From 26 February our ebook and audiobook collection is changing. Head to the website homepage to find out more

6 children's books that teach compassion

19th June 2023
6 children's books that teach compassion

Refugee Week is the world’s largest arts and culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity, and resilience of people seeking sanctuary. It takes place from 19-25 June and this year’s theme is compassion. One way to develop compassion is to read stories told by other people whose lives are different from our own.

Stories also help us communicate difficult topics with children. Through reading and talking together, we can help them understand the world around them, developing compassion and empathy for others.

Here are a few titles we have in the Children's Library that explore tough topics with sensitivity and heart. Click the titles to reserve today. 


1. The Boy at the Back of the Class – Onjali Rauf

When a new boy joins their class, a group of children try to befriend him. They soon learn that Ahmet is a refugee and has been separated from his family. None of the grown-ups seem to be able to help him, so the friends come up with a daring plan, embarking on an extraordinary adventure.

2. The Rabbit Listened – Cori Doerrfeld

The Rabbit Listened is a tender meditation on loss. When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs. Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a primer for comforting others, this is a deeply moving and unforgettable story sure to soothe heartache of all sizes.

3. What Happened to You? – James Catchpole

The first ever picture book addressing how a disabled child might want to be spoken to. Every time Joe goes out the questions are the same . . . what happened to his leg? But is this even a question Joe has to answer? A ground-breaking, funny story that helps children understand what it might feel like to be seen as different.

4. How to be a Lion – Ed Vere

Leonard and Marianne have a happy life together—talking, playing, writing poems, and making wishes. But one day, a pack of bullies questions whether it’s right for a lion and a duck to be pals. Leonard soon learns there are many ways to be a lion, and many ways to be a friend, and that sometimes finding just the right words can change the world…

5. It’s a No-Money Day – Kate Milner

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, but her young daughter can still see all the good in her day like reading and drawing, and even the foodbank. Maybe one day things will be different but for now together they brighten up even the darkest of days.

6. The Journey – Francesca Sanna

“I look up to the birds that seem to be following us. They are migrating just like us. And their journey, like ours, is very long, but they don’t have to cross any borders.”

What is it like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? A mother and her two children set out on such a journey; one filled with fear of the unknown, but also great hope.


Visit the Children's Library to see more of the 'Let's Talk About...' books, ideal for supporting conversations about tough topics. Search the full catalogue here.