shoes“Empathy is an important developmental process that all children need. Not only does empathy spur tolerance and understanding, it also sets up the basic foundation for all relationships and means of compromise.” 

                 -Charlie Gaston*


Empathy spurs tolerance and understanding…..If we can teach students to support one another instead of target the insecurities of one another, imagine the possibilities – schools filled with respectful students who are compassionate and open-minded toward the opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds of others.

What can schools and teachers do to foster empathy? Some of the most powerful and prominent cultural agents for students are literature and the arts – poetry by students from around the world, works of young adult literature that tell personal or cultural stories, paintings or photos that depict the diverse people of our world.  

Below are a few ideas for schools and teachers in directing students toward empathy through literature and the arts:

  • Research global poverty. Use books to study countries and people in need..
  • Read young adult literature that tells stories about people of other countries and their needs..
  • Visit a museum or show artwork of other cultures. Discuss what the artist saw when they created the work..
  • Create collages or masks that show what empathy looks like..
  • Allow students to use cameras in order to take candid pictures of what they see as empathy..
  • Write poetry that illustrates compassion for others..
  • Design a student-made mural for your school..


*Gaston, C. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 12, 2012, from eHow: