Age 0-3

A Sick Day for Amos McGhee, Philip C. Stead

Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee's case, all sorts of species, too! This award-winning book shows the value of selflessness and caring for one another.

Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle

The first in a series by the same title, "Little Blue Truck" is all about unlikely friendships and the beauty of helping others.

 

Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Peña

This Newbery Medal-winning book follows a boy and his grandmother as they witness beauty, kindness and joy on the bus.

 

You, Me and Empathy, Jayneen Sanders

This charming story uses verse, beautiful illustrations and a little person called Quinn to model the meaning of empathy. Throughout the story, Quinn shows an abundance of understanding, compassion and kindness towards others. 

 

Most People, Michael Leannah

"Most People" reminds kids that, although there are many scary events and images in the world, there are also countless examples of goodness. 

Be Kind, Pat Zietlow Miller

Tthis moving and thoughtful story explores what a child can do to be kind, and how each act, big or small, can make a difference. Be Kind is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world.

 

Hey Little Ant, Hannah Hoose

What would you do if the ant you were about to step on looked up and started talking? Would you stop and listen? What if your friends saw you hesitate? That's what happens in this funny, thought-provoking book. Hey, Little Ant forces readers to consider the feelings of others.

 

We’re All Wonders, R J Palacio

We're All Wonders taps into every child's longing to belong, and to be seen for who they truly are. It's the perfect way for families and teachers to talk about empathy, difference and kindness with young children.

 

Otis and the Scarecrow, Loren Long

A deeply resonant book about subtle acts of compassion and standing up for others, featuring everyone's favorite tractor, Otis.

A Rainbow of Friends, P. K. Hallinan

Friends come in all colors and sizes; they can be funny or serious, musical or athletic, outgoing or quiet. This book reminds children to celebrate their differences because that is what makes each of us so special.

 

It's Okay to Be Different, Todd Parr

Cleverly delivers the important messages of acceptance, understanding, and confidence in an accessible, child-friendly format.

 

Where Oliver Fits, Cale Atkinson

Explores all the highs and lows of learning to be yourself and helps to show children that fitting in may not always be the best fit.

 

Daniel's New Friend (Daniel TIger's Neighborhood), Becky Friedman

About Daniel Tiger making a new friend, regardless of their differences.

 

Our Stripy Baby, Gillian Shields

Zara can't wait for the new baby – he will be just like her friend`s baby brother, Max. But when Zack finally arrives, something isn't right – he has stripes instead of spots, and he doesn't look anything like Max. Zara wishes Zack was the same as everyone else, until she sees just how special and perfect he is at being Zack…

 

F is for Feelings, Goldie Miller

We all feel many different emotions every day. For young children, those feelings can be extra strong. And sometimes, children need help finding the words to describe how they’re feeling. This friendly and positive alphabet book gives children those “feelings words,” and explores the idea that while some feelings are more comfortable than others, all are natural and important.

 

Age 3-5

Peace, Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul *New*
Peace is on purpose. Peace is a choice. Peace lets the smallest of us have a voice. From a hello and pronouncing your friend’s name correctly to giving more than you take and saying I’m sorry, this simple concept book explores definitions of peace and actions small and big that foster it.


The Day You Begin, Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez *New*
There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. 

 

My Beautiful Voice, Joseph Coelho *New*
A moving, lyrical picture book about a shy child unlocking the power of their own voice through poetry, with the helping hand of an extra special teacher.

Everybody Feels series, Moira Harvey *New*
Topics include feeling shy, jealous, worried and lonely. Follow the characters as they experience these feelings.

 

All The Ways To Be Smart, Davina Bell *New*
From the award-winning creators of The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade and Under the Love Umbrella comes this joyful ode to all the unique and wonderful qualities that make children who they are.

I'm Here, Peter H. Reynolds

Reminds us that children and the friendships they make can take flight in unexpected ways!

 

Strictly No Elephants, Lisa Mantchev

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

 

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy, Maria Dismondy 

It's Gabe's first day of school in America, and he doesn't speak English. This story shows how a simple act of kindness is worth more than a thousand words. Kindness really is a universal language.

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy,  Susan Verde

I Am Human shows that it’s okay to make mistakes while also emphasizing the power of good choices by offering a kind word or smile or by saying “I’m sorry.” At its heart, this picture book is a celebration of empathy and compassion that lifts up the flawed fullness of humanity and encourages children to see themselves as part of one big imperfect family―millions strong.

 

Empathy is my Superpower, Bryan Smith

Why does her brother cry when it's dark? Why does her classmate Kayla take so long to do her math? And what's up with that

strange-smelling dish that Priya brings to lunch every day? With the help of her parents, Amelia soon learns about the importance of empathy and starts to see the power it can have! Will Amelia be able to put her new-found skill to good use and help others find the strength in empathy as well? This storybook also includes tips to help parents and teachers foster empathy in every child.

I Am Enough, Grace Byers

A #1 New York Times bestseller and Goodreads Choice Awards picture book winner! This book offers lessons in accepting who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.

