“Empathy is learnable – only 10% of our empathic ability is genetic. Scientists say that reading builds empathy, and this collection will play a direct role in helping raise an empathy-educated generation.”Miranda McKearney OBE, EmpathyLab’s founder
EmpathyLab have revealed the 2021 Read For Empathy book collection after an expert judging panel weighed up hundreds of publisher submissions to select 50 of the very best contemporary empathy-boosting books for 4-16 year olds.
During my twenty years as a librarian I have seen how school libraries can act as empathy factories in their communities. The sharing of books with pupils and staff can connect individuals as a school family and encourage us to be empathetic and to show kindness in our daily lives. By stocking the right type of books and making them available to people who need them at the appropriate time libraries make a difference. These two carefully selected collections will enable this to happen more easily.
The primary collection is for 4-11 year olds and consists of 30 books; the secondary collection features 20 books for 12-16 year olds. Many of the books help readers understand the lives of those experiencing tough situations, from witnessing domestic violence to becoming a refugee. Others gently explore everyday situations and emotions, like friendship problems. Several help readers understand the experience of living with autism. The range of creators, formats and genres helps expand children’s world view and understand others better.
The 2021 Read For Empathy book collection comes at a time when empathising with others has never been needed more. The judges said: “We have an unprecedented chance to do things differently, building on the wave of community caring we’ve seen in the pandemic. This collection seizes that chance with both hands. The books will help children be their best selves; to think “we”, not “me”. Right now, what could be more important?” The judges also applauded a rise in books reflecting diverse perspectives and experiences – an antidote to hatred and prejudice, and key for building empathic insight. 42% are created by authors and illustrators of colour. The titles include picture books, graphic novels, poetry, novels in verse, early readers and novels so the wide range provides something for all tastes.
There are several of my personal favourites included and I am looking forward to exploring the collection over the coming weeks and sharing them on this blog. This year Empathy Day takes place on 10th June and the collections will be used by parents, teachers and librarians in the run- up to Empathy Day and beyond to instil empathy values and skills. This year’s theme is Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes.
Free downloadable guides, with tips on how to use the books with children and young people in the home or learning settings, are available online for free at empathylab.uk/2021-read-for-empathy-collections. EmpathyLab’s work on the book collection is supported by specialist book suppliers Peters.