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It was when my twins were in Kindergarten that I first heard about the Roots of Empathy program. We were sent home a note explaining that the mother of one the girls’ classmates’ would be bringing her newborn to the classroom throughout the school year.

 

The children would get the opportunity to observe the baby’s development by interacting with the baby and then talking about the baby’s feelings. By doing so, it was hoped that by the end of the year the children would have learned more about empathy and compassion by reflecting on their own feelings and those of others around them.


According to the Roots of Empathy website this emotional literacy taught in the program “lays the foundation for safer and more caring classrooms, where children are the Changers. They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties.”


My girls loved having the baby visit their classroom and I am so very thankful that both my twins and then later on, my youngest daughter, were given this opportunity as I do think programs such as these are essential in assisting parents with teaching children about caring for others. But not everyone or every school gets the chance to experience programs such as the Roots of Empathy.


It has been proven that children need to learn about empathy when they are young in order to develop healthy social and emotional relationships. To help parents and caregivers, libraries can enrich parenting collections, do more displays and/or focus on a wide range of diverse, socially conscious, teachable picture books that will help children understand empathy, compassion and learn how to read all at the same time.
 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld should be on every library shelf. It is a most beautiful and touching story that teaches young children about grief and empathy. When something upsetting happens and the little boy in the story is upset, all the animals in the book try to give advice to the boy about how he can feel better but none of it works until the Rabbit arrives and just listens. This is exactly what the little boy needed. By simply being there the rabbit shows empathy and support.


Pass it On by Sophy Henn is a great book that teaches about positive emotions by sharing happiness with those around you. Children will not only read and learn how fun it is to share but also when you least expect it, the goodness that you give may just come back around to you.

 

Come With Me by Holly McGhee shows how important it is to be kind and inclusive even when things seem scary and uncertain around you. The father and the mother of the little girl ask her to “Come with Me” when she has questions about an upsetting news report. They show her how she can help make the world better by being open and kind to those around you now matter who they are. The little girl then ask the boy across the hall to “Come with Me” when walking her dog and together, even if they are small and what they do is small, they can still make a positive difference to those around them.

 

One by Kathryn Otoshi is a fantastic story to teach young children about bullying and standing up for yourself and others. Blue is quiet and Red likes to pick on Blue. All the other colours (Yellow, Orange, Green and Purple) witness the bad behavior but don’t know what to do. When One comes along he/she teaches the colours how to work together and count. Through the power of One, the reader learns about accepting all differences and how all it takes is one person to stand up to make a change.

 

The Silence Slips In by Alison Hughes shows both the reader and listener how even after the busiest day and feeling overwhelmed, as the day turns to night and silence appears, we can all learn to feel calm, at peace and be still.

 

I Am Human: A book of empathy and I Am Love: A book of compassion by Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds are just two books in the bestselling Wellness series. Both are perfect read alouds to teach children that it is ok to make mistakes, to say sorry and to give love to both ourselves and to those around you.

 

How To Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham is a beautifully illustrated older picture book that still holds true on how to teach children about the importance of taking care of others even when life seems too busy to so. When a little boy sees an injured bird laying on the ground and everyone around him is in too much of a rush to help, the little boy and his mother gently pick it up and take it home to heal.  This is a story of compassion and hope.

 

Feeling and having empathy is key to lifelong success and understanding. Let’s hope by reading and listening to the children around us we will create a better, safer more empathic kind world. If you would like more book recommendations on empathy and compassion or any social theme that your collection needs help building, please feel free to contact me at spooley@lsc.on.ca

 

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Take care!

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