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Empathy – and where to read about it

Today is Empathy Day, and what better way to learn about what it is and why it is important than through children’s books?

What I love about children’s books is that they can convey very important messages and morals without sounding preachy or authoritarian. That’s a pretty impressive skill and one that perhaps isn’t always celebrated when considering the impact and effect children’s literature can have on its readers. I know of many examples of books that portray difficult emotions and conditions exceptionally well, from grief and sadness to anger and frustration. These needn’t be ‘special’ books either – ones that have been written for children dealing with bereavement or social anxiety, for example. Their strength lies in their ability to inspire or soothe, explain or question. Children learn through osmosis – they understand what’s in front of them without it having to be made explicit.

For today’s post, I will concentrate on Empathy since it’s celebrating its own special day! But I will return to other emotions soon!

Great  books for talking/learning about empathy:

The Lumberjack’s Beard and The Bear Who Stared

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Duncan Beedie’s recent creations deal with empathy in a humorous yet effective way. In The Lumberjack’s Beard, the titular lumberjack suddenly realises what effect his tree-unfriendly actions have on the environment and tries to put it right. In The Bear Who Stares, the bear doesn’t understand why everyone he meets gets angry with him… until a friendly frog sets him straight and tells him that staring isn’t the best idea when trying to get on with others. Both books have wonderful illustrations that enhance the story and which children never tire of seeing.

Dave’s Rock

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Frann Preston-Gannon’s second book featuring caveman Dave is a great look at the importance of sharing and getting along with others. In it, Dave is competing with Jon to see whose rock is better, but all it leads to is frustration and annoyance. However, in the end, the two find a way for them both to be happy, by understanding how each other feels. This makes them feel better than winning any competition.

The Cow Who Fell to Earth

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Nadia Shireen’s new book, The Cow Who Fell to Earth, takes a very bizarre situation and makes a heartwarming comedy from it. Poor Woo has landed on Earth and no one can understand a word she says. To make matters worse, the sheep assume she is a he and call her Dave. When Woo starts crying tears of sadness and frustration, the sheep work hard to make her feel better and get her back home. A hilarious and sweet book about the importance of helping others, even if they speak a different language!

Odd Dog Out

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In Rob Biddulph’s humorous story, being out of place seems like the worst thing in the world, until Odd Dog discovers that it’s kind of cool to be different. When she decides to be true to herself, she realises that plenty more dogs want to be their own dog and sets a trend. This is great for teaching children acceptance of other people’s differences and to be happy in themselves.

Mr Stink

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It’s not very nice to be stinky but there’s often a reason behind it, as Chloe discovers in David Walliams’s Mr Stink. The two characters soon forge a firm friendship based on their experiences of being bullied and misunderstood, and find ways to help each other out of sadness andloneliness.

Matilda

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On a similar theme of not belonging, Roald Dahl introduces us to Matilda, a clever young girl who seems to have been born into the wrong family. Preferring books to television and education to laziness, Matilda finally finds a kindred spirit in Miss Honey, who turns out to be the niece of the very wicked Miss Trunchbull. Even though life becomes very difficult for the two, the fact that they have found each other makes it much more bearable.

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Happy World Book Day!

Hello everyone and Happy World Book Day!

As you probably know, we celebrated our World Book Day yesterday with the amazing author and illustrator Duncan Beedie. He visited our school and managed to give four different talks and even a drawing masterclass – he must have been exhausted at the end!

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All our children loved the day – and I’ll be posting pictures soon of all our fun, once I’ve managed to work out how to download them from the digital camera…

Year 2 summed up what they enjoyed most about yesterday:

  • “The best bit was when Duncan Beedie came to talk to us.”
  • “It was good when we talked to Duncan Beedie about gardening in Gardening Club.”
  • “I liked dressing up as a fox, it was really good.”
  • “I liked reading books because they were unusual fiction books.”

In honour of Duncan’s visit, one of the fir tree seeds he sent us with his new book The Lumberjack’s Beard had actually sprouted! The Gardening Club were, rightly, very proud of their efforts.

I would like to thank all the children and staff who made huge efforts to dress up for the day, and for parents for putting in so much time and energy. I don’t think I have ever seen so many lumberjacks in one place before, and today we all feel rather bare without our beards. Narelle, our cook, really went to town on her costume but assured us that she did not cook with her magnificent beard on!

We also had trees, birds, forest animals, woodland nymphs and Aragog from The Lord of the Rings (who people kept thinking was Darth Vader, so a two-in-one costume!). There was an amazing porcupine in Reception, with realistic quills sticking out his back.

Today the children exchanged their £1 book tokens for a World Book Day book, unless they wanted to go into a bookshop for a further browse. As predicted, David Walliams’ Blob went down well, as did The Famoud Five, Horrid Henry and Jacqueline Wilson’s Butterfly Beach.

I’ll be back soon with the photos … watch this space.