Guiding Tomorrow's Hearts and Minds

Empathy Books Basket

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Every year, St. Matthew’s provides lunches to children served by Samaritan House, a local nonprofit that helps meet the needs of low-income families in San Mateo county. Kindergarten through eighth grade students each assemble lunches once during the school year. 
Two of our parent volunteers, who have been working on Samaritan House lunches for years, wanted to find a way to help students develop a deeper understanding of the agency's work. To that end, the middle schoolers were given a fact sheet with statistics for the Bay Area, where more than 800,000 people in the region live below the poverty line. For the lower school, they focused on building empathy and put together an Empathy Books Basket for them. Children either read the books themselves or the whole class reads them together and they have a conversation about it. What does it mean to be in someone else's shoes? 
The basket contains books with stories that young children can instantly grasp. Books such as Amos and Boris by William Steig - a story of an unlikely pair of friends, a whale and a mouse, who despite having nothing in common, love each other very much. Throughout the book, they show unwavering kindness towards one another, saving each other’s lives without expecting anything in return. 
Teachers have had great conversations with the students, in the weeks leading up to their turn to pack lunches. This has changed the way students pack these lunches and made it a more meaningful and sincere activity.
St. Matthew’s mission is to prepare students to be leaders of positive change in the world. All grades have the opportunity to participate in age-appropriate service projects, and it is through these kinds of projects that our students develop lifelong habits of service.