Building empathy among your students can be a challenge, especially in upper elementary grades. Using read-aloud novels can provide that bridge for having difficult conversations in the classroom. These are my top five read-aloud novels to build empathy. I like to use them at the beginning of the year (or anytime, really!) to help my students understand what it’s like to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
1. The Wild Robot
The Wild Robot is delightful and unexpected. Roz, the robot, goes on a journey to make her days meaningful by surrounding herself with friends and doing things for others. This book will spark lots of great conversations with kids about kindness, community and what it means to be alive.
2. Because of Mr. Terupt
Because of Mr. Terupt follows a diverse group of fifth-graders as they grow into a community under the guidance of their teacher. When disaster strikes, the students realize just how much their teacher means to them. your students will be talking about this novel for a long time!
Wonder is about Auggie Pullman, who is born with Treacher Collins, a disorder that results in severe facial deformities. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion and acceptance. Wonder will start powerful conversations among your students.
4. Out of My Mind
In Out of My Mind, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will forever change how they look at anyone with a disability. Melody is an 11-year old girl who has cerebral palsy. Despite her disability, she has an incredible mind. But others judge her by what they see. This novel will be a great discussion piece in your classroom.
5. Fish in a Tree
Fish in a Tree tells the story of a middle school girl who has managed to hide her inability to read. Ally uses her flippant behavior to deflect the teachers’ attention from this fact. She truly believes that she is dumb, until a teacher comes along and discovers that she is dyslexic and has a huge impact on her life. Ally and her experiences will resonate with a lot of students (and teachers). A great discussion starter!
* Front Desk
Front Desk is so full of heart and love. The novel contains powerful messages of acceptance and perseverance and community. It is a wonderful story about immigrants, poverty and family. This book will push your students to look at others with more respect and understanding.
What do you use as read-aloud novels to build empathy in your classroom?