Empathy Day 2020
It’s Empathy Day – a day that is perhaps needed now more than ever. Today, we’re focusing on how we can use books as a tool for imagining and sharing someone else’s feelings.
We asked the book experts (our authors!) to share what empathy means to them, and why it’s important to them as authors. Over to you, Chickens!
To me, empathy means walking at least a mile in someone else's shoes. Although you should probably give their shoes back once you're done…
To me, empathy means sharing and connecting with someone else through feelings and emotions. It's about being sensitive and aware of other people and situations. I think it is often undervalued and dismissed, but if everyone was more empathetic I think the world would be a much better place.
As an author, empathy is really important because it is our most important job to take our readers into the lives of people who are different from us – they might be witches, or dragons, or just someone who lives in a different town or country. We have to help the readers feel a connection to the characters we create so they know what that person's life is like – it’s as simple (and as complex!) as that. And not just the main characters but all those supporting characters, and even the antagonist! Forming that empathetic link with an antagonist makes them feel more real and less like a pantomime baddie!
The whole act of writing is one of empathy for me, and reading helps us to be more empathetic as it can really show us someone else's emotions there on the page, helping us to understand and recognise them in the real world too.
To me, empathy means stepping into someone else’s skin and seeing the world as if you were them. In Asha and the Spirit Bird you can become Asha, living in the foothills of the Himalaya, and feel her pain when her papa’s letters stop and she doesn’t know what’s happened to him.
You can experience how having a best friend like Jeevan can help you overcome anything, whether it’s tigers or hunger – and you can imagine how having a spirit bird could get you through some tough things in life. Empathy shines a light on our humanity and connects us all together.
As an author, empathy is really important because it's what makes stories so meaningful and valuable. When we read a book, we step into the character's shoes, feeling their joys and fears and triumphs as if they are our own.
In my book, Our Castle by the Sea, I wanted to bring Petra's frightening wartime experience to life for my readers – for them to imagine what it would have been like living on the coast of England during the Second World War, and to understand what happened to the thousands of 'enemy aliens' who were living in the UK at the time.
Reading such stories with empathy can help us all to understand dangerous feelings such as hatred and prejudice, and to see through the propaganda of politics and the press. If we all exercise empathy a little more, the world will become a better, kinder place.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
To me, empathy means imagining your way into another person's life, into their body, their experiences, with the purpose of gaining understanding and becoming a better person.
As an author, empathy is really important because it's the only way the world can become kinder. I write to show the world as it is, and could be, and empathy is the most important tool in my kit.
For more Empathy Day 2020 resources, be sure to take a look at the official Twitter feed here. You can also download an Empathy Day activity pack here!