Empathy Read Alouds

I love bringing character education to life for my students. It’s so important to help students focus on the lessons and take advantage of the time to dive deep into the pillars. This post will focus on the character education month of empathy. Check out these empathy read alouds, perfect for your class library. I always kick off the year with kindness, which you can read here, or teach in any order that makes sense to you!

Picture Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Teach lessons about empathy with age-appropriate read alouds. 

This post will showcase my favorite picture books for teaching empathy. You can read a new title over the course of several weeks, or you can make it part of your free-read time in class.

Emma and the Whale by Julie Case

Emma lives in a crooked house in a very old whaling town. She often takes her dog, Nemo, to the beach. They always find amazing treasures as they walk the beach, but one day they find something unexpected – a baby whale. Emma imagines what the whale must be thinking and feeling, and tries to help the whale.

Picture Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts

Hardly anyone notices Sally, she’s so small. But Sally notices everything around her. One day she decides she will make herself be heard. This story teaches that even one so small can make a big difference. 

Picture Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy by Maria Dismondy

A new student arrives, but doesn’t speak English. This story showcases how simple acts of human kindness can break down barriers and make anyone feel welcome. 

Picture Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde

Being human means we are full of possibilities. That means we can also make mistakes and feel hurt and sad. This is an affirming book that shows we can make good choices by acting with compassion and showing empathy for others. 

Read Aloud Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

This bestseller celebrates kindness, belonging, and friendship. This is inspired by the book Wonder, written for younger readers to meet Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. And, of course, his dog Daisy. 

Read Aloud Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders

Written in verse, a little person named Quinn models the meaning of empathy. Quinn shows an abundance of understanding, compassion and kindness towards others. 

Read Aloud Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell

Adrian Simcox will tell everyone who will listen that he has a horse. Chloe, however, does not believe him. Adrian lives in a tiny house and has holes in his shoes. Where would he keep a horse? How can he afford a horse? Chloe becomes more angry the more Adrian talks about his horse, but Chloe doesn’t get vindication from those around her. Instead she learns something important. 

Read Aloud Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

A simple act of kindness will change an invisible boy into a friend. Brian feels he’s an invisible boy. Nobody in class seems to notice or think to include him. When Justin, a new kid in class, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. This blossoms a new friendship, one where Brian finds a way to shine. 

Read Aloud Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

Friends come in every shape and size. For Amos McGee, that includes species as well. He loves all his animal friends. One day when he is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they return the favor and visit him. 

Books on Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Granny Loves to Dance by Avianti Armand

A granny forgets how to dance, so her grandchild decides to help teach her again. It is a sweet, realistic story about showing empathy to our loved ones. 

Books on Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Jeremy just wants those shoes. The ones that everyone else at school seems to have. Grandma says they don’t have room for “want” – just “need”. When his old shoes fall apart, Jeremy is determined to have those shoes, even the thrift store pair that is too small. Jeremy will learn that there are some things worth more than the things he wants. 

Books on Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose

What if the little ant you were about to step on looked at you and started talking? This is a cute story about a father-daughter duo who strike up a surprise conversation with a tiny ant. 

Books on Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

A blue crayon mislabeled as “red” suffers an identity crisis. This story is about being true to yourself and creating your own path even with obstacles. Red tries his best to be red and follow the advice of others. But he can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries. It isn’t until he meets a new friend that gives him a new perspective. 

Picture Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

The Wall by Eve Bunting

Eve Bunting is so great a writing about serious topics. In this story, a young boy and his father travel to Washington, D.C. to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The little boy calls it “my grandfather’s wall” and they search for his name, meeting others who are looking for names, and seeing the flowers, letters, and other mementos. 

Picture Books to Teach Empathy by Kristine Nannini

Are there other empathy read alouds you like to use when teaching? What else would you add to your class library? Feel free to comment your favorite books and activities here, or check out my character education resource for more ideas!

Continue building a positive culture in your classroom and empower students to be their best selves with this empathy resource.


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