If You Plant a Seed, Kadir Nelson

Beloved award-winning author-illustrator Kadir Nelson presents a resonant, gently humorous story about the power of even the smallest acts and the rewards of compassion and generosity.

 

One, Kathryn Otoshi

Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other's differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.

 

Have You Filled a Bucket Today, Carol McCloud

This heart-warming book encourages positive behaviour by using the concrete concept of an 'invisible bucket' that holds your good thoughts and feelings. When you do something kind, you fill someone's bucket; when you do something mean, you dip into someone's bucket and remove some good thoughts and feelings.

All Are Welcome, Alexandra Penfold

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcome. A school where children in patkas, hijabs, baseball caps and yarmulkes play side by side. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions. A school where diversity is a strength. 

Come With Me, Holly McGhee

After the atrocities of 9/11 in the States and the bombings in Brussels in early 2017, McGhee and Lemaitre reached out to one another with thoughts of hope and perseverance. The result is a lyrical and timely story about a little girl who learns the power of kindness, bravery, and friendship in the face of uncertainty.

 

Those Shoes, Maribeth Boelts

"Those Shoes" tells a story of generosity and selflessness in the midst of peer pressure.

 

Enemy Pie, Derek Munson

This book offers a sweet message about the right way to treat our "enemies" -- with kindness.

Each Kindness, Jacqueline Woodson

Each kindness makes the world a little better. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they've put it down. Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.

 

Superheroes Club, Madeleine Sherak

The heroes of this story strive to find different awesome ways to help others and show that kindness may be the best superpower.

 

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About A Simple Act of Kindness, Kerascoet

This simple yet powerful picture book--from a New York Times bestselling husband-and-wife team--tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. Inspired by real events, I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help.With themes of acceptance, kindness, and strength in numbers, this timeless and profound feel-good story will resonate with readers young and old.

 

Kindness is Cooler, Mrs Ruler, Margery Cuyler

This book tells the story of a kindergarten class that discovers the value of being nice and doing good deeds.

 

The Monster Who Lost His Mean, Tiffany Strelitz Haber

Everyone knows that the M in monster stands for MEAN. But what happens when a monster can't be mean any more? Is he still a monster at all? One young monster's attempts to live up to his name go hilariously awry as he discovers--with a little help from new friends--that it's not what you're called but who you are that counts. As the title suggests, this book shows it's never too late to choose acceptance, inclusion and empathy.

Who Are You? Ella The Enchanted Princess, Rosaria L. Calafati

A book featuring a girl with alopecia. A young princess named Ella who is different from other princesses: she has no hair.

 

Why Am I Me?, Paige Britt

Celebrates humanity and diversity, inviting readers of all ages to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we.

 

The Pirate of Kindergarten, George Ella Lyon

A book about a girl with amblyopia. Ginny, a kind girl who sees doubles of everything. With the help of her pirate patch, Ginny can read, run, and even snip her scissors with double the speed!

 

We All Have Different Abilities (Celebrating Differences), Melissa Higgins

A book that celebrates the many talents and abilities that each one of us has.

 

A Different Little Doggy, Heather Whittaker

A tiny little dog named Taz sees benefits to being small and is comfortable with who she is.

 

Special People Special Ways, Arlene Maguire

Combines delightful rhymes and beautiful watercolor illustrations to take the reader on a journey of discovery and positive images of children with various disabilities.

My Family Doesn't Look Like Your Family, Tenielle Stoltenkamp

We are all one big family after all! How do we encourage conversations about family in a way that's reflective and inclusive of the diverse society we live in? Single parent, blended family, same sex couples, fostered, live-in grandparents, carers ... it's time we expand the image of families in children's stories.
 

 

Age 5-7

I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds *New*

For there to be peace in the world, there must be peace in our hearts, and this gentle book offers a gentle introduction to mindfulness and inner peace. It reminds us all to breathe, notice the world around us, share kindness, and be present in the here and now.

The Invisible Boy, Trudy Ludwig

 A story that shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. 

 

The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes

Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is "never going to stand by and say nothing again."

 

Age 7-11

Just Feel: How to be Stronger, Happier, Healthier and More, Mallikra Chopra

Designed specifically with kids ages 8-12 in mind, the book clearly addresses important topics such as flexibility, responsibility, communication, creativity, and self-knowledge. Written by the respected writer and wellness expert Mallika Chopra, Just Feel is sure to effectively teach kids how they can balance their emotions and make positive choices for themselves - thus cultivate empathy. 


Save Me a Seat, Sarah Weeks 

Joe and Ravi may come from different backgrounds, but they find they have more in common than they'd thought and forge a friendship based on understanding and acceptance.

 

Lovely, Jess Hong

Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!

Break the Mould, Sinéad Burke

Sometimes it can seem like the world isn't built for you or you can feel like you don't belong. But why should you change who you are for the sake of others? From the power of being different and discovering things you love about yourself, to using your voice to be an ally and show friendship to others, it's time to break the mould and find your place in the world.

 

Age 11-14

Coming soon!

 

Age 14-16

The following books are not specifically on the topic of empathy but have been suggested as empathy-inducing reads for teen and young adult readers.  Please check content for suitability. 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chobosky

Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

A deeply moving novel about prejudice and injustice as seen through the eyes of a little girl, the daughter of a lawyer who defends a black man against an unfair rape charge in a Southern town in the 1930s. The film starring Gregory Peck is also glorious and provides wonderful discussion opportunities about conscience, empathy, tolerance, respect, and unfairness. The movie is also strongly recommended.

I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing, Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s coming-of-age autobiography illustrates the power of literature in a young girl’s life and how books gave her the strength to overcome the racism and trauma she experienced in her early years.

 

No Longer At Ease, Chinua Achebe 

This novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe illuminates the struggles of a young villager adapting to a Western lifestyle after leaving Nigeria for a British education and a job in the Nigerian colonial civil service.

 

Night, Elie Wiesel

Wiesel tells a wrenching story based on his own experiences in the concentration camp during World War II in which he witnesses the death of his family. It is unforgettable and sends a clear message of how immoral intolerance can be and the impact of a complete lack of empathy.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne

Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

 

A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines. 

Set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s, a young black man is unjustly accused of murder and is sentence to death. Enormously moving tale of compassion, unfairness, mercy, and unfairness.

 

Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin. 

A true story about a white man in the 1950s who darkens his skin so he can “become” a black man living in the deep South. The racism and unfairness he encounters are just wrenching.

 

Children of the River, Linda Crew

A thirteen-year-old girl has fled Cambodia with her aunt’s family to escape the Khmer Rouge army, leaving behind her family and the boy she has loved since she was a child. Now, four years later, she struggles to fit in at the high school. Depicts the emotional grief for her lost family and the consequences of war. For advanced readers.

 

Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

The touching true story of a Japanese American family who was uprooted from their home and set to live at the Manzanar internment camp because of their Japanese ancestry.

 

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

This literature classic is the story of a young orphan boy who mysteriously acquires a great fortune and then tries to discover his benefactor. The crux of the novel is his relationship with two men: his foster father, a simple, kind man and the evil Abel Magwitch, an escaped convict who the boy befriends.

 

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

A group of English schoolboys become stranded on a desert island during a nuclear war. Gradually throughout the ordeal their character transforms from “civilized” and “proper” into cruel, greedy savages without an ounce of kindness.

 

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck.

The friendship between two stirring characters: mentally handicapped and warm-hearted Lenny and his protector, George. Heartbreaking moments depicting a world that can sometimes be cruel and selfish make for ripe moral discussions. 

 

Manchild in a Promised Land, Claude Brown

First published in 1965, this is one of the most remarkable autobiographies of our time. It is a thinly fictionalized account of Brown’s childhood as a hardened, streetwise criminal trying to survive the toughest streets of Harlem and makes it. It is affirmative, inspiring and rich with values.

 

Please Stop Laughing At Me!, Jodie Blanco 

An inspirational memoir about how one child was shunned and even physically abused by her classmates from elementary to high school. Impossible not to be moved! 

 

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The classic about the prejudice that occurred between the 19th century classes and the pride, which would keep lovers apart. Look carefully at the “supposed arrogance” of a few of the characters: particularly the uncle. What becomes apparent in the ending is that some people put on airs to cover up insecurities or traumatic earlier experiences. 


Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson 

A tough, tender and funny story of a teenage outcast. It captures the harsh conformity of cliques and a teen’s struggle to find acceptance. Beware: the issue of rape is addressed but her ultimate triumph (and her surprise “rescuers”) will make you cheer. 

 

The Color of Water, James McBride

A moving memoir of a young black boy growing up at a time of racial polarization. The unforgettable character is his compassionate mother who raises her children to see themselves as human beings who have something to give to others.

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. This novel is funny, poignant and fascinating and it helps the read perceive the world of the character.  

 

The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank 

Talk about Anne’s indomitable optimistic spirit and ability to find goodness despite horrendous circumstances. It is just plain magnificent and should be read by every child. 

 

The Hate Crime, Phyllis Karas

High-school sophomore, Zack, never thought being Jewish was any big deal until someone painted anti-Semitic graffiti on the Temple Israel.

 

The Invisible Thread, Y. Uchida

This is a powerful memoir of a Japanese American girl who was held with her family along with 130,000 other Japanese American citizens in U.S. internment camps during World War II.

 

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

This remains a favorite of boys and does present great discussion possibilities. It addresses a vicious gang of kids whose idea of good time is beat up the greasers until one night things go too far. There is also a movie version of the book.

 

Warriors Don’t Cry, Melba Pattillo Beal 

The true remarkable story of Melba Pattillo, one of the nine teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School and the racism they endured.

 

Refugee, Alan Gratz

This book follows Josef, a German Jew in the 1930's, who tries to escape Germany to Cuba, Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994, who tries to escape Cuba's hunger crisis following the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the US, and Mahmoud, a Syrian youth in 2015 whose house gets destroyed by a missile and whose family decides to emigrate to Germany. It received positive reviews that praised style and historical accuracy. Similar novels written by Alan Gratz also include Prisoner B-3087 and Allies.