13 Impactful Children’s Books About EMPATHY For Kids To Build Compassion

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Uncover the 13 best books about empathy for kids! These books on compassion provide a fun and engaging way to teach kids how to understand and relate to others’ feelings.

As a former teacher turned homeschool mama, I’m always on the lookout for social emotional learning books that can help my son develop skills like compassion, friendship, honesty, and gratitude.

And let me tell you, we’ve found some great ones! Not only have they been incredibly helpful for my son, but they’ve also bonded us together as we take the time to read and discuss them.

Empathy is such an important skill to develop, especially for young children who are just starting to understand the world around them. 

BUT it can be hard for young children to see outside their own perspectives. These empathy read alouds each have a relatable empathetic character and visual examples to help your children understand another’s perspective and feelings.

But it’s not just for kids – as parents and teachers, we can also benefit from reading these children’s books on empathy to learn how to be more compassionate towards others. 

That’s why I’ve put together this list of exciting children’s books about empathy. These books about compassion have been our favorites, and I hope they can be a great resource for you too!

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Our Top Compassion Book: Hey Little Ant Read Aloud

If you’re only going to read one compassion book, here is where to start! 

“Hey, Little Ant” by Hannah Hoose and Phillip Hoose

This delightful book tells the story of a little boy who is about to squish an ant with his foot, when the ant suddenly starts talking to him! The ant begs for his life, and asks the boy to think about how he would feel if someone as big as him was about to squish him. 

The book leaves the ultimate decision up to the reader at the end. The children reading need to decide if they will have compassion on the ant or squish it. 

This book is not only a great lesson in empathy, but it also teaches children about the power of persuasion. It encourages them to think about how others might feel in different situations, and to consider different viewpoints before making decisions. 

More Empathy Books for Kids

Explore some of the best children’s books about empathy for kids that can help teach them about emotions, compassion, and understanding.

“You, Me and Empathy” by Jayneen Sanders

Through the eyes of a young boy, readers learn about the different situations in which he has both given and received empathy.

The boy shares stories about caring for his sick mother and understanding how she felt because he had been sick before, about his brother comforting him when he was hurt, and about a little girl who fell down at the park when a dog tripped her. In each situation, the boy could relate to similar experiences, which helped him understand how the other person was feeling.

“The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig

This is one of the most touching picture books about empathy that follows the story of a young boy named Brian. Brian feels left out and invisible to his classmates and teacher. Even when he tries to speak up or participate in activities, he is often ignored or overlooked by his peers.

It wasn’t until he started to catch the attention of a new student, a boy named Justin. Justin was also made fun of at times for being different so he could relate to Brian’s experiences in some ways. 

With Justin’s encouragement and kindness, Brian finally feels seen and appreciated for who he is. As Justin and Brian’s friendship grows, they both learn the importance of accepting and including others who may feel invisible or left out.

“The Cool Bean” by Jory John 

In this clever picture book, readers meet an uncool bean who used to be friends with the three coolest beans in school. The uncool bean misses his old friends but doesn’t want to say anything because he thinks they’re too cool for him.

The uncool bean admires the cool beans for their stylish clothes and impressive talents, but he starts to notice that they also do kind things for him, like helping him clean up spilled lunch and find the right page in his book.

Through these acts of kindness, the uncool bean realizes that true coolness comes from being kind and caring, not from material possessions or abilities. The uncool bean learned from the cool beans’ examples how to be cool by being kind to those around them.

Children’s Books On Empathy For Elementary Students

These books are perfect for your elementary students who need a little reminder about showing compassion and care for others. These books illustrate both how to show and receive empathy from others. 

“A Hat for Mrs. Goldman” by Michelle Edwards 

This heartwarming picture book tells the story of a young girl named Sophia who loves spending time with her neighbor, Mrs. Goldman. Mrs. Goldman is a knitter who makes hats for everyone in their community, and Sophia loves to help her by rolling the yarn into balls.

One day, Sophia notices that Mrs. Goldman doesn’t have a hat of her own to keep her warm in the winter. Sophia decides to make her a hat as a surprise, even though she has never knitted a full hat before.

Even though the hat wasn’t perfect, Sophia was excited to give her friend the hat she knit with care. 

Through this act of kindness and generosity, Sophia learns the value of giving to others and the joy of creating something with her own two hands. Mrs. Goldman, touched by Sophia’s thoughtfulness, feels loved and appreciated by her young friend.

“I Talk Like a River” by Jordan Scott

“I Talk Like a River” is a powerful picture book about a young boy with a stutter and his journey to find his voice. The book is written by Jordan Scott, who also had a stutter as a child.

The story is told from the perspective of the young boy, who is struggling to communicate his thoughts and feelings to those around him. He feels embarrassed and frustrated by his stutter, and often tries to avoid speaking altogether.

But one day, his father takes him to the river and helps him see that just like the water in the river flows and ebbs, so too does his speech. His father tells him that he talks “like a river,” and that this is something to be proud of.

Encouraged by his father’s words, the boy begins to see his stutter in a new light. He learns to embrace his unique way of speaking and finds the courage to share his voice with the world.

“Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla” by Katherine Applegate

“Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla” by Katherine Applegate is one of the many great true stories about empathy. Based on the true story of Ivan, a western lowland gorilla, who was captured as a baby and brought to live in a shopping mall in the United States. 

The book tells the story of Ivan’s life in captivity, including his experiences with his human caretakers, other animals in the mall, and the visitors who came to see him.

As Ivan grows older and larger, people begin to realize that his life in captivity is not natural nor fulfilling for him. As people feel compassion for Ivan’s living situation and start to stand up for him, he is moved to a new and more ideal home in a zoo with other gorillas. 

“Otis and the Scarecrow” by Loren Long 

“Otis and the Scarecrow” by Loren Long is a cute story about the power of friendship and empathy. Otis is a kind and gentle tractor who lives on a farm with his animal friends. When a new scarecrow is put up in the field, the animals are afraid of him because he doesn’t move and always has a scowl on his face. But Otis sees that the scarecrow is lonely and wants to be his friend.

One day there was a storm and all the animals took shelter under a tree. The scarecrow didn’t move as always and was all alone in the storm. Otis approaches the scarecrow and sits with him during the storm. With Otis’ example, the other animals join in to keep the scarecrow company during the storm. 

“A Little Spot of Empathy” by Diane Alber

“A Little Spot of Empathy” by Diane Alber is a children’s book that teaches the importance of empathy. The book follows the story of a little spot who struggles with understanding how other spots feel. 

The little spot learns about empathy through a series of experiences that show him how to put himself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. 

This book does a fantastic job of walking your children through learning to see other’s perspectives. It also explains what empathy is and examples of how your children can show others kindness using empathy.

“The Someone New” by Jill Twiss 

“The Someone New” by Jill Twiss is actually about a chipmunk named Jitterbug who is resistant to change. When a snail named Pudding arrives in the forest, Jitterbug initially rejects him and worries that his presence will disrupt the familiar routines of the forest. 

However, after reflecting on his behavior, Jitterbug realizes that he was wrong and that Pudding deserves a chance to belong.

Jitterbug extends kindness to Pudding and helps him build a new home in the forest. The other animals in the forest also come to accept and embrace Pudding, realizing that he brings new perspectives and talents to their community. 

Through this story, “The Someone New” teaches children about the importance of empathy, kindness, and inclusion. It shows that, with effort and understanding, we can learn to embrace differences and welcome new friends into our lives.

“We’re All Wonders” by R.J. Palacio

“We’re All Wonders” by R.J. Palacio is one of the more popular books on empathy for kids that tells the story of a young boy named Auggie who has a facial deformity. 

Auggie has always felt different from other kids, and some of them have been unkind to him because of his appearance. Despite this, Auggie has a positive outlook on life and tries to see the good in people.

In the book, Auggie goes on a journey with his beloved dog, Daisy, and sees the world through his own unique perspective. He encounters people who look at him with pity or fear, but he also meets those who see him for who he truly is – a kind and caring person with a lot to offer.

“We’re All Wonders” promotes empathy and kindness by teaching children that everyone is unique and special in their own way. It encourages children to look beyond physical appearance and see the goodness in people’s hearts. 

“I Am Love: A Book of Compassion” by: Susan Verde

“I Am Love: A Book of Compassion” by Susan Verde is a children’s book that celebrates the power of love and compassion. The book encourages children to practice self-love and empathy towards others.

The story follows a young girl as she explores different expressions of love, such as kindness, gratitude, and forgiveness. The girl realizes that love is not just something that we feel, but something that we can actively cultivate and share with others.

“The Rabbit Listened” by Cori Doerrfeld

“The Rabbit Listened” by Cori Doerrfeld is a heartwarming children’s book about the power of empathy and listening.

The story follows a young boy named Taylor who experiences a difficult and emotional event, and each animal in the forest tries to help in their own way by offering advice or distractions. However, none of these efforts seem to work, and Taylor is left feeling more upset than ever.

That is until a rabbit appears and simply listens to Taylor without judgment, criticism, or advice. The rabbit doesn’t try to fix Taylor’s problems or offer a solution, but instead, the rabbit listens with patience and empathy, which helps Taylor to process his emotions and find a way forward.

Conclusion: Children’s Books About Empathy for Kids

Reading kids books about empathy with my son has been a valuable experience for both of us and I hope that it will be for your children as well. 

These picture books on empathy have not only helped us to develop social and emotional skills together but also reminded us that compassion and love are powerful tools for developing and keeping relationships and friendships.

What’s Next?

Read more books to help your children and students develop important social and emotional skills! Here is what you should read next…

Other Great Social Emotional Book Lists!

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