Cultivating Empathy in Students Within an English Language Arts (ELA) Classroom Through Literary and Narrative Texts


  • Emily Smith University of Toledo


empathy, English Language Arts, discussion, writing, reflection, teaching strategies, social emotional learning, theory of mind, literature, narrative


The relationship between empathy and literature is understudied in the English language arts context. English language arts (ELA) educators wonder if reading can produce skills beyond those of comprehension and other ELA skills within students. Although empathy can be difficult to measure, some in the English language arts education community have begun to investigate whether they can cultivate empathy, perspective-taking, and open-mindedness within their students. Through research of some studies and articles surrounding this topic, it appears that empathy can be cultivated within students through literature when paired with discussion, writing, and reflection, and that cultivating empathy within students is integral to developing critical thinking, informed, and open-minded individuals.


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Feinstein, S. G., & Jensen, E. (2009). Secrets of the teenage brain: research-based strategies for reaching and teaching today’s adolescents (Second edition.). Corwin, a SAGE Company.

Hogan, P. C. (2022). Literature and moral feeling: A cognitive poetics of ethics, narrative, and empathy. Cambridge University Press.

Junker, C. R., & Jacquemin, S. J. (2017). How does literature affect empathy in students? College Teaching, 65(2), 79-87.

Meneses, R. W., & Larkin, M. (2016). The experience of empathy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 57(1), 3-32.

Ohio Department of Education. (2022, June 17). Social and emotional learning standards. Ohio Department of Education. Emotional-Learning

Sellers, J. A. (2021). Eliciting empathy through the study of literature in the world language classroom. Hispania, 104(3), 363-367.

Stratman, J. (n.d.). Toward a pedagogy of hospitality: Empathy, literature, and community engagement. Journal of Education & Christian Belief, 25-59.

Ugwu, G. C., Egbe, C. I., & Ifelunni, C. O. (2022). Utilization of bibliotherapy among public primary school English language teachers: Implications for teaching library reading skills. Library Philosophy and Practice, 1-21.




How to Cite

Emily Smith. (2023). Cultivating Empathy in Students Within an English Language Arts (ELA) Classroom Through Literary and Narrative Texts. Learning to Teach Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies Through Research and Practice, 12(1). Retrieved from