One gray day while I listened to yet another heart-breaking radio segment about families being forced to flee their homes, I thought about how that could have been my family if God had put us in a different place. I wondered how I could teach my own boys about children like them who are facing loss and crisis in a way that inspired empathy and compassion rather than fear and confusion. That inspired my upcoming release, Far from Home: A Story of Loss, Refuge, and Hope, which follows a little boy who is forced to leave everything that’s familiar but finds comfort in an unlikely place.
We all want our kids to grow into empathetic, compassionate, unselfish human beings. But we know that doesn’t happen by accident. I believe one of the most effective, natural, and fun ways to cultivate love and selflessness is through our reading choices. Read on for a few tips on how to build and enjoy a library with an eye to empathy.
This might seem like a strange place to start when your goal is to help your kids think of themselves less and others more. But it’s a lot easier for children (and adults!) to value others when they feel valued themselves. People who work in kid lit talk a lot about “windows and mirrors,” the idea being that all children need books that reflect them AND books that give them a glimpse into different experiences and identities.
My bilingual children love books that are written in both the languages we speak at home. I love discovering stories that depict mixed-culture families. Also get specific about what your children are dealing with right now. Conflict with friends? A challenge in academics or sports? A change in routine? Kids who are adept at identifying their own feelings will be better at thinking about the feelings of others.
Diversity (or the lack thereof) is a major topic in kid lit right now. Thankfully, that means there is a lot of conversation about the issue out on the Internet, including some good lists that can help you with recommendations.
Look for books that depict cultures and experiences that differ from your family’s (remember that this can mean not just race/ethnicity but ability, family dynamics, etc.). Also look for books that simply center children of different races, abilities, etc. doing things that all children do. Also make sure you’re including books written and/or illustrated by authors who share the experience of their character—what the industry calls “own voices” books.
If you’re like me, it’s tempting to zip through story time with your best speed-reading performance so that you can get the littles in bed and finally have a moment to yourself. But every now and then you can spark a great conversation by asking a simple question about what you’ve just read. I like to ask, “How do you think that character felt when ____________? Have you ever felt that way?”
Through the wonder of reading, we can travel all over worlds real and imagined. We can travel to the future or the past. And we can peek into the minds and hearts of people very different from us and discover how we’re the same. Happy reading!
SCAVENGER HUNT CLUE TO WRITE DOWN: feel it.”
LINK TO NEXT STOP IN THE HUNT: Head over to Diane McIntyre Stortz’s site to read her post and collect the next clue in the hunt!
WIN MORE PRIZES! Thanks for reading! Before you go, here's an exclusive discount code for 20% off Far from Home at Tyndale.com! Enter Home20 at checkout. (Only available during the scavenger hunt; coupon code expires 9/20.) Once you've used your coupon and preordered Far from Home, submit your info HERE to get exclusive bonus content and be entered to win one of five prize packages! (Enter before 10/8 for preorder bonuses.)