Empathy Day 2023 – the role of book visuals
On Empathy Day 2023, we’re exploring how to build empathy using book visuals.
This Empathy Day 2023, empathy will be widely celebrated as our human superpower!
The ability to understand and share the feelings of others is vital to our society. And, according to Miranda McKearney OBE, founder of EmpathyLab, empathy is a skill any of us can develop, at any point in our lives.
We know that young readers are able to cultivate empathetic thinking when they relate to the characters and experiences in their books. While they might not have lived experience of the plot, they’ll almost certainly be able to relate to characters’ thoughts, feelings and actions in some way.
Or, if they can’t relate directly, readers can consider how characters ‘might‘ think and feel in a situation.
It’s possible to build empathy through books even before your pupils have opened the front cover. Read on to find out how…
When we design literacy Wall Art for schools, we can focus on any aspect of books and reading for the designs.
For example, we can include quotes from authors, snippets of text from stories and images of book covers to spark curiosity and encourage reading.
We’ll carefully select images that depict key themes in the story, as this aids discussion and empathetic thinking. It also helps pupils establish a link between fiction and real life emotions or events.
Books are incredible resources for changing preconceived misconceptions about marginalised characters.
For example, in a story, a monster might be friendly, a tiger could be tame and a dragon might be docile.
Fictional stories make anything possible in the reader’s imagination. Images of these sterotype-busting characters can begin to change perceptions in your students’ minds. And in doing so, build empathy.
Showcase images that challenge one dimensional or marginalised views to encourage critical thinking and open-mindedness.
Create calm spaces
To facilitate the right environment for building empathy, you’ll need to encourage a sense of calm.
An article from Blissful Kids explains that, “An impulsive reaction, triggered by emotions like fear or anger, rises up from the amygdala and hippocampus—the most ancient parts of our brain. These parts evolved to respond with defensive action to threatening situations.
If we can delay this reactivity, the newer pre-frontal cortex of the brain can respond from a place of reflection and thoughtfulness. The PFC (pre-frontal cortex) is associated with maturity, including regulating emotions and behaviors and making wise decisions.
Practicing mindfulness calms the amygdala and reconnects us to our calm, clear prefrontal cortex, so that we can make thoughtful choices for how to respond.“
Create a calm and happy reading space using scenes from nature and soothing images.
If pupils are feeling quiet and calm as they read, they’ll be more likely to empathise with the characters in their stories.
This is a critical aspect of building empathy because stressed or overactive children may struggle to consider those around them.
Literacy Wall Art for schools
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