Great Children’s Books to Teach and Help Develop Empathy and Acceptance

One of the most important things a child can learn is to empathize and to be accepting of others. Children often see things through a selfish lens because they haven’t yet learned the importance of different perspectives. Its vital for children to learn from an early age that despite our differences, living creatures all have emotions and can feel hurt by the actions of others. When children are exposed to the idea of acceptance and are taught to empathize with the struggles of others, they become more well-rounded adults who can co-exist more peacefully. Here are some books that explore themes of acceptance and empathy that you can read to or with your child to help them to learn a valuable lesson through story as opposed to a lecture.

Picture Books

One by Kathryn Otoshi

One is a story about colours and their differences and the number that comes along to teach them how to come together and count. This story teaches young readers about numbers and counting as well as primary and secondary colours, all the while also how to learn to accept each other’s differences.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

This story is about a blue crayon that has been mistakenly labelled red. The blue crayon has an identity crisis when everything he tries to colour doesn’t look the way it should. Red, the blue crayon, must come to terms with his inner self despite what his outsides say. This story will teach children that labels aren’t important and that people aren’t always what they seem on the outside.

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

The Sneetches is a classic story by Dr. Seuss about two distinct kinds of Sneetches. The plain-bellied Sneetches and the star-bellied Sneetches and how this physical difference keeps them separated. This story discusses segregation and discrimination in a simple way that really gets the point across and will help children to realize that even if they don’t look like someone else, it doesn’t mean they can’t be friends. We can’t judge others based on physical differences.

Chapter Books

El Deafo by Cece Bell

This is a graphic novel/memoir detailing author Cece Bell’s younger years with severe hearing loss and the Phonic Ear that sets her apart from her classmates. At first, the hearing aid, which is bulky and awkward, prevents Cece from making new friends, but in this funny and truly beautiful graphic novel, Cece is able to learn to control the Phonic Ear and become her own superhero. This is a heartwarming tale that shows its readers that being different isn’t a bad thing.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White

Charlotte’s Web is a classic and well-beloved tale about a girl named Fern and the love she shares for a pig named Wilbur. This is a must read for all children because of Fern’s true compassion towards animals. Fern looks after Wilbur because he is the runt of his litter and saves him from an awful fate. This is a novel of friendship of a different kind that will teach children the intelligence of animals and that having compassion for all living beings is important.

Wonder by R.J Palacio

This is a book about a young boy with a facial difference that has prevented him from attending regular school. Starting in the 5th grade at a mainstream school, the protagonist, Auggie Pullman, just wants to be treated like a normal kid. Unfortunately, it seems that his classmates have a hard time looking past his facial difference to meet the real Auggie. This is a great book for middle grade kids that tackles feeling different, standing up to your bullies and the struggle of trying to find acceptance.

Each of these stories offer a unique perspective on the differences of those around us that will help your children to learn to find acceptance and be able to empathize with their peers. The younger children are able to learn these lessons, the more tolerant they will be as adults.

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