Empathy Action Month: Book recommendations to encourage kindness in the classroom

Empathy Action Month: Book recommendations to encourage kindness in the classroom


Building empathy in the classroom is essential for creating a supportive learning environment for young children. It encourages pupils to put themselves in the shoes of their peers, to be more kind and considerate, a skill they will carry through life. Books are a great empathy-building tool, and Barrington Stoke is proud to be an Empathy Builder Publisher. 

Empathy Action Month is an initiative by EmpathyLab to encourage social action and kindness among children. During November, authors and school groups will be discussing how they put empathy into action, inspired by the books they have written or read. 

Here are Barrington Stoke’s top book picks for Empathy Action Month that you can read in the classroom to encourage empathy among your students.


It's a No-Money Day

It's a No-Money Day written & illustrated by Kate Milner

Interest Age: 5+

Mum works really hard, but today there is no money left and no food in the cupboards. Forced to visit the local foodbank, Mum feels ashamed that they have to rely on the kindness of others. Maybe one day things will be different but for now together they brighten up even the darkest of days.

Watch an interview with Kate Milner and Pembroke Dock Community School.


The Great (Food) Bank Heist

The Great (Food) Bank Heist by Onjali Q. Raúf, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

Interest Age: 8-12

On Voucher Thursdays, Nelson, Asha and Mum head out to the Bank. But not just any old bank – the food bank. With its shining tins and packets of food stacked from floor to ceiling, Nelson thinks it’s the best kind of bank there is. But there’s a thief in town, and the shelves of the food bank are getting emptier each day, leaving people hungrier than ever. For the sake of his family and everyone else’s, Nelson needs to make them stop. But can he and his friends really be the ones to catch the bank robber?

A percentage of all royalties earned from the sale of this book will be going towards Trussell Trust Food Banks, the Greggs Foundation Breakfast Club Programme and selected grassroots food bank charities.



Birdsong by Katya Balen, illustrated by Richard Johnson

Interest Age: 8-12

There is music everywhere – if you know how to listen …

After a devastating car crash, Annie is unable to play her flute and retreats from the music she’s always loved. She exists in a world of angry silence – furious with her mum and furious she can’t seem to play her beloved flute any more.

Then she meets Noah, who shows her the blackbirds’ nest hidden in the scrubland near their flats. As their friendship grows, the blackbirds’ glorious song reignites Annie’s passion for music. But when tragedy strikes again, will her fragile progress be put at risk?


Journey Back to Freedom by Catherine Johnson, illustrated by Katie Hickey

Interest Age: 8-12

Aged only eleven, Olaudah Equiano was cruelly snatched away from his home in Africa and sold into slavery.

He spent much of the next ten years at sea, travelling to the far corners of the globe, witnessing horrendous cruelty and occasional kindness, experiencing daring adventures and extreme peril. Throughout it all, he never gave up hope that one day he would be free again. But little did he imagine that the story of his remarkable life would become a bestselling book and help the cause to abolish slavery.

Journey Back to Freedom is his incredible true story.



Resist by Tom Palmer

Interest Age: 8-12

As the brutal Second World War stretches on with no end in sight, life for ordinary Dutch people in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands is perilous and full of hardship. There is very little to eat and they face the constant threat of arrest and enslavement.

After the murder of her beloved uncle and the capture of her brother by the Germans, Edda is determined to do anything she can to help the resistance fight back. But how much risk is one teenage girl willing to take?

Cover artwork and chapter vignettes by Tom Clohosy Cole.


Stitched Up

Stitched Up by Steve Cole, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Interest Age: 8-12

When Hanh is offered a job as a shop assistant in Hanoi, she hopes to earn money to help her family. But it’s a trick. She is forced into child labour in an illegal clothing factory.

For the child workers, life in the sweatshop is a daily nightmare of long hours, poor food and regular violence. Trapped hundreds of miles from home, Hanh and her friends are desperate to escape. But freedom rests on them taking a dangerous chance – and a sacrifice that will change them for ever.




Needle by Patrice Lawrence

Interest Age: Teen

What happens if you’re a girl who doesn’t say sorry?

Charlene loves knitting. The only thing she loves more than knitting is her little sister, Kandi, whom she hasn’t seen since their mum died. When the special blanket she’s knitting for Kandi is destroyed by her foster mum’s son, Charlene loses it. She stabs him in the hand with her knitting needle and finds herself sitting in a police cell. Can she find a way to say sorry when her freedom and her future are at stake?

Cover artwork by Andy Gellenberg.

Listen to Patrice Lawrence discuss her book ‘Needle’ for Empathy Action Month 2022.