Empathy: Board Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about empathy?

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Empathy can seem like an abstract idea to explain to a child. However, children are certain to understand what it means to be empathetic when they see it in action and feel it. It’s instinctive to them. Have you ever had a child, maybe your own child, come up and comfort you when she or he could sense you were sad? Even toddlers seem to be naturally inclined to this reaction.

Children’s literature offers an incomparable medium through which we can help children understand and develop empathy. One of the many wonderful things about books is that they let you see a story through someone else’s eyes. You get to step into other people’s shoes and understand their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Whether a book character models empathy and compassion, explicitly talks about empathy, or simply helps you understand another person’s point-of-view, books are a powerful tool to help teach kids of all ages, from toddlers through high school and beyond, to nurture and demonstrate their natural instincts to be empathetic.

Our list focuses specifically on board books, picture books, and early chapter books, a range perfect for babies through kids elementary and early middle school age. It highlights some of the best children’s books with characters and stories that show, demonstrate, and teach empathy. From little books about empathy to chapter books, these different and wonderful books will teach your children about empathy and help them develop it themselves.

You can limit our list to board, picture, or chapter books, or see the entire list. You can also use the table of contents to jump to narrower topics that fit what you’re searching for.

Stick and Stone (Board Book) book
#1
Stick and Stone (Board Book)
Written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Stick and Stone are sticking together in this hilarious and heart-warming board book that proves once and for all why best friends ROCK!

A Sick Day for Amos McGee book
#2
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

THE BEST SICK DAY EVER and the animals in the zoo feature in this striking picture book debut. Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor. A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children’s Book of the Year and the winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal. This title has Common Core connections.

Baby Be Kind book
#3
Baby Be Kind
Written and illustrated by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I love the gentle rhyme scheme of this book and the beautiful lesson it teaches of what kindness really is. While the message of the words is broadly applicable across ages and situations, the illustrations help bring this book to board book level in a way that is understandable for little reader’s everyday situations.

Easy-to-read, rhyming text provides examples of how to show kindness that even a baby will want to try.

When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles book
#4
When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles
Written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

Super cute book! The little girl’s antics trying to help her elephant feel better are adorable (and hilarious!) and the parody of the parent-child relationship may be lost on your toddler, but it won’t be on you :) I love that it creates empathy for the care giver and gives kids a framework for relating to how to take care of sick people (whether that’s them, a sibling, or a parent!) It’s a little long for my 18-month-old currently, and I have to read it pretty quickly or point out lots of things as we read to keep him engaged, but I’m holding out for the idea that it’s planting fantastic ideas in his subconscious, and he’ll enjoy it more as his attention span increases.

When your elephant has the sniffles, you better make sure he doesn’t sneeze! This charming and hilarious board book highlights the many ways to make an under-the-weather elephant feel better!

Does your elephant have the sniffles? Make sure to take good care of him because you don’t want him to start sneezing. Gather up your tissues and your pillows and make that elephant feel better! But don’t get too close…or you just might end up with the sniffles, too!

Will Bear Share? book
#5
Will Bear Share?
Written and illustrated by Hilary Leung
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-3

An exciting and hilarious new series all about early childhood milestones from debut US talent Hilary Leung!

One ice cream cone. One bear. One timeless question: Will Bear Share?

Meet Bear. Bear has so much to give . . . but will she share? Find out in this surprising and memorable storybook all about friendship, compromise, and of course, sharing.

A fresh and funny book in a new series of animal question stories by creative talent Hilary Leung that will keep little ones laughing . . . and sharing (when it’s appropriate!).

  1. I'm Feeling Mad - Everyone feels mad sometimes, even Daniel Tiger! What helps him feel better? Find out in this chunky board book that’s part of a new Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood feelings subseries. When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four! When Daniel Tiger feels MAD, he stomps his feet and roars. Then he remembers to take a deep breath and count to four. Soon he feels better. What do you do with the mad that you feel? Come along with Daniel as he and his friends learn how to handle feeling angry. This adorable book includes tips for parents and caregivers to help guide little ones through their emotions. Look for the companion title, I’m Feeling Happy. © 2016 The Fred Rogers Company

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!