by Tesha M. Christensen Pettit
One of the great things we get to do as homeschooling families is to foster the values we want our kids to learn through our everyday choices. We do this, in part, through the books and resources we use.
An important social value I want to teach my kids is empathy. I want them to be able to understand people from all walks of life, races, cultures, economic backgrounds — you name it. Of course, we can’t completely know the experience of another person, but we sure can try to understand their point of view and let that affect our own lives and the decisions we make.
Empathy: the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
Plus, I think that part of raising resilient kids that can handle the challenges of life is to foster empathy. When I read the news each day, I often think: If we were just putting ourselves in another’s shoes… We wouldn’t be saying this or that. We wouldn’t be mistreating each other. We would be helping more. We would be creating a society that benefits more than just a few. We would be striving for better for everyone.
We’ve discovered so many great children’s books that build this character trait, and I thought I’d share a few with you.
THE BUCKET BOOKS
Focus on the positive and resolve negativity, bullying, and bucket dipping in this series by Carol McCloud. Since 2006, Bucket Fillers, Inc. (http://www.bucketfillers101.com/about-us.php) has been busy creating bucketfilling schools, families, workplaces, and communities. It’s a new twist on the Golden Rule. The Bucket Fillers’ books explain that we all carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our good thoughts and feelings. When our buckets are full, we are happy; when they are empty, we are sad. It’s important to know that we can fill our own bucket and so can others. We can also dip into it.
“Bucket fillers” are those who help without being asked, give hugs and compliments, and generally spread their love and good feelings to others. The simple metaphor of a bucket helps even preschoolers understand the importance of consideration and love, particularly towards those who bully. People who “dip” into our bucket often rob us of happy feelings by refusing to help with a task or by saying or doing cruel things. The challenge of “bullying” or “bucket dipping” is often contagious — but so is bucket filling.
There are books for babies and those for older kids, plus a coloring book and journal!
– Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids, ages 4-9
– Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life, for Ages 9 and Up
OTHER GREAT PICTURE BOOKS
Stand In My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Robert Sornson
After Emily asks her big sister what the word empathy means, Emily decides to pay closer attention to others during her day.
Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids by Maud Roegiers
Via rhythms and imagery, guides a child toward self-awareness and mindfulness, tools which may help him or her calm down and feel better when out-of-sorts.
The Berenstain Bears Kindness Counts by Jan Berenstain
Brother Bear’s act of kindness is repaid when he shares his knowledge of airplane modelmaking with young Billy. Includes Bible verses.
No Difference Between Us by Jayneen Sanders
Jess is a girl and Ben is a boy but in all the BIG ways, there is NO difference between them! Explore with the children in your care the important issues of gender equality and respectful relationships.
How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends? by Jane Yolen
A young dinosaur shows how to stay friends even after having a terrible fight with his very best friend.
What If Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick
A self-centered child is asked to consider what would happen if everyone behaved the way they did.
The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others by Robert Sornson
How many people have ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? In The Juice Box Bully the kids at Pete’s new school get involved, instead of being bystanders.
Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook
Wilma Jean worries about everything. She worries about missing the bus, doing a math problem wrong, having friends to play with, and getting carrots in her school lunch. Wilma Jean’s teacher helps her figure out what worries she can control and those that she can’t and what to do about both types of worries.
My Mouth is a Volcano! by Julie Cook
This book teaches young children to manage their thoughts and words without interrupting.
No Means No! Teaching Children About Personal Boundaries, Respect and Consent; Empowering Kids by Respecting Their Choices and Their Right to Say, ‘No!’ by Jayneen Sanders
“‘No Means No!’ is a children’s picture book about an empowered little girl who has a very strong and clear voice in all issues, especially those relating to her body and personal boundaries. This book can be read to children from 3 to 9 years. It is a springboard for discussions regarding children’s choices and their rights.
You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman
Shows how each of us fits into life’s big picture, and how the world would be incomplete without each person in it.
But What If? by Sue Graves
Daisy’s family is moving, and Daisy is very worried. What if she doesn’t like her new home? What if her cat runs away? What if her new teacher isn’t nice? A conversation with her grandpa helps Daisy learn that many worries don’t come true–and if one does, someone will be there to help her solve the problem.
Sometimes I’m Scared by Jane Annunziata
Describes different kinds of fears and easy steps kids can use to overcome these fears.
What are your favorite books that foster empathy? Please share! I know there are more out there!
Tesha M. Christensen Pettit is a homeschooling mama of two who grew up loving to learn, in part, because she was homeschooled, too. She serves as the current president of the Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance. An English major in college, she confesses that she really, really loves books.