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The Reading Builds Empathy Pilot Survey: Picturebooks for Empathy Development


Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and use of diverse picturebooks to support reading development and social-emotional skills are gaining acceptance and broader use. With this shift, new measures of efficacy are needed to confirm, bolster, and source new policies and strategies for family and classroom literacy practices. To this end, the Reading Builds Empathy (RBE) literacy study sought to develop and pilot a new instrument that uses picturebook reading as a way to understand empathy development. The RBE study participants included 21 parent-child dyads (N = 42) and piloted a tool that was created to measure children’s empathy development for children ages six–eight. The tool includes collecting parent reports of children’s at-home literacy practices and engagement with picturebooks as well as parents’ perspectives on their child’s empathy development. The tool also includes a researcher-administered tool to directly measure children’s empathy development in a developmentally appropriate format across three domains: affective, cognitive, and ethnocultural empathy. This paper describes the process for instrument development, initial pilot data, considerations for changes to the instrument, and ideas for how the instrument can be used in future intervention studies. 

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Author information

Authors and Affiliations



VLW-S: conceptualized this study, designed the tool, conducted the data collection, analyzed the data, and led the writing and editing. KDC: provided guidance and support on the study design development and data analysis, and contributed to writing and editing the paper. The final manuscript was approved by all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Valerie Lorene Williams-Sanchez.

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The authors have not disclosed any competing interests.

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This study received Institutional Review Board approval. This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Written consent for participation and publication of findings was obtained.

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Williams-Sanchez, V.L., Cook, K.D. The Reading Builds Empathy Pilot Survey: Picturebooks for Empathy Development. Early Childhood Educ J (2023).

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