Empathy is one of those qualities that is so drastically important, and yet all too often overlooked. As Alfred Alder once so beautifully put it, ‘Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.’ We couldn’t agree more; in this image, we can quite easily make the connection between empathy and the wonderful world of books.
In our day-to-day lives, we are mostly surrounded by people who are relatively similar to us (generally speaking). We usually have these connections with each other via growing up in similar places, living in similar areas and sharing community spaces, be this as co-workers or as pupils at a school.
Through reading books and discussing them, we can instil our kids (and ourselves) with higher levels of empathy because through stories we can listen and access the experiences and emotions of people that we may have never ended up meeting in real life. We meet them in story form, yet this doesn’t change the impact of their tales upon us. The key is diversity; that we can learn about people who are entirely different to us and share their experiences and see through their eyes.
As well as this, stories can help us to understand the experiences of the peers who surround us better too. Take, for instance, Elizabeth Rode’s children’s book ‘Feminism for Boys.’ Within these stories, Rhodes goes about successfully promoting gender equality by challenging societal stereotypes. Within the pages, she helps young boys to understand the experiences of young girls (yet also vice versa). The book is made up of diverse male and female characters. Both genders in the book express their emotions confidently and seek friendships outside of their similarities.
All this is why we are so excited for Empathy Day. This day aims to summon a new empathy movement for all of us! It is mainly inspired by research that shows that humans are not born with a fixed amount of empathy – that we have to learn it!
Empathy Lab founded this day based on scientific evidence that by identifying with book characters, we learn to see things from others point of view. With this in mind, on Empathy Day, offers schools a wonderful opportunity to harness the power of stories to build empathy and reading for pleasure.
Book Clubs in Schools
By Gemma Campbell