It’s your responsibility as a parent to teach your child empathy and compassion for others. This will help him have more caring and understanding for others throughout his life.
Empathy starts with understanding other people’s emotions and feelings. Kids have to get in touch with their own emotions and feelings first. You can’t understand emotions unless you communicate face-to-face. Talk through what could help others feel better so your child understands how others feel.
Expand your child’s experiences through travel and reading. Encourage community involvement.
Show your child firsthand what other people experience through community service. Empower him to make changes in the world by doing something about it. Involve your children in altruistic activities.
Listen as Dr. Corinn Cross joins Melanie Cole, MS, to share how you can develop your child’s sense of empathy and compassion.
Books on Food Donations and Soup Kitchens, Turkey Drive/Food Drives, Visiting Food Banks
*Maddi's Fridge by Lois Brandt
A young girl realizes her friend’s fridge is often empty. She tries to sneak her food from home. Eventually she confides in her mother that her friend’s family needs food. Together they help the family and eventually organize a food drive. The book discusses food drives and food pantries. The Author’s Note discusses how 1 in 5 US children live in homes that are food insecure, meaning they run out of food before the end of the month.
Uncle Willie and The Soup Kitchen by Dyanne Disalvo-Ryan
A young boy accompanies his uncle to work in a soup kitchen. He learns all about how soup kitchens and neighboring communities work together to feed those in need. A prologue gives some background and additional information about soup kitchens and who they serve – although this prologue is better read after the book so that children have an understanding of what a soup kitchen is and can absorb the additional information.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
A young boy and his grandmother leave church and take a bus through a culturally diverse community. During the ride, the young boy laments that he isn’t out playing with his friends. Instead, he and his grandmother are going to work at a soup kitchen. By the end of the book, he realizes how important what he is doing really is.
“Last Stop” is a simpler book than “Uncle Willie”. Unlike “Uncle Willie,” the reader does not experience what it is like to work at a soup kitchen. “Last Stop” is more about the journey. The beauty of the book however is that it illustrates that everyone has something to give.
Books About Veterans, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Operation Gratitude
*The Wall by Eve Bunting
A very moving book about a young boy and his dad who travel to Washington DC to look for the grandfather’s name on the Vietnam Memorial. It helps children to understand the sacrifices these soldiers have made and illustrates that the men and women fighting for our country are someone’s parent, grandparent or child.
Books About Families Who Need Homes and Furniture, Christmas (A Carpenter’s gift is an amazing Christmas story), Furniture Drives, Habitat For Humanity-Type Projects, Losing Homes to Fires
*The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel
An amazingly beautiful and moving Christmas story about a young poor boy and his dad who drive to NYC to sell Christmas trees. They give the last tree to a group of men working at a construction site. Later those men show up at the boy’s home with left over supplies from their building and help the father to repair and insulate their home. The book’s epilogue discusses Habitat for Humanity and how the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center is donated every year to provide lumbar for homes for families in need.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
The story of how a young girl, her mother and her grandmother lose their home in a fire. The community helps to refurnish their new apartment but they still need a comfy chair. The family works together to save money to buy a wonderful new chair. An important message in this book is that the child helps too. She gives half the money she makes into the jar. It is an empowering book.
Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood
A true story of man who realizes that donating his time to teach music to children who live in a town which surrounds a garbage dump will change their lives. The children created an orchestra made of recycled products as instruments. The orchestra has been invited to play worldwide. The story shows how one man and a vision can make a difference in the lives of so many and how hard work and teamwork can lead to amazing feats.
Books About Sending Packages to Those in Need & Operation Christmas Child
*Boxes for Katje by Candace Flemming
A wonderful and moving story of how one girl’s packages changed the lives of a village in Holland after World War II. The girl on the receiving end is equally generous as she shares each package with those around her in need.
Books About the Elderly, Visiting Seniors & Winter Coat Drives
The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen
This is a story of how an old woman who feels detached from her community sees that some little children are cold and without mittens at the bus stop. It is a beautiful story of how she connects and shares her talent for knitting and brings joy and smiles to the children. In turn, someone sees what she is doing and leaves her yearn to continue her work.
Books About the Environment & Youth Activism, Women & Science, Persistence
Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell
A simple book about Jane Goodall. The “About Jane Goodall” epilogue talks about all of her efforts to make the world better – helping both animals and communities. The “Message from Jane” is wonderful, encouraging children to make positive changes in the world.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by Joseph H. Hopkins
The true story of Kate Sessions, the first woman to ever graduate from the University of California with a degree in science. She persisted in creating green parks when most thought her efforts were futile. She created the lush Balboa Park. This is a wonderful story of believing in yourself, perseverance and working toward an admirable goal for the sake of others.
Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Phillippe Cousteau
This book has a great epilogue about youth activism. It encourages children to examine their community and try to make it better. Then to think about the change they have achieved and to tell that story. The story itself focuses on two children who realize the sea turtles aren’t heading toward the sea after they hatch. They involve their class and their community and by working together they are able to help the baby sea turtles find their way.
*The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
A true story of a boy who had to drop out of school because his family had no money for tuition due to a severe drought. His whole village was hungry and starving. William depressed about not being in school started going to the library. There he read about windmills and decided he would build to power his village and an irrigation system. Using materials from the junk yard he built a windmill, powered his home and later his entire village. He has a TED talk about the experience.
Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews
While not necessarily a book about community service, it is a true story of Troy Andrews and the book conveys what it is like to grow up in an impoverished neighborhood. It is the story of how he worked hard, practiced and was helped by others. Troy went one to become a very successful musician and now has a foundation that gives back to his childhood community to help other children learn music. This story shows children that community service can be doing what you love. It also encourages giving back to communities to help others.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia by Miranda Paul
The true story of a woman who no longer wanted her village to be over taken by plastic garbage bags. She develops an ingenious idea of how to recycle them. This not only cleans up the area but allows the women to make products they can sell. The additional information in the book shows how one woman’s efforts benefitted so many women and their community. They win grants and are able to build a community center and the region’s first public library.
Books That Encourage Kids to Serve
Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around the World by Garth Sundem
Exactly as the title describes this a book of 2-4 page stories of real children making huge impacts in their communities. It is very inspiring and due to the format and simple narration it is easy to read just a quick story.
77 Creative Ways Kids Can Serve by Sondra Clark
A simple book that gives kids ideas they can do to help others. Some things are very simple like writing a thank you to those who volunteer, helping the elderly, etc. It is a nice book to have in the reading corner to prompt kids to think about giving back. This book does have a religious slant and intermittently relates service back to Christian values.