Read for Empathy

On Monday 4 February, the EmpathyLab announced a new children’s collection of books for 2018, which all boost empathy. Teachers and parents are increasingly concerned about the potentially empathy-draining effect of social media on children, and new pressures caused by societal divisions and the rise in hate crimes. To combat this, EmpathyLab is harnessing the power of stories to build empathy, inspired by scientific evidence showing that reading can boost real-life empathy skills. EmpathyLab asked publishers to submit their best recently published children’s books with a strong empathy angle.

This week, they announced the selected titles for the 2018 Read for Empathy Guide.

The Read for Empathy Books are:

Picture Books

  • Lulu Gets a Cat, Anna McQuinn, illustrator Rosalind Beardshaw, Alanna Books
  • The Parrot and the Merchant, Marjan Vafaian, Tiny Owl 
  • Perfectly Norman, Tom Percival, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
  • Colin and Lee Carrot and Pea, Morag Hood, Two Hoots
  • Can I Join your Club? John Kelly, illustrator Steph Laberis, Little Tiger Press
  • In My Heart: a Book of Feelings, Jo Witek, illustrator Christine Roussey, Abrams Appleseed
  • You’re Safe with Me, Chitra Soundar, illustrator Poonam Mistry, Lantana
  • 15 Things Not to Do with a Granny, Margaret McAllister, illustrator Holly Sterling, Frances Lincoln
  • Here I Am, Patti Kim, illustrator Sonia Sanchez, Curious Fox 
  • King of the Sky, Nicola Davies, illustrator Laura Carlin, Walker Books
  • Willy and the Cloud, Anthony Browne, Walker Books
  • Grandad’s Island, Benji Davies,  Simon and Schuster
  • Leo: a Ghost Story, Mac Barnett, illustrator Christian Robinson, Chronicle Books 
  • My Name is Not Refugee, Kate Milner, Barrington Stoke

Novels, graphic novels, poetry

  • The Number 1 Car Spotter Fights the Factory, Atinuke, illustrator Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Walker Books
  • Ballerina Dreams, Michaela and Elaine DePrince, illustrator Ella Okstad, Faber & Faber
  • Me and Mister P, Maria Farrer, illustrator Daniel Rieley, Oxford University Press
  • The Wild Robot, Peter Brown, Piccadilly Press
  • The Road to Ever After, Moira Young, Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, Frank Cottrell Boyce, illustrator Steven Lenton, Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Tender Earth, Sita Brahmachari, Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Sky Dancer, Gill Lewis, Oxford University Press 
  • The Song From Somewhere Else, A.F. Harrold, illustrator Levi Pinfold, Bloomsbury
  • Smart, Kim Slater, Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Overheard in a Tower Block, Joseph Coelho, illustrator Kate Milner, Otter-Barry Books
  • Charlie and Me, Mark Lowery, Piccadilly Press 
  • The Guggenheim Mystery, Robin Stevens, Puffin   
  • Illegal, Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrator Giovanni Rigano, Hodder Children’s Books  
  • The Island at the End of Everything, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Chicken House Books
  • El Deafo, Cece Bell, Amulet Books

An expert panel chose books that strengthen children’s ability to understand other people’s feelings and perspectives, spark insights into different lives and inspire them to put empathy into action in their communities. A linked book collection for 4-11 year olds is now available from school and library book suppliers Peters.  This is for parents, teachers and librarians to use in the run-up to Empathy Day on 12 June, and beyond.

The Panel noticed a big gap in the publisher submissions for poetry, and empathy-boosting books for 7-9 year-olds. Within the young fiction arena the panel chose two short novels: Atinuke’s The No 1 Car Spotter Fights the Factory (illustrator Warwick Johnson Cadwell), and Michaela and Elaine DePrince’s Ballerina Dreams (illustrator Ella Okstad). Joseph Coelho’s poetry in Overheard in a Tower Block makes an important contribution.

The panel members were especially keen to reflect the breadth of realities of our society and ensure the inclusion of quality authors and illustrators from our multi-ethnic community. The submissions received highlighted a shortage of available titles for primary aged children by black and minority ethnic authors and illustrators.  However the collection includes nine titles by writers or illustrators of colour and eleven featuring characters from a mix of ethnic backgrounds.

Nicolette Jones, panel member says: In a world full of hate-mongering, I believe passionately in this drive to use books to expand children’s empathetic understanding. EmpathyLab’s work gives me hope for the future – it is very much needed”.

EmpathyLab Founder Miranda McKearney OBE says: “It’s time to make far more systematic use of books’ power to tackle society’s empathy deficit. This 2018 Read for Empathy Guide is part of an empathy movement to help us understand each other better. We’re seriously delighted to be working with authors, publishers and Peters to launch it in the run up to Empathy Day on 12 June”.

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