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Story time: Public Library

Some Fridays throughout the summer,the Pleasanton Public Library puts on a story time event for preschoolers. Each week, a librarian or author reads the children a story, followed by a small activity or discussion. On Friday, a librarian read the story The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. In this short story, a young boy named Duncan opens his crayon box only to find letters from his crayons telling him that they quit. The crayons highlight the reasons why they are tired of being overused, under-appreciated, or used incorrectly. For example, Orange and Yellow argue over who is the right color of the sun and White is frustrated because he is the same color of the paper. Each page is written in the color of the crayon and have illustrations that the crayons drew. At the end of the book, the librarian asked the children if they agreed with the crayons. One little girl said that she uses white to mix with other colors, so her white crayon isn’t sad.

The event was a great display of how children’s stories have underlying themes of empathy. The children were able to relate to the characters (the crayons) in the story and understand why they were upset. It connected to my guiding questions because it illustrates how empathy is represented in literature, but is not the main purpose of the story. The author invites children to see a different perspective from an unlikely character.

Pleasanton Public Library, Large Meeting Room: 400 Old Bernal Ave, Pleasanton, CA 94566

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Empathy Conference

From July 14-July 16, there will be a conference at Mansfield College in Oxford, England. This is the 3rd conference from the Empathy Project and people from all over the world attend. At this conference, speakers discuss how people communicate with each other through literature and other arts. They talk about how empathy is represented in books, children’s and adult, as well as film and art piece. The Empathy Project discuss people’s ability to empathize and whether it is a skill to be learned or something we are born with.
There are different talks throughout the day, Empathy 1, Empathy 2, and Empathy 3, where various professionals will be discussing empathy. Empathy 3 is the most relevant to my guiding questions. In the conference, speakers will be discussing how empathy is represented in life through story telling: novels, short stories, plays, online stories, and picture books. The main question it is addressing is how does empathy play a role in “the narrative arts of literature”.
The conference answers my questions about the representation of empathy in children’s literature because speakers vary from authors, philosophers, publishers, and advocates for literature. It brings great insight into literature and the presence of empathy in writing.
Fairbarin, S., & Fisher, R. (n.d.). Call for Presentations. Retrieved July 06, 2016, from http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/critical-issues/ethos/empathy/call-for-presentations/

Using Literature to Heal

The website “Words That Heal” is an incredible resource for addressing my guiding questions. Although it focuses on bullying, the website highlights the use of literature that addresses bullying and why it is important. Developing empathy is crucial in preventing bullying so it directly connects to my topic.

On the website I learned about bibliotherapy, or the use of literature to address problems. The writer provided a detailed list of criteria one should consider when choosing an appropriate book for children with underlying themes of empathy. Some of the recommendations included finding books with kid-friendly and recognizable language, a clear process of working through problems, and using situations that are relatable and realistic. It also discusses topics that are counterintuitive in addressing bullying and actually deter empathy. The topics are vengeance, suspension or expulsion of the bully, and peer mediation. It discusses why these are not representative of empathy while also providing a list of resources of books with topics of empathy and bullying.

ADL Curriculum Quarterly: Winter 2005. (2005). Retrieved July 06, 2016, from http://archive.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/winter_2005/words_that_heal1.html#1

Character Education Through Literature

In the academic journal Childhood Education, researchers Young, Hadaway, and Ward wrote an article about character values and how they are represented in children’s books internationally. They discussed wisdom, justice, transcendence, humanity, courage, and temperance. In children’s books, characters often face moral dilemmas, difficult situations, and relatable life events. The writers discuss how books about character values can be written anyway while also being applicable to children all over the world.

I found the article to be incredibly useful because Young, Hadaway, and Ward broke down all 6 character traits they identified in books with definitions and examples of representations of each in literature. In addition, the writers provided the readers with lists of book suggestions that highlight each trait. For example, for courage, they suggested books such as Gervelie’s Journey: A Refugee Diary, Fatty Legs, and Beatrice’s Dream: A Story of Kibera Slum. They also provided a list of all the books and documented the awards they won. All of the books were chosen from different countries around the world.

It relates to my topic because empathy is being expanded to many character values and applied in many multicultural texts. The list of books is extensive with great descriptions about the themes and connections to empathy.

 

Young, T. A., Hadaway, N. L., & Ward, B. A. (2013). International children’s trade books: Building blocks for character education. Childhood Education, 89(6), 379+. Retrieved from https://stmarys-ca.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA352487932&v=2.1&u=mora54187&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=13e7d75e3ab69d272f2d5ce01deb6f27

Understanding Through Children’s Books

In Melissa Thibault’s article, she highlights the difficulty teachers face when their students all have different experiences and life events, but are still expected to move past their lives in order to fully engage in the curriculum. She argues that through literature, students can learn how to see a situation from various viewpoints, respect others, and gain more understanding about their own lives. Not only does seeing oneself in a character in a book help students deal with difficult situations, but literature helps broach challenging topics. Books can be used as a catalyst for class discussions, connections between teacher and students, and solving problems.
The article broadened my knowledge about how empathy is represented in literature by expanding it to reader’s theater. I never thought students role playing or acting out situations, characters, and events in books as a means to problem solve and develop empathy. Thibault also provided links to databases of books with themes of empathy, diversity, and tolerance.
Building an understanding of others through literature is connected to my guiding questions because it is connected to empathy. Empathy is a basic understanding of others and Thibault’s article not only provided further insight on the topic, but also provided book lists and ideas of how to apply it.
Thibault, M. (n.d.). Children’s literature promotes understanding. Retrieved July 01, 2016, from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/635

