Giving the Gift of Empathy
It’s almost Christmas– a time when we think of gifts for those we care about!
One of the best things we can give our loved ones has to be the gift of empathy. This is the ability to understand other people’s emotions and imagine what it would be like to be in their situation. It is a vital life skill, whether we are interacting with family, hanging out with friends, or meeting strangers for the first time. That’s why empathy is the topic of the My Mind Matters! section of Storytime this month!
There are many ways that we can help kids to develop their empathy skills. For example, you can ask them how they are feeling to develop awareness of their own emotional state, ask they how other people may be feeling, or suggest how they might be able to show empathy for others. But some of the best tools for developing empathy are actually stories!
When we read a good story, we are transported into its world. We get to imagine what the characters are going through and share their journeys and experiences with them. They could be older than younger than us, from a different culture, or even a different species. (Animal fables are popular all over the world!)
That’s why reading a gripping tale can be an amazing emotional workout that can help us to connect and empathise with others.
This month sees the release of our Christmas issue, which is full of stories about various aspects of empathy. Let’s have a look at what they can teach us…
Santa Gets Kidnapped (illustrated by the talented Giulia de Cara) is based on a story by L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The kidnappers in this tale are wicked imps who are upset about how Santa spreads happy feelings throughout the world. This story is clever because it helps us to sympathise with the imps to a degree… even though Santa’s generosity and positive perspective wins out in the end. It would be great if all of us could carry some of the old fellow’s good energy into the New Year!
On that theme, New Year’s Nonsense is all about resolutions – the only twist is that it is animals that are trying to change, with hilarious results! The idea is to take something very human and relatable (trying to change, and finding it’s difficult), but looking at it from another point of view (that of animals). We hope that this story helps you to empathise with the way animals see the world while being great fun. Júnior Caramez did a fabulous job of bringing out the humour and ridiculousness in his art!
Through stories, we can also empathise with things that aren’t actually alive! This is the case with The Nutcracker’s Sweets, a bedtimes story based on a classic tale (and an opera). It gives you a chance to imagine what life is like for a toy on Christmas evening, and artist Rose Skelton really brings them to life…
The Musical Donkey takes us along with a humble donkey as he gets lured into stealing cucumbers by a ne’er-do-well jackal. We’re guessing that no actual donkeys reading this, but readers will no doubt be able to identify with the beast… especially as it is so well rendered by Renata Souza!
Themes of kindness and love for others are particularly important in this Christmas issue, of course! The Cat and the Cradle (featuring art by the redoubtable Thais Castro) is a classic Dutch story about how a cat saves a baby, some kittens and a chick from a flood. If a cat can be so empathic to other species, so can we!
The Christmas Cuckoo has another classic festive theme. When a bird offers gifts to a pair of poor brothers, one asks for money and the other for happiness. Laura Dìez illustrated this story that shows us how generosity and caring for others can make us all better and happier people.
As you might guess, Good King Wenceslas is inspired by the classic Christmas carol, which has a similar theme. Instead of celebrating the Feast of Stephen in his snug castle, the ruler decides to bring gifts to an old man gathering sticks in the snow. He empathises with the old man’s plight, and that is something that we might all need to do this winter. Dmitrij Hladkyi’s beautiful art complements the story perfectly.
This month’s real-life story, The Throneless Prince comes from another time and another culture. A boy named Qiu grew up in China more than two thousand years ago, but we hope you will find his story engaging. He hoped for a world in which rulers and people in general would respect and care for one another – which we can all identify with! Zeke Nguyen created luminous pictures of the childhood of ‘King Fuze’, who we might know better as ‘Confucius’.
We hope you enjoy these tales and enjoyed going on an empathic adventure with their characters!
The Storytime team wishes you a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!