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Using Multicultural Literature to Develop Empathy PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Grade Level:   K-12

Duration:       Dependent on the literature and age group


This lesson describes a general layout of how to use multicultural literature to develop empathy in students.


The goal of this process is that students would develop:

1) Cognitive Empathy- understanding of the time period and culture that is being studied.

2) Emotional Empathy – an emotional response parallel to those felt by the characters in the text.

3) Cross-Cultural Empathy – an analysis of the character’s actions in light of the culture’s values and ideologies, separate from their own.    


Multicultural Text

Information from the time period such as posters, movies etc.


  1. Information Phase: Teach about the historical context of the culture that you will be reading about in the literature book that you have chosen. This will lay the foundation for the literature reading and give students information to place characters into. Propaganda posters, movies, photographs etc. can be used to add more interest and real life detail to the information given.

  2. Literature Phase: Read the text and engage with it in the following ways:

    1. Whole group discussions

    2. Develop questions about the text

    3. Work to explain the characters actions based on what they learned about the context of the time period in the information phase

    4. Journal writing after each discussion

  3. Create a culminating project of some kind, like a timeline, movie, essay etc.


Louie, B. (2005). Development of Empathetic Responses With Multicultural Literature. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 48(7), 566-578.


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