Here are three great tips for developing empathy skills by reading with young children:
- Ask “What if?”
Encourage your child to think about cause and effect by standing in the shoes of a book character. Ask them how they might feel if the situation in the book happened to them or what they might say if that happened to them.
- Ask “How would you feel?”
Talk with your child to help them relate to the experience of the character – “Has something like that happened to you? If something like that happened to you, how would you feel?” If your child is too young to talk about feelings, you can use the illustrations to point out emotions through the facial expressions and body language of characters.
- Ask your child to think about “you” instead of “me”
Change the perspective by asking “How do they feel? What do they need?” to put your child in the character’s shoes. Guessing how characters feel is great practice for your child to think about others in their real lives.
Based on the book Unselfie: Why empathetic kids succeed in our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba and adapted from the article Children and Empathy: Reading to Learn Empathy by Kylie Rymanowicz (Michigan State University Extension, 2017)