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

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

How Reading Literature Cultivates Emapthy

This article, published by Edutopia, is written by a woman who is a firm believer that the theme of empathy is throughout literature and can form empathy in the readers. Writer Elena Aguilar writes that books and empathy are connected because readers are able to take the perspective of the characters in the books, feel their feelings, understanding their emotions. She argues that it is crucial to read books that have an underlying theme of empathy because if readers “don’t get the feelings in a visceral form, will [they] act to change the injustices of this world?” (Aguilar, 2014).

This helped me answer my guiding questions because it provides further information about why it is so important to teach empathy to children. As a teacher, we are to foster the love of reading in our students and find books that have underlying themes or lessons that can be applied to their lives. Aguilar’s article helps me see that a powerful book has more than just empathy, but can help students step into the shoes of other people, taking others’ perspectives and learning from one another.


Aguilar, E. (2014, February 05). How reading literature cultivates empathy. Retrieved June 28, 2016, from

Picture Books that Spark Empathy

This blog, written by author and teacher Pernille Ripp, contains a list of 10 picture books that all have the underlying theme of empathy. Among these titles are The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, The Invisible Boy by Tracy Ludwig, and The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. All the books are vastly different, varying in ethnicities, ages, gender, and places around the world, but all teach about the importance of respecting others and being empathetic.
From this resource, I learned that books that teach about empathy don’t have to have words. One of the books Ripp includes on her website is Bluebird by Bob Staake. The wordless book tells the story of a little boy that is cheered up by a small bird. He is bullied by other children, but learns to stand up for himself and believe in who he is. The story, though lacks words, is left to be interpreted by the readers and spark great discussion. I also learned about the fluidity of picture books and the ability to reach people of all ages. Ripp talks about the books that left an impact on her or even brought her to tears.
This blog directly connects to my guiding questions because it discusses how empathy is represented across a large variety of children’s literature.
Ripp, P. (2015, August 10). 10 Picture Books that Spark Empathy. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from

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