Without empathy, we are in a locked room, by ourselves, perhaps with just a mirror to look at. With empathy, doors are opened, doors out into a world with kindness, and compassion, friendship, love and so much more! This is why empathy is so crucial to our lives, empathy is something that grows and develops through our experiences. If children read, they experience other lives that they may not ordinarily realised existed, situations so removed from their own, and from this they can learn to understand not only the world around them, but most importantly, the people. This teaches children to empathise, which in turn teaches understanding and then compassion. Empathy is a super power! Just another reason to grab a book right?
What is Empathy Day
Empathy Day will focus on using books – and talking about them – to shine a light on the ‘superpower’ of empathy. As well as running Elmer the Elephant empathy-themed events for young children, 98 participating library services will be trialling intergenerational meet-ups. The Empathy Conversation will bring different community groups together to connect and talk at a deeper level, using prompts written by children from one of EmpathyLab’s pioneer primary schools. Schools nationwide are hosting author visits, Empathy Awards and more. Publishers are launching bespoke initiatives for their channels and networks to amplify the message of the Day and everyone is encouraged to join in a mass crowd-sharing of empathy book recommendations through a social media #ReadForEmpathy campaign.
I am absolutely thrilled to welcome onto Book Monster blog today, poet Joseph Coelho to talk about empathy. To find out more about Empathy day and how you can get involved (and please you must, even in just a small way) then please scroll down. However, I do implore you to read this incredibly moving piece by Joseph.
A Time To Celebrate Empathy
The sun is shining, and Empathy Day is upon us. Summer is a lovely time of year to celebrate empathy, and EmpathyLab’s work in bringing this brightest of human traits to the forefront has been exemplary.
The seasons of life can be hard for us all and as we battle our own winters, it can become hard to notice the frostbites others have endured. I read recently of the ‘gift’ cultures of early civilisations where communities would rally to gift help to those who needed it, confident that should they ever need help later, the community would provide. Those times are long behind us and now we brave a society that puts all emphasis on the individual – all successes are because of their own efforts and all failures are for them alone to endure. But it doesn’t have to be that way, it’s all a matter of perspective.
I was touring Scotland with the Scottish Booktrust earlier this year and entered one school where a playground mishap had occurred, possibly a pile-up of crashing year threes during a football game. Two sat outside the office to have their nosebleeds attended to by a nurse, a child protectively led another through the corridor with his arm protectively around his friend’s shoulder. I watched as the nose-bleeders regained composure and peace whilst the nurse wiped the blood from their hands, and listened to the murmur of comforting words coming from one child to another as they disappeared down the corridor, surely a scene that would not have looked out of place several thousand years ago in any community anywhere around the world, a scene of a drama being abated by kindness, togetherness and understanding.
Empathy is a means to promote that instinctive desire to care for and help those in need and to rid ourselves of the overwhelming drive to only look inward and to only look after our own concerns. Walking in the shoes of others, hearing their stories and spending some time breathing their air through a book is a wonderfully simple and effective way of broadening our world and reminding us that we are (quite literally) one family.
There are so many wonderful books on this year’s Read For Empathy List from: Corinne Averiss’s and Isabelle Follath’s gorgeous and sensitive Joy which shows children the power they have to make others, including adults, feel better through kindness. Tom Percival’s powerful Ruby’s Worry – A book I wish I had seen when I was little and worried constantly, Nicola Davies’ and Rebecca Cobb’s The Day War Came feels like a title everyone young and old should read immediately. So many different wonderful books that can enrich our lives through the simple act of sharing stories and reminding us what we so often forget, that it is in our human nature to help one another because in doing so we help ourselves.
I wish you all a happy Empathy Day and hope you’ll join us as we #ReadForEmpathy and share your book recommendations.
Joseph Coelho – https://www.thepoetryofjosephcoelho.com/
Huge thanks to Joseph for sparing his time to write this beautiful piece, and please take a look at his book.
So how can YOU be involved in Empathy Day? Well there is plenty you can do, not just on June 11th 2019, but all the time, to promote empathy in your homes, classrooms and libraries.
Empathy Day’s calls to action
READ – because stories and book characters build our real-life empathy
CONNECT – make new connections with people, inspired by sharing stories
DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your home and your community
How to join in
- Get new ideas for empathy-boosting books, and share your own, by joining in the massive social media #ReadForEmpathy campaign
- Use EmpathyLab’s Read For Empathy Guides for young people – 45 amazing books for 4-16 year olds –http://www.empathylab.uk/readfor-empathy-guide
- Snap up tickets for The Empathy Conversation evening event with former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, poet Joseph Coelho and psychology expert Professor Robin Banerjee, Waterstone’s Piccadilly, 7pm – Waterstones Piccadilly Empathy Conversation ticket link
- Follow the blog tour of some of the authors and illustrators involved; listen to their podcasts http://www.empathylab.uk/newspage. View the online Empathy Illustration Gallery: illustrators from Chris Riddell to Emily Gravett interpret what Read for Empathy means
- Use #EmpathyDay to share which social issues need more empathy, and Make an Empathy Resolution – special cards available from empathylab.uk
- Check out your library’s empathy books and activities.
- Make a giant workplace Empathy Wall – share ideas for changing things
- Buy empathy books from local independent booksellers, and EmpathyLab’s whole empathy book collection for 26% off: peters.co.uk/empathy2019
Librarians and teachers
- Librarians: sign up and get your Empathy Day toolkit – email firstname.lastname@example.org; pilot
Empathy Conversation events
- Teachers: sign up; use our training, booklists, major Empathy Day resources bank at empathylab.uk. Watch ‘The Story Maker’s Show’, a special empathy-themed show from Puffin featuring a draw-along with illustrator Sophy Henn and an all-star line-up of authors including Malorie Blackman, Jacqueline Wilson, Sam Copeland and Eoin Colfer. The show premieres at 9am on Tuesday 11 June 2019. More information at www.puffinschools.co.uk/shows/
Now to get to work, we have a few days to plan, and a lifetime to ensure all children have the Empathy Super Power!
Thank you for reading this Book Monster Blog and please take a look at previous blogs and blogs-yet-to-be on this wonderful and important tour.