10 Picture books that encourage empathy (and one chapter book)

I do my best to as a mother to resist the rush rush rush that seems to be the norm for children these days.  I limit their activities, I have resisted competitive sports and pursuits until they’re much older, they have no homework and I give them plenty of time to play and imagine and explore.  We also read, a lot (as you may have gathered). Among the many reasons for this is that I want to encourage a deep sense of empathy in my boys.  I want to counter the culture of “me”, the culture of us vs. them, the barrage of messages to be “your” best, look “your” best.  The only goals that I have for my boys is that they become kind, thoughtful men.  The rest is up to them.

And so, through our reading journey, I’ve discovered a few picture books (and for now, one chapter book) that they’ve loved that go further than others in encouraging empathy.  Books that really make them think about another’s experiences and point of view. And here they are, in no particular order.

Florette by Anna Walker

When Mae has to move house from the country to the city, she feels lonely and sad – until she discovers a beautiful place full of green in the centre of Paris.

The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

 Kids feel empathy for the giant as he demonstrates his empathy to other animals in town.

My Cat Maisie by Pamela Allen

 Andrew wants a companion but the cat finds him too rough.  Then Lobo the dog wants to play with Andrew and he learns a thing or two about playing with others.

Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon

George is not interested in exploring the world. He’s far too busy and happy at home. At least that’s what he tells his friends. But Pascal digs a little deeper and George reveals the real reason that he won’t leave home.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox and Pamela Lofts

Koala Lou’s mother is busy with her siblings.  Koala Lou just wants her mother to tell her how much she loves her one more time, so she sets out to impress her mother.

Schnitzel von Krumm by Lynley Dodd

Poor Schnitzel von Krumm has been left at home, forgotten and lonely, when his family go camping.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Stick Man is lost, he misses his family, and it’s nearly Christmas.  Will he get back to his family before Christmas?

Zog by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Zog tries and tries but he can’t seem to do anything right at his school for dragons.

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Batty and David Roberts

Iggy Peck is a clever young architect who invents buildings out of all sorts of things.  But he faces a challenge when his second grade teacher declares her dislike of architecture.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Poor Gerald the Giraffe can’t dance and the other animals laugh at him.  He just wants to join in the jungle dance.

And one bonus book…

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Mildred Hubble is considered by her teachers by the “Worst Witch” at Miss Cackle’s Academy.  Unfortunately, despite her efforts, bad luck (and a mean classmate) seem to trip her up at every turn.

I’m sure there are plenty more relevant books for me to discover, feel free to post your own in the comments below.