10 June marks Empathy Day, a day that aims to raise awareness among society and young people about empathy and how to put it into practice.
Research carried out by Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab demonstrated that people who often read fiction have better social cognition, meaning they’re more skilled at working out what other people are thinking and feeling. Shifting focus onto other people’s feelings and perspectives encourages a person to become more empathetic, as they’re able to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
EmpathyLab, the organisers of Empathy Day, suggest doing this through three practices: Read, Connect and Act. Read empathy-rich books to deepen your understanding of other people and take part in use of the #ReadForEmpathy social media campaign; connect by going on an Empathy Walk to connect to the reality of your local community; and act, by using increased understanding to make changes and making an empathy resolution.
We’ve created a collection of titles for children and teens that encourage empathy, based on the suggestions put together by Empathy Lab. These titles include: A Hurricane in My Head by Matt Abbott which tackles the themes of friendship, bullying, technology, and the life of a modern teenager; A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll encourages understanding of others – through the eye of autistic protagonist, Addie; When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson, a book that explores life as a refugee for 8–12-year-olds, with a heart-wrenching but happy ending.