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Empathy-Boosting Books: Our Tower

EmpathyLab has launched its 2023 Read for Empathy book collection. Selected by expert judges, the 65 books for 3-16-year-olds will be used in homes, schools and libraries in a focused drive to help young people learn more about empathy, and put it into action. The collection is based on scientific research showing that empathy is learnable, and that books are an important empathy-build tool.This week we’re taking in part in the EmpathyLab blog tour. Read on for more information about the Read for Empathy Collection and to find out about our empathy-boosting book of choice – Our Tower.
empathy lab blog tour

empathy lab blog tour

Empathy Collection Blog Tour

What is EmpathyLab?

empathy labEmpathyLab is the first organisation to build children’s empathy, literacy and social activism through a systematic use of high-quality literature. Their strategy builds on new scientific evidence showing the power of reading to build real-life empathy skills, driven by a belief that empathy is a beacon of hope in a divided world.


This month, Empathy Lab has launched the 2023 Read for Empathy collection of children’s books to build empathy. The primary collection features 40 books for 3-11-year-olds; the secondary collection has 25 books for 12-16-year-olds. They include picture books, novels, poetry, non-fiction and graphic and verse novels. Each offers young people different ways of experiencing, understanding and building empathy – ranging from inspiring social activism to exploring the power of empathy to heal difficult relationships. Many help young readers gain insight into different life experiences, from homelessness to hearing loss.  


EmpathyLab’s founder, Miranda McKearney OBE, said: Each of the collection’s wonderful books has been chosen to do a specific empathy-building job, giving educators practical tools to raise an empathy-educated generation. Imagine the power of every child being inspired to learn about the importance of empathy, and develop this critical life skill – the future would be in safe hands.” 


Free Guides to the primary and secondary collections are available here

Empathy-Boosting Book Choice: Our Tower

our tower


The team at Empathy Lab invited us to choose one of the titles in the collection to showcase as a brilliant empathy-boosting recommendation. We’ve selected Our Tower by Joseph Coelho & Richard Johnson, which was chosen by our Review Panel as one of our Books of the Month back in December.

Our Tower tells the story of three children living in a tower block. Viewing their environment as “concrete and grey”, they decide to seek out the glimpse of green they can see high up from their window.

Finding the tree they have longed to see reveals a secret world of magic. Tumbling deep inside, they find “a world deeper than anything Our Tower has ever seen.” But the most significant discovery is the tree-grown man living within, who opens their eyes to the true magic. With his words, the children see that magic is everywhere, including in their tower. A tower full of love and community.

This is a beautiful story inspired by author Joseph Coelho’s own experience of growing up in a tower block and the author’s real-life experiences weave a deep element of empathy through the story, offering insight into the literal highs and lows of an urban upbringing.

The new Children’s Laureate brilliantly showcases the diversity and the incredible sense of community that living in a tower block is able to provide, showing how the real community is so much more magical than the boring, hard and grey high-rise flats that appear to dominate urban skylines. The tale brings a message about urbanisation, where there’s a perceived distinction between countryside and urban spaces, yet this reminds us that nature is all around us, wherever we live, and everyone should have access to it.

Every page is a feast for the eyes with stunning and sumptuous illustrations by Richard Johnson. The colours perfectly reflect the mood of the poetic narrative, changing from dull greys to magical purples to vibrant, magical technicolour.

As always, the talent of Joseph Coelho’s writing expertly combines writing in verse and poetry with inspiring rich vocabulary.

Author Joseph Coelho says, “Writing is itself a form of empathy, as writers and illustrators we put ourselves into the shoes of our characters hoping to share something fundamental about human nature and the inevitability of our togetherness” How about pairing this story with other stories set in tower blocks or flats? Ask your pupils to explore whether the other books share the same sense of community and ‘inevitability of our togetherness’? Some of our favourites include Boy in the Tower, High Rise Mystery and The Extraordinary Gardener.



our tower Our Tower is available to purchase online from Amazon or from

For more information about the Read for Empathy collection, please visit the EmpathyLab website.

Where next?
> Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub
> Browse our Topic Booklists
> View our printable year group booklists.
> See our Books of the Month.

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