you” to each other? Yes, please! Sometimes the most important thing we can do for others is to see them. To truly see them, stop to talk to them, and use actions that show that we truly care. Tim and Sam, the friends in this book, embody this so well. You can read my full review here. Ages 3-5, but terrific for older children as well.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.57.19 PM

When Charley Met Emma by Amy Webb, illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard — Sometimes, the best way to encourage children to develop compassion and empathy for others is to teach them appropriate ways to ask wonderful questions of those who are different, so that they can learn more about not only what makes them different, but also what connections they have. Written by the mother of a child with limb differences, this book includes a wonderful resource page at the back, to help parents and caregivers guide their children through meeting children with different abilities. Ages 3-5, but terrific for older children as well.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.05.23 PM

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken — Sometimes, it can be really hard to understand others, especially if, on the surface, they seem quite different than you. When the main character hurts Adrian, she learns to read his body language to help understand the effect of her words on his feelings. I love using this to start conversations with children about how to tell how others are feeling even when they’re not using any words with you. You can read my full review here. Ages 3-5, but even better for elementary children.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.22.25 PM

Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin — Written about the kind things that people in one community do for each other, Peace is an Offering  is full of examples of people seeing each other and noticing others’ needs, then acting on what they saw with kindness. We see friends visiting and including injured friends, older siblings guiding younger ones, and classmates reaching out to help someone up when she has fallen, among other things. I know I’d love to live in this community! Ages 3-5.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.30.20 PM

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts, illustrated by Christian Robinson — In a school full of big people, the smallest girl in the smallest grade notices everything… the good AND the bad. And this girl, the smallest one in the school, decides to stand up and take a stand to make her school a kinder place. I love the message that all children can make a difference, as long as they take time to notice what needs to be changed. This is a particular favorite with our first grader. Ages 3-5, but great slightly older too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.53.42 PM

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill — If you’ve followed me for any bit of time, you’ve likely heard me talk about this one. It’s an all-time favorite of both mine nad my girls. Why does this book stand out? It shows the tough side of trying to be compassionate or empathetic… Sometimes people just aren’t ready to receive your kindness. But if you keep trying, eventually that person might be ready… And your kindnesses can spill away from you and cause a ripple effect around the world! You can read my Instagram review here. Ages 3-6, but incredibly important for children of all ages.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.00.41 PM

Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka — The simplicity of this book is what makes it incredibly powerful. An outgoing, gregarious boy approaches a sullen, shy boy and engages him in conversation (always using almost just one word per question and response). Your heart will burst when the quiet boy says that he has no friends and the other responds with such love and enthusiasm. Yo! Yes? is powerful inspiration to both children and adults to stop, see who is left out, and include them in your activities… And shows how simply and easy it is to do! Ages 3-6.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.02.35 PM

A World of Kindness from the editors and illustrators of Pajama Press — Written as a series of questions that encourage children to think about their behaviors in their homes, schools, neighborhoods, and communities. From inspiring kids to be gentle with animals to saying sorry when they’re wrong, this book aims to turn “a little kindness… into a world of kindness.” Side note, our daughter’s kindergarten teacher took a photograph of the students’ hands in this same heart shape, framed it, and gave it to each family at the end of the year. We’ll cherish that heart forever! Ages 3-6.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.25.22 PM

The Teddy Bear by David McPhail — How often, as adults, have we ushered our children away from people who are different, dirty, or homeless, in an attempt to protect them and keep them safe? By doing so, we miss out on so many wonderful opportunities to understand others, to help those in need, or to model compassion for our children! Here, a little boy has a beloved teddy bear, the kind he sleeps with, eats with, plays with, and adventures with. Until, one day, he loses him. A man who appears to be homeless finds him, and the teddy bear becomes his comfort object. When the boy encounters the bear again months down the road and see how important the bear is to the man, you’ll all learn important lessons in compassion and generosity. Ages 3-6, but great older as well.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.06.37 PM

