Jayneen Sander’s New Book Encourages Children to Think About Empathy and How To Treat Others 

One of the most important social and moral skills a child can learn is empathy. Being able to understand how another person is feeling and recognizing their needs helps people to connect to one another across race, culture and the diversity that is ever-present and so important to our world.
Showing empathy towards others is a learned trait, and one to nurture and cherish with the children in our care. An Australian children’s author is helping us achieve that crucial goal.

Jayneen Sanders (also known as Jay Dale) is an experienced primary school teacher, editor, author and publisher. 

She started her teaching career in the 1980s as a primary school teacher in rural Queensland in Australia. She moved to Victoria and taught at a number of inner-city schools and then taught English for over three and a half years in Japan. 

She is also a mother of three teenage girls and has been a school counselor at her local primary school for over seven years.

But Jay is perhaps best known as a children’s book author who has written over 100 titles. Just a few of her wonderful children’s books include: Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept!, No Difference Between Us, and No Means No!  

My favorite (no surprise to most) is her latest: You, Me and Empathy.

This charming story uses verse, beautiful illustrations and a little person called Quinn to model the meaning of empathy. Throughout the story, Quinn shows an abundance of understanding, compassion and kindness towards others. 

Also included are two pages of wonderful Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators to encourage children to reflect about empathy like:

How are you the same as your friend? Sister? Brother? How are you different?  

What makes you happy? Sad? Worried? Mad?

Who shows you kindness? In what ways do they show you kindness? How do you show kindness to others?

Have you ever helped anyone who as sad? How did you help them?

Also included are suggested activities to promote empathy and kindness in children and families. Here are just a few: 

• Spare Change Jar: Have the family collect spare change and place it in a jar. Decide where the money will go such as to a homeless shelter, dog shelter, local environmental group or any other cause your children care about. 

• Shoe Swap: Have your child wear your shoes. Now have them express how it feels to be you! Lead them into imagining they are wearing another’s shoes (identify that person) and how life might be for that person

• Kind Deeds: Brainstorm and then list 10 Kind Deeds your family could accomplish over the next twelve months (or whatever time span). Check them off as they occur. 

Q&A with Jayneen Sanders, Author

I connect with Jay on social media (I love Twitter!) and  follow her work. I had the opportunity to interview Jay recently about her writing and choice of empathy as her latest topic. 

Tell us about the types of children’s books you write and their focus.

I write both fiction and non-fiction texts. My books are a hybrid of the usual traditional children’s book but with an educational thread. I write on challenging topics such as keeping kids safe from inappropriate touch, consent, respectful relationship and gender equality. I am passionate about empowering children, and I am adamant there is a way to broach these challenging topics with children through well-crafted and engaging stories.

Your latest book is on empathy, why did you choose that topic?

Empathy is a learned trait, and as a teacher and a mother, I am concerned that children are becoming less engaged with the people around them and more engaged with the technology that is so easily accessible. Teaching children to see the world from another person’s point of view is crucial to a kind, compassionate and empathetic society, and therefore, I believe teaching empathy from an early age is critical.

You books are structured differently to many children’s books, how are they different and why?

I always provide discussion question for the adult reader to assist them in drawing out the child’s learning. Of course, some adults know exactly how to extend the conversation and embed the important message, but many are grateful for the scaffolding. A number of my books have child-centred questions on the page so the child can express how they interpreted the text and illustrations, and the emotions they or the character may have felt. That way the child feels invested in the story and can share things that are also important to them. 

Thank you, Jay, for providing us with another way to stretch our children’s empathy muscles. And on a personal note, thank you for suggesting my book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World as an adult reference for nurturing children’s empathy.

All the best in raising our kids to think WE, not ME!


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