Wednesday, February 22, 2012


My January reading has followed the same amazing path (see her post yesterday) as Franki's: The Fault in Our Stars, The One and Only Ivan, and Wonder (plus one she hasn't read yet, but should--an adult read: Unbroken).

When I put Wonder down last Saturday night after reading it straight through, I couldn't stop thinking about Auggie...and about all the other people in his life who had a voice in his story. I thought about how necessary it is that we help children learn to have empathy -- to "walk two moons in someone else's moccasins." I thought about the family I know whose son is profoundly stare-inducing, and all that they have gone through to advocate for him and include him in every part of their life.

I started thinking about other books that evoke empathy -- A Long Walk to Water and Home of the Brave came to mind immediately because of recent conversations with colleagues about the power of these two books as read alouds in their fourth and fifth grade classrooms. And I decided to start a new shelf in Goodreads: Empathy. Here are the books I tagged (some are adult/YA):

Home of the Brave, Applegate
The One and Only Ivan, Applegate
Because of Mr. Terrupt, Buyea
Iqbal, D'Adamo
Wit, Edson
No Ordinary Day, Ellis
Flying Solo, Fletcher
Eleven, Giff
The Thing About Georgie, Graff
The Fault in Our Stars, Greene
Uprising, Haddix
Unbroken, Hillenbrand
Rules, Lord
Larger Than Life Lara, Mackall
The Gold Threaded Dress, Marsden
We Are the Ship, Nelson
How to Steal a Dog, O'Connor
Greetings From Nowhere, O'Connor
Wonder, Palacio
A Long Walk to Water, Park
Beneath My Mother's Feet, Qamar
Anna Hibiscus, Tobia

It's not a perfect list because I haven't been particularly perfect about keeping track of my reading on Goodreads, but it's a start.

After spring break, I plan to ask my students to put their other reading aside and read from a collection of (age-appropriate for 4th graders) books I gather so that we can use literature to help us learn about, experience, have conversations about, and practice EMPATHY.

What books would you add to the list? (It occurs to me that the set of picture books I use at the beginning of the year to build community and introduce theme -- especially the ones about names -- would be perfect to revisit as we begin to understand the concept of empathy...)

Leave your suggestions in the comments -- picture books, poetry, middle grade, YA, adult...all suggestions are welcome.


  1. Love this post. Proud to be included.
    Barbara o'Connor

  2. Right there with you. On Friday, we had a really hard day in Room 121, a few incidences of downright meanness that left me disturbed all weekend. Over the weekend I read WONDER and decided to put aside the book I was reading aloud and introduce it to my kids right away, today. You have already included a lot of the books I would put on my empathy shelf, but I will look at my books today and see what other ones I come up with. Thanks, as always, for pushing me to be a better teacher and human being!

  3. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes has always been a favorite of mine.

  4. TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord and PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS by Patricia Reilly Giff

  5. What a lovely idea. A couple of books:
    Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
    Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher

  6. Awesome post. I recently read that children who read fiction have higher levels of empathy!

    My picture book additions would be One Thousand Tracings by Lita Judge, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, One by Kathryn Otoshi, Bird Child by Nan Forler.

    The Corner On Character

  7. Carol sent me to you first thing this morning...said we were on the same wavelength today! And oh, I am going to print this list for my own children and me. One of my most favorite books that deals with empathy and so many other ideas is Paulsen's THE MONUMENT. Thank you for yet another fantastic list.

  8. This is an idea beyond amazing, and one I might be borrowing. I read Wonder this weekend, and was immensely touched by its message. An empathy tub is a wonderful idea - your titles are great, and I love the titles being suggested here in the comments.
    I don't do "have to" reads often, but think the idea of reading a book with the theme of empathy could lead to some very rich conversations! Thanks for being such a smart friend.

  9. Great idea! I would suggest ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER by Ann Haywood Leal and Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor
    by Russell Freedman, a powerful non-fiction book.

  10. It's a wonderful idea to have each student read an individual book or more than one to begin discussions. Thanks for the great list. I would add A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass and I have read aloud My Left Foot by Christy Brown to my middle school students.

  11. Love this list! Just read Pirate of Kindergarten aloud with my Kindergartners today. It's a great K level picture book for empathy.

  12. Thanks, All, for the support for this idea and for the titles ranging from K-YA! The list keeps getting richer and richer!

  13. My son recently enjoyed reading Rules by Cynthia Lord. I printed your list and will share with his school. They are making a noticeable effort to encourage empathy. Thank you.

  14. I'm not a teacher but get great ideas about books for me and my kids to read from this blog. I too have started using Goodreads. I have tried to add my own shelves and the adding worked but I can't choose them as a selection. Suggestion?

    Again thanks for all the great read suggestions.

    1. There should be a radio button beside each shelf you've made. All you have to do is choose the shelves at the time you add the book, or you can go back and edit the shelves and choose them later.

  15. What a wonderful idea. I catch myself getting frustrated with the constant arguing and bickering in my classroom. It all boils down to the fact that they don't take the time to understand each others. I love the idea of doing an empathy study. My third graders would benefit in so many ways. Thank you for the wonderful idea and list. All of the books I could think of have been listed by others in your comments. A truly powerful list.

  16. I just finished "Wonder" and "The Fault in Our Stars"...amazing! I wish I hadn't put off reading them! Thanks for the great lists!

    Check out my post at

    Thanks - Jenny


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