As a behavior specialist and mobile therapist, I always loved using books to teach kids about a variety of social-emotional skills such as how to understand your feelings, how to be a friend, how to accept differences, how to develop empathy, how to solve a problem, how to be a good citizen, etc. Research also supports the benefits of using children’s books to teach these skills (see research references at the bottom of this article). Below is a list of five great books to teach young children about empathy and caring for others. Just as important as it is for us to have empathy for our children, we want to teach them the importance of having empathy for others!
Stay tuned for more book lists on a variety of social-emotional topics.
5 Great Books to Teach Young Children About Empathy
1. Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman (Ages 3-5)
This book is about a lovable character named Bear. Bear does not feel well. He is sneezing, wheezing, and achy. He is too sick to play outside. His friends come over to help him feel comfortable, but just as Bear starts to get better, his friends feel sick.
2. Understand and Care by Cheri Meiners (Ages 3-6)
Using clear, child-friendly words and illustrations, Understand and Care, helps children learn that other people have feelings like theirs—and feelings different from theirs. It teaches children to show they care by listening to others and respecting their feelings. I love that this book also includes questions to discuss and empathy games to play.
3. When I Care about Others by Cornelia Maude Spelman (Ages 5-7)
This simple book, helps children understand the importance of caring for others when they are sick, hurt, or unhappy. It also helps children understand the concept of “treat others how you wish to be treated.” It highlights the benefits of offering and receiving support from others.
4. Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy by Maria Dismondy (Ages 4 – 11)
This is a heartwarming story about the importance of making friendships and helping others. The power of kindness is emphasized in this adorable book, when a student with a language barrier needs to find his way in a new school.
5. Can You Tell How Someone Feels by Nita Everly (Ages 3-6)
This fun book uses lovable characters and an interactive approach to help children explore feelings, while also teaching them specific things to do and say in a conversation. Children also learn how to read nonverbal language to understand how someone is feeling.
Share with us which children’s books you love for teaching empathy or other social-emotional skills. It may be featured on our blog!
Primarily peaceful: Nurturing Peace in the Primary Grades
Using Children’s Stories to Promote Peace in Classrooms
Integrating Literature-Based Social Skills Lessons into an Early Childhood Setting
Social-Emotional Teaching Strategies
You Might Also Like:
5 Highly Rated Kids’ Games for Practicing Social Skills
Research Says We Can Help Kids of All Ages Develop Empathy – Find Out How
5 Great Activities to Do with Your Social Skills Group
8 Fun Activities to Practice Social Skills with Your Child
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Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”