We all know the importance of reading, it’s fundamental to education, excellent for reducing stress and a powerful tool for developing empathy.

Empathy, that ability to truly understand and connect with another's emotions, becomes a game-changer for teens navigating today’s complex world.  It's the secret weapon that builds bridges instead of walls. With empathy, bullying takes a backseat to compassion, fostering stronger relationships and a more inclusive environment. When teens can see things from another's perspective, they're more likely to be kind, understanding, and open-minded.

Through reading stories about relatable characters facing diverse challenges, teens can connect with:

  • Family dynamics: From strained parent-child relationships to the complexities of blended families, YA fiction explores the challenges and triumphs of family life.
  • Social issues: Bullying, prejudice, and social anxiety are common themes in YA literature. Reading about these experiences can help teens feel less alone and develop compassion for others who struggle.
  • Identity exploration: YA novels delve into themes of self-discovery, sexuality, and cultural identity. These stories offer teens a safe space to explore their own identities and appreciate the richness of human experience.

By encouraging teens to read for empathy, we're not just fostering a love of literature, we're helping them develop into more compassionate and understanding individuals. As a publisher who has specialised in books for schools for over 30 years, we are very aware of the need to offer teens books that deal with sensitive subjects appropriately and offer clear interest age guidance to support this.

Collections that foster empathy:

Two Sides — Accessible short reads, with a reading age of 8–9, interest age 13+ 

The Two Sides series take important themes faced by many young people in today’s world such as sexual identity, domestic abuse, racism and being a young carer and bring them to life through the words of a young person struggling to come to terms with them. These books use a dual narrative structure featuring two different perspectives on the same situation, forcing the reader to challenge their assumptions. These short reads are ideal for lunchtime reading groups, use in form time, or as accessible reads for pupils who are still building their reading fluency.

For a limited time, you can download Bruised by Donna David, part of the Two Sides series, absolutely free. Download your copy before 7th June 2024 here

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Windows & Mirrors — Supportive short reads, with a reading age of 9–10, interest age 13+

Set in an inner city school, each book looks at the experience of a student who is going through a difficult time. The books navigate the reader through hardships and signpost how to access, or offer, help. Although the books can be hard-hitting, the subjects examined are expertly and sensitively handled. The series is also suitable for dyslexic readers with a dyslexia-friendly font, extra spacing, and off-white paper. Written by award-winning writer, editor and journalist, Katharine Quarmby, these titles can act as ‘mirrors’, reflecting the reader’s own experiences to help them feel heard and understood, as well as ‘windows’, where students are given an insight into lives different from their own.

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Raising Awareness of Physical Disabilities

Diversity in books has improved enormously over the last few years, but one area where representation can be hard to find is physical disability. This curated collection offers books featuring diverse experiences such as deafness, blindness, wheelchair users and those experiencing chronic illness to raise awareness of not only the challenges the characters face, but also their strengths, resilience, and triumphs.

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Neurodiversity Celebration

This thoughtfully curated diverse book collection celebrates neurodivergent characters and features titles written by own voices authors. This exceptional selection provides a platform for neurodiverse individuals to see themselves, and their life experiences, reflected within the pages of a book. Additionally, these books will foster empathy and understanding among neurotypical students, highlighting the importance and need for an inclusive society. Contains authentic representations of autism, ADHD and dyslexia.

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Finally, LGBTQ+ characters are becoming more commonplace, more diverse, and more accessible to readers regardless of their own sexual orientation or gender identity. These books for teens feature gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters, and contain storylines that discuss everything from coming out to how hetero, cis-gendered people can understand and support their LGBTQ+ peers.

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