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ERIC Number: ED585351
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2018
Pages: 163
Abstractor: As Provided
ISBN: 978-0-3558-3932-6
Walk in Their Shoes: How Picture Books and Critical Literacy Instruction Can Foster Empathy in First Grade Students
Salay, Darla M.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Drexel University
In New Jersey and nationwide, legislative efforts require that schools refocus on teaching social emotional skills in order to meet the holistic needs of students and prevent bullying. However, with an ever-growing list of school requirements, no additional instructional time, and little guidance on how to teach social emotional skills, schools need ways to integrate social emotional skills within curriculum. One way to teach social emotional skills and literacy skills simultaneously is through read aloud experiences with picture books. Using picture books on topics such as making friends, problems at school, or topics of social injustice, teachers can address critical literacy skills and social awareness while promoting empathy development. This mixed-methods study examined empathy development in 108 first grade students before and after a four-week intervention using picture books and critical literacy instruction, including writing from the perspective of others. The research used a randomized design with control and experimental groups to measure children's empathy with a modified (Garton & Gringart, 2005) Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis, 1980) before and after the intervention. Student writing was also analyzed in the intervention classrooms to identify and examine evidence of empathy. This research followed Brill's (2004) method of analyzing student writing for empathy by looking for patterns in writing and then creating categories reflective of these patterns. The analysis used t-tests to compare pre-test and post-test scores in the experimental group as well as post-test scores between the treatment and control groups. These comparisons indicate that students' empathy scores, measured by the IRI, did not increase after the intervention; there were no significant differences between the treatment and control groups. However, the writing component of the study showed that students exhibited evidence of empathy in three distinct ways. They "identified empathetic and non-empathetic actions" in characters from stories and in real life, they showed empathy when considering "imaginary scenarios" from stories--inferring characters' feelings and/or proposing actions--and they showed "writer empathy" for characters from stories. Taken together, quantitative and qualitative findings from this research suggest that although students showed evidence of empathy learning and engagement during the intervention, they did not fully internalize empathy by the end of the intervention. This research study suggests next steps and possible future research that could be useful to support students' continued empathy development. It could be useful for schools seeking ways to address social emotional learning and curriculum simultaneously, while designing learning experiences that meet local school cultures and needs. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New Jersey
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Interpersonal Reactivity Index