Connecting Literature and Real Life

In the article, writer Liz Bury discuss the research done on literature and the presence of empathy. According to Bury, literature allows readers to step into the world, experiences, and thoughts of a character and gain an understanding and respect of another person. Through reading, we can learn lessons from the characters and apply those experiences to our real life situations. In particular, this article discusses literature’s improvement of social empathy. Social empathy is the ability to understand others by gaining further insight to another person’s experiences. Bury sites various studies done on literature and empathy and finds that although literature has a short-term affect on the development of empathy, there are more benefits to reading than just character development. This article is important to answer my guiding research question because it specifically highlights social empathy. It is important to choose children’s books that allow students to connect with the characters. Children need to be able to relate with the characters, whether in age, race, culture, or ability. By finding a common interest, students are able to easily step into the shoes of the character and gain a deeper understanding of that person’s life. If we read stories to children that have little to no connection to them, children will have a harder time seeing how empathy is represented in the story.
Bury, L. (2013, October 08). Reading literary fiction improves empathy, study finds. Retrieved July 01, 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/oct/08/literary-fiction-improves-empathy-study

Accio, Empathy!

In this opinion article from the NY Times, writer Hanna Kozlowska argues that Harry Potter is the perfect children’s book because it has underlying themes of prejudice and acceptance. In the Harry Potter series, there is a clear social hierarchy in which the wizards and witches believe that “pure bloods”, or a child born of two magical parents, are at the top of society, followed next by “half-breeds”, or half wizard, half Muggle, and lastly “Muggles”, or non-magic humans. In the story, some characters come from very prejudiced, ignorant families that discriminate against groups comprised of the “other”. Kozlowska sites a study conducted by a psychologist who found that Harry Potter built empathy for various stigmatized groups in the story and could be applied to real life situations with homosexuals, refugees, and immigrants. The author also wrote about the impact Harry Potter has on a child’s personality development and moral development. As the stories develop, Harry confronts the trivial happenings of growing up including his first crush, fighting with friends, and accepting oneself and others.
This article is directly connected to my guiding questions because not only does it illustrate how empathy is represented in a children’s book, but is also discusses the other character development that can occur through a story. Harry Potter is world-famous and read by thousands of children. The topics of overcoming stereotypes and accepting others are interwoven in the general theme of empathy and can be accessed through reading the Harry Potter series.
Kozlowska, H. (2014, September 17). Can ‘harry potter’ change the world? Retrieved July 01, 2016, from http://op-talk.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/can-harry-potter-change-the-world/

Harry Potter and Empathy

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling, is one of the most famous, timeless books of all time. In this book, Harry Potter, a young wizard, faces many obstacles as he attempts to defeat Voldemort, a dark wizard. At first glance, this book seems to be a fantasy adventure story, fighting with an evil wizard to save the world. However, this book has a deeper meaning, allowing readers to connect with and learn from the characters. Harry and his friends endure the struggles of growing up: bullies, friendship, acceptance, perseverance, and loyalty. For example, there is a character in the story named Malfoy that uses his status as a wealthy child who comes from a positive wizarding family to bully Harry, Ron, and Hermionie. Through the entire Harry Potter series, Malfoy is an antagonize that attempts to ostracize and demean Harry and his friends. This books provides a great segway for conversations about the importance of friendship, acceptance, and positive behaviors to help deal with a bully.

Harry Potter is connected to my topic of empathy in children’s literature because it is a classic, world-famous story that has been read by thousands of children. I grew up reading Harry Potter and found myself to be more empathetic and accepting of everyone. Harry Potter has many different groups of fantastical species including house elves, centaurs, and giants. Rowling attempts to show the prejudice and maltreatment of these groups as a means to touch on empathy and accepting one another.

 

Rowling, J. K. (1998). Harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone. Toronto: Scholastic Books.

Natural Disasters and Empathy

This website is an incredible resource because it discusses the importance of using picture books to introduce children to topics, people, and locations they may not be able to experience themselves. The focus of Reading Rockets is to provide children’s literature for parents and teachers to use in situations after natural disasters. September 11th sparked the creation of Reading Rockets and the more recent Haiti earthquake in 2010. Reading Rockets looks for quality children’s stories with great draws, poetic tones, or strong writing, to teach lessons and create stories that connect children to other people all over the world.
The resource provides a list of applicable books: non-fiction, historical fiction, and other picture books to discuss various major events that happened in our world. These events include the Haiti earthquake, 2004 tsunami in Thailand, and famous earthquakes. The collection of books about earthquakes is relatable to students here because we live in a state where earthquakes happen and will happen. The website also provides a list of recommended, children-friendly sites for more information on books for children as well as news links in case students want to do their own research.
This is relevant to my topic because it brings a new component that I had not thought of, connecting literature to social studies. It also provides me with insight in appropriate books, conversations, and events to discuss with children as a means to foster empathy and understanding. Some titles referenced on this page are Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, Circles of Hope by Karen Lyn Williams, and Earthquake in the Early Morning by Mary Pope Osborne.
Understanding and empathy through children’s books. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2016, from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/understanding-and-empathy-through-childrens-books

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