How Can Stories Promote Empathy & Compassion?

Literature can be a powerful tool and literary characters powerful influences for students developing and shaping their moral code. Stories engage our imagination allowing us to identify with characters and assume their actions.  Effective character education however,  must go beyond simply reading humane themed stories. Students who engage in reflection, discussion and analysis are more likely to understand and apply values in a positive way.

What other ways can stories be useful?

Literature can also be used to help students deal with issues or problems they will inevitably encounter as they mature and grow.  Topics such as dealing with grief, responding to bullying, overcoming fears, developing positive relationships, and  understanding and appreciating differences – to name a few – are reoccurring themes in children’s stories.  Students realize that they are not alone in encountering problems and can learn positive ways of dealing with these issues.

How can AnimalTales help?

The AnimalTales program consists of picture books – short stories beautifully written and illustrated with a powerful message or theme. All books focus on animals or our relationship with them and  deal a variety of issues – from the importance of being kind to all living things and responsible pet ownership, to pet loss and  bullying .  The accompanying Teacher’s Guide includes pre-reading activities to initiate thought about topics that they will encounter, discussion questions to encourage critical thinking and post reading activities to address the themes while incorporating the Alberta Education Program of Studies.  Through sharing and discussing stories and having meaningful reflection, we nurture the development of compassion and empathy in a safe environment.

Visit the links below for a closer look  at the books and themes addressed in each grade.


Grade 1 Grade 4
Grade 2 Grade 5
Grade 3 Grade 6






Brynildssen, S. (2002). Character Education through Children’s Literature. Family Learning Association Bloomington IN.  [ED 469 929]

Tu, W. (1999). Using Literature to Help Children Cope with Problems.  ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN. [ED 436 008]