Empathy Day with Chitra Soundar

Blog Posts, Blog Tour, Books for Empathy / Monday, June 11th, 2018

What is Empathy Day?

Empathy Day was founded in 2017 by EmpathyLab. With hate crimes at their
highest level since records began, it uses stories to help us understand
each other better, and highlights empathy’s power in our divided world. (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hate-crime-statistics).

Empathy Day 2018 takes place on 12 June. 
So what can you do to help? Here are the Empathy Day’s calls to action

  • READ – because reading in itself can make us more empathetic
  • SHARE – because sharing perspectives through books can connect us in new
  • DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your community

How to join in

And now I am absolutely thrilled to welcome onto Book Monsters Chitra Soundar. Chitra wrote You’re Safe with Me (illustrated by Poonam Mistry and published by Lantana Publishing), one of the Empathy Lab Uk’s recommended reads and a truly beautiful picture book. You can read my review here You’re Safe with Me – BM Review:


Chitra is here to share with us her thoughts on empathy, shows how important it is and how even adults can have their mind changed by the right books and discussions.

Whether we were born in a castle or in a caravan, whether we are from what
the victors call the First World or the Third World, whether we were born
with faces and bodies suited for Hollywood or not, whether we have one parent, or two dads, whether we like boys or girls, inside we are all the
same – we are the sum total of contradictions, joys, disappointments, wants, needs and dreams.

To understand that we are all the same, we need empathy. To think about
whether we do treat everyone the same, we need empathy. To act in a way that helps and never harms another living being – human or animal or this planet, we need empathy.

And how do we practice and teach empathy to our children when our lives are
full of timetables, missed dentist appointments and traffic jams?

We all have access to the best resource that was ever invented – stories.
And stories come in convenient forms called books. Books open up the world
to a young reader, taking them places, showing them the unknown and at the
same time, making them ask questions.

The characters in these stories suffer calamity, celebrate birthdays, miss
their grandparents, fear thunderstorms and triumph over adversity. By
joining wonderful characters on their journeys, children put themselves in
someone else’s shoes. They ask questions, they want answers. And by doing
so, they start to understand the emotions of another living being – be it a
fluffy rabbit left behind on a train seat or a girl who walks on the yellow
brick road.

Empathy is more than just identifying with someone. Often such reading
triggers the need to do something about it. Those who watched the recent BBC
nature programme chose to give up their plastics. That’s an empathy
response. And that’s what we hope children can learn to acquire by reading
books and talking to grown-ups about how they feel about those subjects /
stories / people they read about.

Empathy Lab has created a programme for schools called “Empathy Explorers”
that help teachers to incorporate specially chosen books that fit into the
current literacy curriculums. With classroom activities, lesson plans and
resources for each book, Empathy Lab hopes to create classrooms full of
Empathy Explorers who not only feel the emotions of others, but are also
able to think about it and act upon it.

Parents – you can join in too. You can find the Read for Empathy guide and
choose books that have been specially chosen and read with your children.
There is a wide range of topics and stories for different ages in the guide
and you could read one or many of them.

I’m humbled that You’re Safe With Me, written by me, illustrated by Poonam
Mistry and published by Lantana Publishing is on the list too. In this
story, the baby animals in an Indian forest are fearful of the thunderstorm.
Mama Elephant explains to them why we need the wind, the thunder, the
lightning and the river and that we don’t need to fear them.

I was reading this book recently to a group of children, when a librarian
said she had heard about the BBC programme about pangolins. So I went to
watch the show and then I spent hours finding out more about how to save
pangolins. I created a pangolin fact sheet and tweeted about the World
Pangolin Day too.

So I had come a full circle – from writing the story to feeling the fear of
the pangolin, then thinking about pangolins – researching them and then
acting upon what I had found out. That’s exactly what we hope the next
generation would do, armed with all their books.

Thank you so much to Chitra for that fascinating look at empathy. Please do take a look her book You’re Safe with Me and the other brilliant books on the guide.
Chitra can be found on Twitter at; @csoundar

Find out more about the Read for Empathy Guide at
http://www.empathylab.uk website. You can also follow
them on Twitter (@EmpathyLabUK) so you’ll get first-hand news of latest
resources and initiatives. And do join us on 12th Jun to celebrate the
second Empathy Day in the UK.

Thank you for reading this important Book Monster blog


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *