The 12th June is Empathy Day which was founded in 2017 by EmpathyLab - its aim is to use books to help us understand and connect to each other better, and to highlight empathy's importance and power in our divided world.
It is often said that when a child puts themselves into the story it helps them to develop empathy. Through identifying with the character/s, they feel what the individuala are feeling as a result of the situation that they are in- and children begin to understand and relate to emotions. Reading books is a wonderful way to encourage understanding of the human condition- to read a book like Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, or Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephania or Boy 87 by Ele Fountain or The Journey by Francesca Sanna can really personalise and humanize the plight of refugees who we might see footage of on the news or on the cover of a newspaper. The central figure is suddenly shown to be no different to ourselves - it might be through their love of football or family and friendships and so we are encouraged to engage in their journey and to start to get an insight into their reality and when we then see the footage on the news or pictures in the newspaper we start to see them as individuals who need our support and hand of friendship.
In two recently published 'picture books' children are shown to lead the way in offering a hand of friendship - they are the innocents who show no prejudice. In The Old Man, a young girl wants to understand why the man is sleeping on the pavement - and through an innocent act of kindness she reminds him of his own self worth. And in our favourite book at the moment, the breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking 'When The War Came', the simple generosity of one child to another finally begins to dispel the psychological trauma of warfare