In 2014, I joined Miranda McKearney and three other colleagues to explore the connection between reading and emotional intelligence in children. The more we researched, the more we learned about the specific relationship between empathy and reading and Empathy Lab was born.
Neuroscicence shows that when we read, our brains react to the story almost as if we were experiencing the events or characters in the real world - one academic described reading as being like a flight simulator. So when we feel empathy for characters, we can transfer this empathy to real world experiences.
I believe that empathy is the quality that powers public libraries - offering reading that transports people to other places and other lives, providing shared spaces where different groups come together and feel they belong and delivering services that can make people’s lives better.
Empathy Day is on Tuesday 11 June. Authors, illustrators; schools, publishers, book suppliers and bookshops are all supporting the day along with over 100 library services and school library services.
On Empathy Day, Empathy Lab is encouraging everyone to:
- READ: because stories and book characters build our real-life empathy
- CONNECT: make new connections with people, inspired by sharing stories
- DO: put empathy into action, in your home and your community.
Over this past year Empathy Lab have been working with a team of library staff who helped shape ideas for this year’s Empathy Day Libraries toolkit. Libraries are running empathy rhyme times, story events, class visits, displays and social media activity and piloting The Empathy Conversation – different groups and generations in the community coming together in the library to talk about issues in the community where more empathy is needed, prompted by some children’s questions. We’ve also worked with Peters Books to produce Read for Empathy book collections for libraries and schools.
In the run-up to Empathy Day, book bloggers have been hosting a blog tour – some wonderful authors talking about empathy in their own work and illustrators have been producing their own interpretations of reading and empathy.
Head to the Empathy Lab website to find out more.
On Empathy Day share your #ReadforEmpathy recommendations and photos of your activities on Twitter @EmpathyLabUK