books that teach empathy

7 books for kids that teach empathy

Emotional quotient and empathy are essential life skills. Kids who receive emotional education display better social skills. Empathy helps them build healthy relationships in school, and goes on to support them in their workplaces and family lives. Empathetic kids are naturally more kind, generous, considerate and respectful. 

“Why don't you share your pack of chips with your friends.” 

“Your classmate is crying, why don't you ask him what is wrong?” 

“Mama looks so tired. Would you like to give her a hug!”

We randomly keep telling these and many such things to our children. We want to help kids be helpful and considerate, but unintentionally, we are also laying the foundation of their emotional intelligence. In this post, we will discuss some science-backed ways of teaching your kids empathy through books.

Mother and child reading children's books by Sam and Mi

How can we teach our kids to be more empathetic?

The best way to teach your kids empathy is by displaying it in our behavior and setting an example. 

  • Talk to them about their emotions. 
  • Help them solve their emotional troubles. 
  • Ask them how they’re feeling and name every feeling, so they learn to describe them better. 
  • Engage them in stories that value empathy. 

This is where books and storytelling become crucial. If you create an environment of telling stories about empathy, your kid will automatically pick up the value system. Here are our seven top picks for books that teach kids empathy:

Child reading children's book on his own

  • Adventures of Samara and Alphabet: The First Magic Trick - Priyanka Agarwal Mehta

  • Kids resonate the most with stories that give wings to their imagination, stories where their favorite animals and toys come to life. Children find a sense of purpose and feel victorious through such narratives. One such tale is Adventures of Samara and Alphabet: The First Magic Trick by Priyanka Agarwal Mehta. 

    The story revolves around two friends, little girl Samara and Alphabet, an elephant who wants to turn blue. How does Samara handle this situation? Will she succeed in turning Alphabet blue? 

    The book takes you through the heights of imagination and delves into different professions of repute. 

    This is a beautiful story that teaches your kids that they are special just the way they are. It promotes the values of empathy and uses it as a problem-solving tool. It is a great read for early readers from ages 3 to 6. 

    Sam and Mi

  • Perfectly Norman - Tom Percival

  • Wouldn’t you love your kids to be confident about their uniqueness? 

    As they grow up, it’s normal to start getting conscious of their body features. There might be a mole. Double chin. Or the worst enemy of all teens, pimples. Children can often be very body-conscious, not just for themselves but towards others too. This is why they need to cultivate empathy to accept everyone as they come. 

    This is one of the values your kid can learn from the book, Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival. In this story, Norman grows a pair of wings. He loves to fly around with them, but gets conscious of their presence when he has to go for dinner with his parents. What will they think of him? He should probably hide it under a coat. That’s what Norman thought, but as you’ll see, the idea didn’t work out well. 

    What do Norman’s parents think of him? Can Norman accept who he is? This small illustrated story book is best for kids from 3-6 years of age and teaches them to love their individuality. In the process, kids also learn how to accept others for who they are, and grow more empathetic. 

  • Ish - Peter H. Reynolds

  • Say your child paints a purple tree. What would you do? Will you tell them trees are supposed to be green? I’d rather show my baby a picture of bougainvillea in bloom and utter, “What a majestic beauty!” 

    Kids are impressionable and tiny changes in our approach can help them grow empathetic. Just like in the book, Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds. 

    In the story, Ramon loves to draw all day long. He gets discouraged by his older brother, Leon, and starts struggling with his art. With one negative remark, the fun activity became a tough pursuit. But his little sister sees the world differently. She teaches him to enjoy the craft instead of continuously trying to get things right. 

    This book is for all the young readers to reinforce the idea that they can do what they set their hearts to, once they’re free from inhibitions. As parents, we have to nurture and support the creativity of our kids. This story will help you teach them the value of their craft, and the importance of being kind and empathetic. 

  • Bravo Anjali! - Sheetal Sheth

  • Anjali is a brilliant tabla player who gets lost in the beats of drums beneath her fingers. But when a boy from her class looks down upon her skills, she gets demotivated. Then comes a competition where winning means everything to Anjali. But the better she gets at playing tabla, the meaner her classmates get to her. 

    Does this dim her shine? How does Anjali react? 

    Bravo Anjali! by Sheetal Sheth has all the answers, leaving an important message that kids should never undermine their potential. 

    While this book teaches the importance of self-worth, I find it to be a lesson in empathy as well. It can teach our kids to be appreciative of others and not behave like Anjali’s classmates. This book imparts a lesson in kindness and the value of motivation. 

  • How to Help a Friend - Karl Newson

  • This picture book is full of hope, compassion, and empathy. How to Help a Friend by Karl Newson is a sweet read for kids to teach them how they can support their friends in need. 

    Friendship is not always about talking and playing. It’s also in the moments of sitting together quietly. It’s in the lazy afternoons of sharing sweets and watching your favorite show. It’s more in the acts of doing nothing but being. 

    The beautiful illustrations in the book teach emotional awareness and empathy to kids. It’s a perfect read for children in the age group of 3 to 7 years. 

  • The Rabbit Listened - Cori Doerrfeld

  • Taylor is going through a tough time in his life. When he shares his problems with his animal friends, they have far too many opinions. 

    “You really shouldn’t think this.” 

    “You shouldn’t do it this way.” 

    “I can tell you what to do.” 

    But these words don’t help Taylor. All he needs is an empathetic ear that doesn’t offer solutions and just listens to him. 

    The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld is a gentle lesson for kids on the importance of learning. It preaches that when someone is in crisis, your empathy can comfort them more than words. 

  • The Invisible Boy - Trudy Ludwig

  • An invisible boy who doesn’t have any self-confidence, Brian, is a nobody. Why so harsh? Because nobody in his class notices him. He doesn’t get invited to birthday parties. He’s not a part of any group or game. 

    But when a new boy, Justin comes, Brian makes sure he doesn’t feel invisible. He teams up with Justin to perform brilliantly in a class project. 

    The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a heartwarming tale of understanding and empathy that children feel. The lead character makes sure someone else doesn’t go through what he had to, and displays impeccable emotional intelligence. This is a lesson all kids can benefit from. 

    Child reading a children's book

    Books for Kids That Teach Empathy: Closing Thoughts

    Like most good habits, empathy begins at home. A child who receives empathy, learns to spread it in the world. 

    Surround them with these 7 books that teach empathy and keep looking for more such value-adding stories. Even if you’re not a reader, we know you’re a parent trying to do your best. 

    Happy reading!