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My Favourite Kids Books on Empathy

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Each month I will share a new book with you about Empathy and topics related to empathy, kindness, humanity and emotions. If you have any recommendations, please send through to me

Over on Instagram you can find my son Rowan and I reading and discussing books about empathy, emotions and community LIVE each week (head to the video tab).

Through weaving narrative and colour The Way of Play invites children (big and small) to consider ways play connects mindfulness and wellbeing into the day to day. In a world of excessive sensory exposure our bodies can tense up, our breathing can change and this effects how we experience the world around us. Children can lead us back to vibrant wellbeing if we allow them to lead through play. The Way of Play inspires children to keep the magic alive.

A kids book about EMPATHY is pure delight and captures the essence of empathy so beautifully with an insightful comparison of empathy and sympathy and 4 simple steps to be empathetic with our friends - Breathe, Listen, Ask and Imagine. and I recommend you check it out at

"I like how it explains the difference between empathy and sympathy, because that can get confusing". Rowan Butterworth

You, Me and Empathy teaches kids (and their parents) about empathy, feelings, kindness, compassion, tolerance, respect and recognising bullying behaviours. It's definitely one to sit and read with your kids as there are question prompts the whole way through like "What makes you happy? Sad? Worried? Mad?" There are also age-specific question prompts and activities at the end of the book.

For some kids it might be a bit much to get through in one sitting so maybe spacing it over a few nights and with each child separately would be a really special activity to share. Watch Rowan and I read it together.

Be Kind is very sweet and well-intentioned. It's full of simple acts of kindness you can share with your kids such as :

- Put the grocery cart away

- Set the dinner table without being asked.

- Send a card to your grandparents just to say HI!

- If you overhear kids saying bad things about someone else, step in to say something nice about them.

- If you see a kid crying, ask what's wrong - and help find a grown-up if they need one.

- Paint kind messages on rocks and leave them somewhere unexpected. like BE BRAVE. YOU ROCK. HELLO FRIEND

Kindness makes us strong by Sophie Beer is a very sweet book for the littlies. (Age 3-5). It takes nearly no time to read so it would hold the attention of young ones if you incorporate lots of questions and ask how they feel. The pictures are lovely too and give lots of opportunity for discussion. We got the board book version which is great for grabby little fingers. Recommended for parents to read with their little readers.

What do you do with an idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom

I read this book to my Social Enterprise University students this month who are about to embark on their journey to change the world. My kids love this book and I hope you do too. Watch Rowan and I read it together.

"This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens.

This is a story for anyone, at any age, who's ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It's a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's just getting started."

A story about 2 friends from very different parts of Australia. Watch Zara and I read it together.

The Dot by Peter H Reynolds

A story of art, inspiration and being brave. Watch Zara and I read it together.

"So, what do you think that book is about?

"Don't give up. Just try new things and make your mark." Zara Butterworth

Sam the Transformer by KJ Armstrong

Sam never really feels like they fit in, until they learn that they are a "transformer" from their teacher at school. A heartwarming story about discovering who you are, acceptance, love, respect and living your truth.

Embrace Your Body by Taryn Brumfitt

"We all know that kindness is free. My beauty is inside, my beauty is kindness. We all know that kindness is key."

Kindness Grows by Britta Teckentrup

A beautiful book about the power of kindness to strengthen relationships and community. Watch Rowan and I read it together.

The Perfect Project, a book about Autism by Dr Tracy Packiam Alloway

Be You! by Peter H Reynolds

Be you, be curious, be adventurous, be patient, be ready, be connected, be persistent, be different, be kind, be understanding, be brave, be your own thinker, be ok being alone, be okay reaching out for help. You will always Be Loved. Watch Rowan and I read it together.

Sometimes, A Day Full of Feelings by Stephanie Stansbie and Elisa Paganelli

The Way of Play by Chelsea Veronica Baker and Sarah Ripper (two AMAZING Brisbane women!)

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka

You Matter by Christian Robinson

To borrow a term from renowned social scientist Brené Brown, "chandeliering" is when a seemingly calm person suddenly flies off the handle for no reason. In reality, they have pushed the hurt and anxiety so deep for so long that a seemingly innocent comment or event suddenly sends them straight through the chandelier. A child who goes from calm to full-blown tantrum without a reason is often ill-equipped to talk about their anxiety and tries to hide it instead. After days or even weeks of appearing "normal" on the surface, these children will suddenly reach a point where they cannot hide their anxious feelings anymore and have a disproportionate reaction to something that triggers their anxiety. Watch Rowan and I read it together.


Hi! I'm Leanne Butterworth, Empathy Speaker and Educator, University Lecturer and Mental Health Advocate.

Empathy First is a Brisbane-based social enterprise offering Empathy workshops, online courses and individual Empathy coaching to help you build connection and strengthen your relationships for personal and professional success.

Contact me today and let's talk about how you can put Empathy First.

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