South by Patrick McDonnell — What would you do if you stumbled upon someone who was lost? Would you ignore him, or simply point him in the right direction? Or would you reach out a hand and walk with him until he found his people again? One of McDonnell’s earliest books, this wordless wonder will touch — and hopefully change — your heart and how you view helping those who are lost. You’ll see a few books on this list about surprising animals helping birds in need, and they’re all wonderfully told and beautifully illustrated. Ages 3-7.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.11.33 PM

Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home by Guojing — I was somehow late to the game to discovering this book, but it’s an absolutely beautifully illustrated, touching story of an unexpected connection between a stray dog and a woman in the park. While we generally think of encouraging children to be kind to each other, but fostering compassion and empathy for all living creatures is important, too… And this book is a great starting point! Ages 3-7, but perfect for children and adults of all ages.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.13.00 PM

Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind by Jessica Hische — Simply written and beautifully illustrated, this book is FULL of examples of seeing others’ needs and responding accordingly. From rushing to help someone clean up a mess to helping smaller children complete larger projects, Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind is a gentle bedtime story to inspire the best in all of us tomorrow. Ages 3-7.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.19.51 PM

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham — In the hustle and busyness of life, it can sometimes be hard to see exactly who, or what needs help. And sometimes, it is even harder to actually stop and help when you do see. Enter Will, who not only sees, but stops to help, despite the protests of his mom. Once she gives in, though, the whole family works together to help this bird heal. Ages 3-7, but great younger, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.29.18 PM

I am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds — The fourth book in Verde’s and Reynolds’s “I Am…” series, I think this one is my favorite. Verde opens with “When I see someone going through a storm… I ask myself, ‘What can I do to help let the light back in?'” The rest of the book is an ode to compassion, empathy, tenderness, and love, reminding us all of what we can do when those dark clouds roll in, covering not only others but also ourselves. Ages 3-7.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.59.53 PM

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas — What is a young boy to do when his favorite friend in the old people’s home next door is losing her memory? All Wilfrid knows is that he desperately wants to help. So he talks to everyone he can to learn about what memory is, and he gathers some “memory” to give to her since she is losing her own. Little did Wilfrid know that the treasures he gave to Miss Nancy would indeed dig up some memories of her own. Ages 3-8, but terrific for older children with grandparents and friends who are losing their own memories.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.51.33 PM

You, Me, and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso — Different than the other books on this list, You, Me, and Empathy is a storybook interspersed with questions for the reader to encourage them to think about their emotions and feelings, how people treat them in different situations, and how they react to others’ feelings. Sanders also includes two pages of discussion questions for parents and teachers, as well as two pages of activities that adults and children can do together to promote empathy, kindness, and compassion. Ages 3-9, but maybe better for the older end of that range.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.15.37 PM

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc– Another book about a typical predator helping a bird in need, Dubuc has beautifully illustrated this simply story of friendship and compassion. Dubuc’s story, however, shows the kindness that goes both ways after the lion nad the bird become friends. The lion fuels the friendship with his compassionate gestures, but the bird learn a thing or two about friendship and love as well. A friend gifted this to us this fall, and I’m so glad we own a copy! Ages 4 and up.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.13.57 PM

Pandora by Victoria Turnbull — This book was new to us last fall, and it’s almost like a cross between the movie Wall-E and the book The Lion and the Bird (see immediately above). Pandora, a fox who lives alone in the land of broken things, finds an injured bird and nurses it back to health. What will she do when one day, her new friend flies away and doesn’t come back? Ages 4-7.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.49.29 PM

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët — This wordless book is powerful enough to ignite many, many conversations every time you pick it up. It’s a story, yes, about bullying and upstanding, but it’s a story of noticing. Of seeing someone who is hurt. Of feeling their pain even though it isn’t yours to feel. And of actually doing something to remedy the situation. You can read my Instagram review here. Ages 4-8, but powerful older as well.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.56.35 PM

