Empathy Day is an idea from Empathy Lab, an absolutely brilliant organisation which aims to build empathy (the ability to understand how another person is feeling) through books and reading.
As readers, you all understand the way a book can transport you into a world unlike yours, and a mind and body quite different to your own. To read a story (fiction or non-fiction) is to imagine how it would feel to live another life, and Empathy Lab understands that. They want to use the power of stories to connect children at school in the UK to people both in other parts of the world and in their own country – to show boys what it feels like to be a girl, for example, or to show white children what it feels like to be BAME.
It sounds obvious, but it really is crucial, and it’s something that can’t be focused on enough. A more empathetic person will make better decisions throughout their life, and they’ll do better in school and at work. That’s why I’m proud to support Empathy Lab, and to help spread the word about their work. For me, to write stories is to write with empathy – I could not make any of my characters believable if I did not spend time thinking myself into their heads, imagining all of their struggles and joys and understanding how differently they see the world from the way I do.
If you go to primary school in the UK, or are involved in UK education in any way, why don’t you see if your school or organisation would be interested in signing up to Empathy Lab? And if you’re interested in reading books to increase your empathy, try this handy list of some of the best. Remember that books with good empathy are simply good books – what Empathy Lab does is just bring out aspects of those books that were always there as part of the text.
So happy Empathy Day! I hope this is the beginning of something great.