As a mom, I believe that teaching empathy to our children is one of the most important values we can instill in them. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it helps promote kindness, compassion, and understanding.
However, teaching empathy and kindness can be challenging, especially with younger children. It may seem overwhelming to try and push against the wave of society, but our children depend on us to equip them for what lies before them.
I believe it’s our calling as moms to take courage and not only model empathy but to be diligent in teaching our children how to have a heart of empathy towards others. Over the years, I’ve learned that reading to and with my children is one of the best ways to guide the learning of more abstract ideas, such as empathy.
So if you’re looking for a place to start, I’ve rounded up 20 books about empathy for kids and teens that tell beautiful stories and lessons about how to be mindful of the feelings of others.
20 Books about Empathy For Kids
1. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein (Ages 2-8)
This classic book tells the story of a tree who gives everything she has to a boy as he grows up, teaching valuable lessons about unconditional love and sacrifice.
2. “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams (Ages 4-10)
A heartwarming tale about a toy rabbit who learns what it means to be truly loved and becomes “real” in the process. This book promotes understanding love and empathy for children.
3. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White (Ages 6-12)
This beloved classic follows the friendship between a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte, who works to save Wilbur’s life. It teaches the importance of friendship, empathy, and standing up for what is right.
4. “I Am Human” by Susan Verde (Ages 4-8)
This beautiful book teaches children about empathy and self-compassion. It encourages readers to embrace their feelings and recognize the humanity in themselves and others, helping to build a more empathetic and compassionate mindset.
5. “Empathy Is Your Superpower” by Cori Bussolari (Ages 6-12)
This inspiring book empowers children to use empathy as a tool to make positive changes in their lives and the world around them. It teaches children to understand and appreciate different perspectives and encourages them to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic toward others.
6. “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig (Ages 6-9)
This powerful story follows a boy who feels invisible and left out by his classmates. It teaches children about the importance of empathy and inclusion, showing how small acts of kindness can greatly impact those who feel unseen.
7. “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 5-10)
This children’s book follows the story of a young girl named Chloe who learns the importance of kindness and empathy after being mean to a new girl in school. The book emphasizes the idea that we should practice kindness every day.
8. “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio (Ages 8-10)
This book follows the story of Auggie, a boy with a facial deformity, as he navigates the challenges of starting middle school. The book teaches empathy and compassion by showing how one person’s actions can greatly impact others.
9. “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes (Ages 6-9)
This classic book tells the story of a young girl who her classmates tease for wearing the same dress every day. It teaches children about empathy, kindness, and the harmful effects of bullying, emphasizing the importance of treating others with respect and understanding.
10. “The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi (Ages 5-8)
This charming book follows a young girl who has just moved to the United States from Korea and struggles to fit in at her new school. It teaches children about empathy and the importance of respecting different cultures and identities.
This wordless picture book tells the story of a bullied young girl and her classmate who stands up for her. It teaches children empathy, kindness, and the power of standing up for others.
12. “Strictly No Elephants” by Lisa Mantchev (Ages 4-8)
This heartwarming story follows a boy and his pet elephant who are excluded from a pet club. It teaches children about empathy and inclusion, showing how we can create a more welcoming and diverse community by embracing our differences. It also paints a clear picture of how discrimination can be hurtful to others.
13. “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña (Ages 4-8)
This award-winning book follows a young boy and his grandmother as they take a bus ride through the city. It teaches children about community and the power of perspective, emphasizing the importance of finding joy and beauty in unexpected places.
14. “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold (Ages 4-8)
This uplifting book celebrates diversity and inclusivity, showing how people from all backgrounds and cultures can unite to create a vibrant and welcoming community. It teaches children empathy, kindness, and the importance of respecting and valuing each other’s differences.
15. “Seedfolks” by Paul Fleischman (Ages 10 and up)
This unique novel tells the story of thirteen different characters from different backgrounds and cultures who come together to transform a vacant lot into a community garden. The book teaches children empathy by showing them how diverse groups can come together and connect through a shared goal. It also depicts how small acts of kindness and community involvement can significantly impact individuals and their communities.
16. “The Sneetches and Other Stories” by Dr. Seuss (Ages 4-8)
This collection of Dr. Suess’s stories teaches children about acceptance and empathy towards those who may be different from us. It is a fun and engaging way to teach essential life lessons.
17. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (Ages 13 and up)
This classic novel explores themes of racism and empathy through the eyes of Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the segregated South. The story follows her father, a lawyer defending a black man wrongly accused of a crime, and highlights the importance of empathy and standing up for what is right.
18.“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green (Ages 14 and up)
This heart-wrenching novel tells the story of two teens with terminal illnesses who fall in love. Through their experiences, the book teaches readers about empathy, love, and the importance of living life to the fullest.
19. “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson (Ages 14 and up)
This novel tells the story of Melinda, a high school freshman. Melinda becomes an outcast after she calls the police at a party. And, as she navigates the social challenges of high school, she struggles with trauma from a sexual assault that she has not yet been able to speak about. The book teaches empathy by highlighting the importance of listening to and understanding others’ experiences. It highlights the power of speaking up for oneself and others.
20. “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell (Ages 13 and up)
This coming-of-age novel follows two misfit teens falling in love despite their differences. The book explores themes of empathy, love, and understanding and encourages readers to look beyond stereotypes. It teaches the importance of appreciating the humanity in others.
Teaching our kids empathy and kindness can be a challenging process that requires a lot of patience. The best way is to model empathy ourselves.
One way that I’ve found to help with this is by reading books to and with my children that illustrate these essential qualities. Books offer a fun and engaging way for your child to learn about empathy. But that’s not all books offer, they also help to improve their social and emotional skills.
Plus, if you’re ever looking for a gift idea that’s not a toy consider giving a book that teaches empathy, kindness, or other valuable skills. It’s a thoughtful and meaningful present that your child can enjoy for years to come while learning valuable life lessons.