What is Given from the Heart by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison — What can you give someone in need when you hardly have more yourself? How do you find generosity in your heart when you feel you have nothing to give? You stop to think about how you would feel if you lost the little you did have in a fire, and that empathy allows you to dig deep within yourself to come up with a perfect gift. Criers beware– you might want tissues nearby for this one! Ages 4-8, but great older as well.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.06.01 PM

We’re All Wonders by R. J. Palacio — You may have heard of, read, or seen Palacio’s Wonder, but have you read this picture book adaptation yet? Perfect for children who aren’t yet read for Wonder, but who are ready to think more intentionally about how they react to and treat those who are different for them, We’re All Wonders is short, simple, and to the point: “Look with kindness and you will always find wonder.” Ages 4-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.07.29 PM

Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell, illustrated by Ana Ramírez González — A beautifully illustrated story about how to help friends through dark and lonely times, Maybe Tomorrow features Elba, a purple hippo, and Norris, a friendly crocodile. Elba has been living with sadness (depicted as a large, black block) for a long time, but Norris is so happy that he dances all the time and is surrounded by butterflies wherever he does. Norris notices Elba’s block and gently encourages her to let her sadness out, waiting patiently until she is waiting to talk. The most touching moment comes when Elba finally decides to share her friend, and Norris responds, “I miss her too [even though he didn’t know her]… You are my friend, so I can help you miss her.” If you tend to be a crier, this one might do you in. Ages 4-8, but a great conversation starter about grief for older children, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.10.16 PM

Henry and Bea by Jessixa Bagley — Henry and Bea are pretty different on the surface, but they are best friends, because they understand each other… They always seem to knoe each other’s thoughts and feelings, until one day, Bea can’t figure out what is making Henry quiet and sad. But she knows that he is sad, though, and she doesn’t give up trying to help, even when he pushes her away. When she finally finds out what is bothering Henry, she is able to gently and quietly empathize with his feelings, helping him to know that even though things seem dark in that moment, he’s not alone. Ages 4-8, but another great conversation starter about grief and loss for older children, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.10.50 PM

My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems — Somehow, Willems manages to both make you laugh and make you think in one simple Elephant & Piggie book. Piggie sees Gerald, and notices that Gerald is sad. So, as any kind person would, Piggie sets her mind to cheering her friend up. She tries and tries and tries, but nothing seems to work. What really makes this book touching, though, is how much love Gerald was showing back to Piggie at the same time, as he with each event his only thought was, “Oh man, Piggie would love this, too!” Ages 4-8, but terrific younger, too. When in doubt, you really can’t go wrong with an Elephant & Piggie book.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.12.20 PM

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas — Mrs. Goldman is one of the most generous and selfless people around, constantly knitting hats for others to make sure their heads stay warm. So what can Sophia do in return when she notices that Mrs. Goldman’s head must also be cold? Can she take the compassion Mrs. Goldman has demonstrated time and time again to react with empathy and generosity? You bet she can! You can read my full review here. Ages 4-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.14.59 PM

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo — This was the very first book I featured when I started my Instagram page, and it will continue to be a book we come back to again and again in our house. Yes, it’s mostly a story about inclusion, but it’s so much more than that. It’s also a gentle story of friendship and understanding how those around you are feeling. And, it’s full of lovely phrases to take away and repeat with your children, such as, “That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you.” You can read my Instagram review here. Ages 4-8, but awesome for all ages.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.17.15 PM

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry, illustrated by the Fan Brothers — Similar to The Lion and the Bird and Pandora, and just as beautifully illustrated, this is another story of unexpected friendships that make deep and long-lasting impressions. What happens when a scarecrow breaks his post to help a scared crow? You’ll have to read to this story of compassion and loneliness, of finding comfort and safety in unexpected places, to find out! Ages 4-8, but powerful for older children and adults, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.18.14 PM

Yaffa and Fatima Shalom, Salaam adapted by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, illustrated by Chiara Fedele — Two neighbors, different religions (religions sometimes at conflict with each other, at that), but best friends, both fall on hard times. Based on a folk tale traced to both Jewish and Arab origins, Yaffa and Fatima’s story will inspire kindness and generosity across all sorts of divisions and lines. Ages 4-8, but great older, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.21.32 PM

Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel — What do you do when you know that a friend desperately needs help but doesn’t want you to tell anyone about her problem, but you alone can’t seem to help? Sometimes, a promise has to be broken in order to truly show compassion… That is the lesson that Sofia and Maddi have to learn the hard way when Maddi’s needs go beyond anything Sofia can fix by herself. Ages 4-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.23.49 PM

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus — Lubna found Pebble as she walked ashore into a new country, immediately after immigrating there. Pebble became her best friend and her comfort in the new and different situations. Her best friend, that is, until she meets another new immigrant, a little boy named Amir. When Lubna’s family finds a new home and prepares to leave the immigration camp, Lubna realizes that someone needs the comfort of Pebble much more than she does, and she is able to part with her beloved Pebble so that someone else can benefit from it. Ages 4-8, but a great conversation starter about immigration for older children, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.26.01 PM

Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead — My love for Philip Stead’s books runs deep (though I could have easily chosen 3 or 4 of his books for this list, I stuck with just Samson and A Sick Day for Amos McGee, which you can read about at the top of this list). Samson, the bird, and the mouse in this story all rank right up with Amos McGee for being kind friends. All three of them show concern, love, and a desire to know their friends hearts, to understand what they enjoy and what makes them happy. And they go to great lengths to let their friends know their love. Ages 4-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.27.16 PM

What Does It Mean to Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch — Ah, “be kind.” A rule we tell children so, so often, but one that is so abstract and can be difficult to understand. In fact, that’s one reason we chose to focus on compassion and empathy, and why the books on this list have been chosen for specific events that depict compassion and empathy, instead of the larger command of “be kind.” DiOrio does a great job, however, of breaking “be kind” down into tangible concepts for children. I love that she specifically mentions “… noticing when someone is sad and taking the time to understand why.” You can read my full review here. Ages 4-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.28.26 PM

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds — The third book in the wonderful “I Am…” series by Verde and Reynolds, I Am Human celebrates that as humans, we are all flawed AND learning at the same time. We make mistakes, as do the people around us. But what sets us apart is our ability to make choices, to learn from our mistakes, and to be better going forward. The second half of the book explicitly demonstrates various things we can do to show kindness to others, to let them know that they are seen and loved. Ages 4-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.31.04 PM

Ordinary Mary’s Positively Extraordinary Day by Emily Pearson, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka — I initially had the prequel to this book (Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed) on my list, but upon rereading both, I felt like this sequel more touched more on the extraordinary acts of stopping, noticing, understanding, and acting upon what has been seen to help others. Standing up for others, passing a small note to a classmate who looks sad, inviting someone on her own to eat with you, this book covers it all, as well as connects how these acts of compassion and empathy lead others to do the same. Ages 4-8, but great younger, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.32.31 PM

Finding Kindness by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Irene Chan — Similar to Peace is an Offering, Finding Kindness highlights the way that members of a community, from the biggest adults to the smallest insects, spread kindness. We love reading this and talking about all of the compassion and empathy this community shows through their actions, and how aware they all seem to be of everyone’s needs and how they can help each other. Ages 4-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.01.43 PM

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing — There are tons of books about the bucket-filling analogy, but this one really exemplifies compassion and empathy, as it helps readers better understand how having an empty bucket might make someone feel, and therefore behave. Other bucket-filling books we love include Buckets, Dippers, and Lids: Secrets to Your Happiness and How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids. Ages 4-9.

