Help Children Flex Their Charitable Muscles – Books that Encourage Empathy and Compassion

Just as children are guided by parents and caregivers to be healthy, productive, independent and strong, their sense of charity should be nurtured and encouraged. We are all born with an innate impulse to help others, and like other personal traits, the impulse can strengthen or diminish over time.

Although it can be difficult to reconcile with the overt selfishness that may sometimes rear its ugly head, children do routinely, and naturally, express empathy and take actions to help and comfort others. It can be discomforting to witness a child throw a public tantrum over something they want and cannot have or aggressively snatch away a toy, seemingly oblivious to their playmate’s feelings. However, given the opportunity to observe a child, one will inevitably witness acts of kindness and compassion. Notice how a child will soothe a crying, baby sibling or rush to aid a friend who is hurt. When provided with positive encouragement, empathy will thrive in a child. If we consider that sense of charity as a muscle, it must be flexed often to make it strong.

Nourishing a child’s empathy and impulse for charity can have a tremendous positive impact on the child and those around them. A healthy desire to help others can offset the familiar “mine” impulse and can have a significant effect on self esteem.

Join the CLUB

We recently witnessed a powerful example of children’s impulse to care for others within  the BNI community. Miami elementary school teacher, Jennifer Stay – who is the wife of BNI Executive Director and Chairman Emeritus of the BNI Foundation Board, Jeff Stay – showed her nine-year-old students a film that explained what the BNI Foundation is and what it does. When the students realized how many children around the world need help they decided to do something collectively. Since then each student has brought $1 to school each month. With Mrs. Stay matching every dollar, the fourth grade class became a BNI Foundation Monthly Hero. This incredible expression of charity led to the Join the CLUB program which encourages Business Voices teams around the world to follow the lead of Mr’s Stay’s fourth graded class.

Children’s Books that Inspire Generosity

Books are an excellent resource to further encourage the giving spirit in children. Below we have compiled a short list of books that will inspire children to give their time, talent or treasure to a worthy cause.

The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein – This enduring classic tells the story of a tree that gives all of itself to a growing boy as he becomes a man. The Giving Tree is a favorite that has been teaching the value of selfless giving to generations of children.

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, Emily Pearson – When Ordinary Mary picks some blueberries for her neighbor, her act of kindness starts a chain reaction that spreads around the entire world. This is a wonderful story that illustrates how even a small gesture can make a huge difference.

Beatrice’s Goat, Page McBrier – Another great book about the power of a single kind act and how basic needs are met in different parts of the world. Beatrice, who lives in a small village in Africa, cannot go to school because her family cannot afford the expense. When a charitable organization donates a goat to here family, it changes their lives in unexpected ways.

Maddi’s Fridge, Lois Brandt – Sofia looks for a snack in her best friend’s Maddi’s fridge and realizes that Maddi’s family goes hungry some days. This book shows children that great need is sometimes found close to home.

A Kid’s Guide to Giving, Freddi Zeiler – This comprehensive guide is a great starting point for kids that want to give. It covers donating money and goods, volunteering, organizing events and includes information on charitable organizations children can get involved with.

These books are a great place to start a conversation with children about giving to others. Items on the evening news and the needs of those in your own community can further the discussion and provide ideas for kids to get involved and help. Making children aware of their capacity to make a difference can plant the seed of a life of charity and good will.

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