This Thursday (10th June) is Empathy Day.

Empathy Day was founded in 2017 by Empathy Lab UK – the day focuses on using books to step into someone else’s shoes. Scientists say that we can train our brain with stories – the more you empathise with characters, the more you understand other people’s feelings.

‘If you are interested in how you can foster children’s well-being and resilience, there is good evidence that empathy should be a key priority.’ Dr Robin Banerjee, Head of Psychology, University of Sussex

Each year a new #ReadForEmpathy collection is revealed – here are my top picks from the 2021 collection:

Hello, Friend! – Rebecca Cobb
A girl enjoys playing with a friend, but the pictures suggest her friend is experiencing things differently. Gently helps children understand friendships, and great for exploring how body language gives us clues about someone else’s feelings.

Rain Before Rainbows – Smriti Halls & David Litchfield
An exquisite verse picture book exploring emotions through the glories of nature. Ultimately reassuring, it tells us that there will be bad days (when we must support each other), but good days will follow and we must welcome them with grace.

Poems Aloud – Joseph Coelho & Daniel Gray-Barnett
A dynamic collection of poems begging to be read aloud. Poems such as ‘This Bear’ and ‘Say How You Feel’ explore empathy through a brilliant mix of metaphor, illustration, performance and emotion. Playful, joyous and full of
techniques children can mix up and dip into time and again.

A Kind of Spark – Elle McNicoll
An enlightening story of ‘outsiders.’ The author provides authentic insight into eleven-year-old Addie’s experience of autism and a sensitive understanding of Addie’s own empathy as she campaigns to commemorate local women tortured as witches because they seemed ‘different’. A very impressive debut novel.

Freedom – Catherine Johnson
It’s 1793 and Nathaniel, a slave in Jamaica, is sent to England to look after pineapples on the ocean voyage. A shocking insight into life as someone’s property, but hopeful as we witness the forces that will eventually lead to the abolition of slavery.

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates – Jenny Pearson Illustrator Rob Biddulph

When Freddie’s Grams dies, he worries that his family circle is scarily small and goes in search of his biological father. A rumbustious read, combining a memorable adventure with deep emotion – and two great friends who stand alongside Freddie no matter what.

Clouds Cannot Cover Us – Jay Hulme
This poetry collection is both a cry of anguish and an exploration of family, heritage and self-identity. Beautiful
life-affirming poetry that makes no judgements but inspires us to reflect upon our dreams, accept our differences and enjoy the best of what makes us human.

The Last Paper Crane – Kerry Drewery Illustrator Natsko Seki
Mizuki is worried about her troubled grandfather who 60 years ago lived through the horrors of Hiroshima. Plagued by guilt about a girl he had hoped to save, he relives the trauma. A heartfelt, ultimately hopeful novel which helps us understand the feelings of those affected by the nuclear bomb in the deep way that only fiction can.

Run, Rebel – Manjeet Mann
Amber fears her dad and worries about her mum. We share the anger and the secret dreams of a girl living in an oppressive and violent household. Amber’s resilience and determination to lead a better life offer ultimate hope in
this powerful verse novel.

Like every year there are some powerhouses of books on this list and if I didn’t think you would get bored I would list every single one of them in this post! The one’s I have chosen are my personal highlights, please do have a look at the list and read/share/recommend all the one’s that take your fancy!

Are there Empathy-Boosting books that you would recommend to your friends and family? Perhaps there’s a book that you’ve read with your little ones that really resonates? Please do send us a Tweet sharing your recommendations with the hashtag #ReadForEmpathy.