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 11.18.43 AM

The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo, illustrated by Mike Deas — Inspired by the true story of a first grader from Pennsylvania who came up with the idea for his school to create a “buddy bench” for recess, a place for kids who feel left out or have trouble joining play at recess. Did you know that on any given school day, 80% of children ages 8-10 years old report feeling lonely at some point during the day? I would love for this book to make its way to every school, so that every school can use this for inspiration for their version of a “buddy bench,” however their children envision it to work for their community.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.50.05 PM

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis — This is a terrific picture book pairing to go with The Hundred Dresses (at the bottom of this list). What do you do when you know you’ve messed up, when you know the right thing to do, yet you behave in a way that hurts someone else? And then, what do you do when she leaves school and you don’t have the chance to make it right again? Warning, this one does NOT have a happy ending, but it’ll start conversations that your children are likely to carry with them forever. You can read my full review here. Ages 5-8, but powerful for older elementary, too.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.57.57 PM

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones — At first glance, this is a story of honesty and doing the right thing, even when you really, really want to do something else. But when you dig deeper, empathy is what leads the main character to do the right thing, the ability to understand how it must have felt to someone else to lose something valuable, because he experienced those feelings himself. And in that moment, his realization of how devastated this woman must be changes his heart to be honest and do the right thing. Ages 5-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.58.45 PM

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones — Yes, Boelts and Jones have two books on this list, and they’re both wonderfully deserving of making this list! Those Shoes offers children a lot of learning opportunities, but when Jeremy has an opportunities to almost literally put himself in someone else’s shoes and understand the world through his point of view, your heart will soar. You’ll cheer him along as he makes an incredibly difficult decision. And you’ll rejoice at the new friendship he finds as a result. Ages 5-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.04.21 PM

The Boy and the Giant by David Litchfield — What do you do when you know you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, either intentionally or unintentionally? What if that someone is an outsider, someone different than you? A giant? Hopefully you’ve got a grandfather as wise as Little Billy’s Granddad, who encourages you to think about what makes you feel better when you’re upset so that you can do the same for the person you’ve hurt. Let’s all try to teach our children as kindly, yet directly, as Granddad! You can read my full review here. Ages 5-8.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.03.18 PM

Teach Your Dragon Empathy by Steve Herman — One of the more didactic books on this list, the main character, Drew, has a dragon, Diggory, that he is trying to raise to be a good, kind, polite dragon. He feels he’s doing a great job in many ways, until one day he sees Diggory spill milk and not clean it up, and react unkindly when a friend was crying because her cat was lost. He realizes he’s forgotten to teach Diggory something really important — empathy! Diggory learns an important lesson to stop and think about how others feel, to look at life through their eyes. This is written in rolling rhyme and rhythm for a fun read aloud. Ages 5-10.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 7.23.13 PM

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton — When trying to teach children to truly SEE the people around them, it’s hard to find a better resource than The Invisible Boy, where Brian is so overlooked that he is actually invisible. No one notices him, plays with him, invites him to birthday parties, until a new boy shows up. When Brian reaches out to the new boy with kindness, the new boy responds by SEEING Brian and celebrating him for exactly who he is. And that’s when Barton’s illustrations tell the rest of the story! You can read more about this book here. Ages 6-9.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 6.47.54 PM

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin — First published in 1945 and winner of a Newbery Honor Award, The Hundred Dresses is a book every child should read and discuss with an adult. It’s a powerful introduction into many important social concepts, including the idea that what is fun for one person might be hurtful for another, as well as how to stand up to friends when you feel they are making unkind choices. It used to be my first read-aloud in the classroom as a teacher; I read it with my older daughter last summer and plan to reread it every year before school starts. You can read my full review here. Ages 6-10, but great slightly younger, and worth rereading.

Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy (Love and Logic) by Bob Sornson, illustrated by Shelley Johannes — I was unable to find an age range for this one, but I think it’s great for all ages. This book is about Emily, a younger sister who learns an important lesson about empathy from her older sister. Emily takes this lesson to heart, working to see how she can help other in need, and taking the time to ask questions when she feels people in her community need help. At the end, Emily tells her sister, “People really like it when you recognize how they feel. Just noticing seem to touch their hearts.” This may be our motto for the month!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out this post I did in 2018 for World Kindness Day!

17 thoughts on “50+ Books to Help Build Compassion and Empathy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s