Chapter Books that Teach Compassion and Empathy

Chapter Books About Compassion and Kindness

Teaching upper elementary and middle school students about compassion and kindness is important, especially as the instances of bullying and cyberbullying continue to rise . The books listed below provide young readers with an opportunity to connect with diverse characters and experiences. Hopefully, the inspiring stories will encourage students to think about how their actions affect others.  

El Deafo Book

El Deafo  by Cece Bell 

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a touching graphic novel about growing up deaf and finding true friendship. Cece became severely deaf after contracting meningitis when she was four years old. In order to understand others, Cece reads lips and wears a large hearing aid. When Cece enters first grade at a new school, wearing her hearing aid makes her feel different from everyone else. Even though Cece experiences feelings of loneliness and embarrassment while navigating elementary school life, she presses on in search of a real friend. As the story unfolds, Cece finds the courage to be herself, and she comes to understand the meaning of true friendship.    

Restart Book

Restart  by Gordon Korman

Have you ever wanted to rewind the day and start anew? That’s exactly what happens to Chase Ambrose in Restart. Before falling off the roof of his home, he was an arrogant football star and unrelenting school bully. The trauma to his head caused Chase to suffer from amnesia, erasing all memory of his unfriendly past. Although Chase forgot everything, his classmates haven’t. Relationships are tested and things get interesting when Chase attempts to restart his life.

Out of My Mind Book

Out of My Mind  by Sharon M. Draper

Told from the perspective of a fearless eleven year old with cerebral palsy, Out of My Mind is a moving novel that belongs in every classroom or school library. Melody is an extremely gifted student, but she lives each day trapped in an uncontrollable body. Flooded with language, yet unable to express a single word, Melody finally gets the opportunity to speak her mind when a technological innovation changes her entire world. Travel alongside Melody as she takes her emotional journey through the choppy waters of fifth grade, dealing with issues of acceptance, diversity, compassion, and perseverance.

Firegirl Book

Firegirl  by Tony Abbott

A refreshingly honest portrayal of an adolescent boy dealing with unexpected diversity, Firegirl by Tony Abbott is a powerful story of courage and compassion. When the new girl joins Tom’s class, the students quickly realize they weren’t prepared to take in her shocking appearance. Jessica’s badly burned face and body immediately set her apart from the rest of the 7th graders enrolled at St. Catherine’s School. Although unsure of how to proceed with Jessica, Tom knows he doesn’t agree with the fear-based judgements and bullying his friends are exhibiting. As the story progresses, Tom gets the courage to talk to Jessica. He learns more about her and the tragic accident that changed her life forever. In doing so, he gains valuable lessons about friendship, kindness, and compassion.

Freak the Mighty Book

Freak the Mighty  by Rodman Philbrick

Freak the Mighty is a memorable story about the unlikely bond created between two incredibly different young boys. Max is a struggling learner who is mercilessly teased about his extremely large size. Kevin, on the other hand, is a dictionary-carrying genius with a debilitating disability that causes him to be extremely small. When they realize how well they complement each other, Max and Kevin transform into an unstoppable pair. Known as Freak the Mighty, Max and Kevin take on the world, learning more about themselves and each other in the process. Together, Max and Kevin are able to reach their ultimate potential, something that may never have happened on their own.

Insignificant Events in the Life of Cactus Book

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus  by Dusti Bowling

This YA novel checks so many boxes! Aven Green is the main character. She was born without arms, but that hasn’t held her back. Things change when Aven moves to Arizona and enrolls in a new a school. At first, she has a hard time making friends. When she meets Connor and Zion, classmates who also struggle with feeling different than the other kids, Aven’s life takes an unexpected turn. The trio of friends help each other overcome feelings of isolation and embarrassment. In the process of realizing how significant their lives really are, they also solve a huge mystery! Readers will love connecting with characters that are rarely portrayed in young adult fiction. Lessons about empathy, compassion, and self-esteem are expertly weaved throughout, making this a must-read for all middle grade readers!


Rules by Cynthia Lord

Rules by Cynthia Lord is about a twelve-year-old girl named Catherine. Catherine is in middle school, and like most kids in middle school, she desperately wants to be accepted by the cool girl that moved in next door. Her efforts to gain acceptance cause Catherine to struggle in other areas of her life. She has a hard time keeping her younger brother out of trouble, and she spends less time with her good friend Jason, who is confined to a wheelchair and uses word cards to communicate.  Eventually, Catherine begins to learn about the importance of kindness, compassion, and true friendship.

Fish in a Tree Book

Fish in a Tree  by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree is an inspiring and emotional novel about being different. The book follows a sixth grader named Ally as she overcomes many challenges and obstacles related to her dyslexia. With her teacher’s help, Ally begins to see her disability in a new light. As her confidence grows, the world she once saw as closed off to her, begins to open up with new possibilities.  Grab this award-wining book for the young reader in your life. It’s an unforgettable story of perseverance and hope.

Wonder Book

Wonder  by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and the book the began The Choose Kind Campaign. August Pullman was born with major facial deformations, which prevented him from attending school for many years. When Auggie begins attending school, his classmates have trouble accepting his differences. Each day, Auggie faces a mix of cruelty and kindness from his classmates. The book shows Auggie’s struggle from multiple perspectives , teaching readers about the importance of having empathy for others.  This book  (and movie) is a must for all middle grade readers!

Teaching kids about kindness and compassion is one of the most important things we can do as teachers and parents. Click here for more information about the Choose Kind Campaign.  “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”. -Dr. Wayne Dyer

Want more ideas for your middle grade reader? Click here for list of spooky books they will love!

Chapter Books About Compassion

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Books that Teach Compassion and Kindness for Upper Elementary and Middle School Readers