Reading for Empathy
“Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”
— Neil Gaiman- Fahrenheit 451 Introduction
I wrote a post this weekend about an ugly incident in our town and some adult’s ugly reaction to it. I am thankful that good friends shared this post widely and I am very proud of the conversations the post sparked among so many people in our community.
In an effort to continue the conversation, I want to do what I do best- recommend books. Over the course of my next few posts, I will share my favorites on some of the issues I feel are most central to our community’s situation.
Empathy seems like good place to start. All of us, children and adults alike, could spend some time considering empathy which by definition is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” So much of what has happened might have been different if everyone had taken a deep breath and thought about how their actions and words might impact another person.
As long time readers of my blog know, picture books are my first love. Even now that the girls are long past their picture book reading days, these books still cover the flat surfaces of our house. I still buy new picture books and collect them like others do shoes. So, whenever I think about a topic that I want to explore, picture books are where I start.
Below is a list of some of my favorite pictures books that delve into, subtly and not, the idea of empathy. If you have others that I should love, please let me know so I can keep my list growing.
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev (the photo above inspired this brilliant book)
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose & Hannah Hoose
The Other Side by Jacquline Woodson
Chrysanthemum by Keven Henkes
And then just a few lists from some of my favorite book places.
What Do We Do All Day: Picture Books to Teach Empathy
Pernille Ripp: 10 Picture Books that Spark Empathy
Common Sense Media: Books That Teach Empathy
New York Times: You Can’t Teach Empathy But These Picture Books Inspire It
To paraphrase a Frederick Buechner quote, thank you for taking the time to go to that place where your deep passion meets the world’s deep hunger. This list is such a gift!