RedRover offers professional development for educators on how to use the RedRover Readers program in elementary school classrooms to help students:
- Distinguish their point of view from a character’s point of view
- Understand perspectives that are different from their own
- Recognize and discuss emotional states
- Think about the well-being of others
- Analyze information from text and illustrations and make humane decisions
- Have more positive social interactions with others
- Think independently from others
- Think creatively
- Feel engaged in learning
- Feel more empathy
To begin with, books by themselves provide the perfect avenue for practicing perspective-taking because a typical reader inevitably finds themselves thinking from the perspective of the characters in order to anticipate what might happen next in the story. Some scholars have suggested the decrease in reading may actually be responsible for the steady decrease in empathy reported in college student surveys. Further research indicates that reading high-quality literature increase Theory of Mind, the ability to understand another’s emotional state. Read an article from The New York Times about the study
RedRover Readers takes this a step further by using illustrated books with compelling characters behaving accurately and displaying appropriate emotional states combined with questioning strategies demonstrated to increase comprehension and to help facilitate or reinforce perspective-taking. This is critical for kids who are not reading as much as they should and for kids who need help understanding the characters before they can take their perspectives. RedRover Readers helps kids learn and think about emotional and behavioral states while engaging in critical thinking and perspective taking to analyze how and why characters are behaving/feeling the way they are and how they would feel in similar situations.
The perspective-taking skills kids practice through engaging with stories, reflecting on open-ended questions and pulling out details from illustrations and text, plus learning the emotional and behavioral states of others are all critical to the development of empathy.
Kids, who maybe have never had a positive relationship in their lives, discuss questions like: “How is listening a part of communication?” “How long does it take to make a friend?” “How do you think the boy feels?” “Can you communicate with a dog?” “What would that look like?” and “Why would you listen?”
“Kids’ connections with pets are often the first relationships in their lives they have any control over.” – Nicole Forsyth, RedRover President and CEO
- Fostering strong bonds between kids and pets provides kids a solid foundation with which to practice and build positive relationship skills and empathy.
- Kids find it safer and easier to talk about relationships with animals than people.
- Even when kids do not have pets in the home, they love learning and talking about animals. The power of the program comes from observing positive relationships in stories, talking about key elements of good relationships and imagining positive friendships they could have in their own lives.
- A stronger understanding about animals, better bonds with animals and a more empathetic society also improves pet care and behavior in homes and reduces animal cruelty and neglect.
Anyone who wants to foster empathy in children, become a more effective educator, engage kids in learning, improve their classroom culture, help develop positive relationship skills or use a social and emotional learning program that aligns to the Common Core and state standards.
Empathy is arguably the best way to prevent violence in society and the most important skill children need to succeed in the 21st Century, yet studies show empathy is on the decline, and few schools or parents focus on it. A failure of empathy is linked to a variety of unwanted social behaviors, such as bullying and the abuse and neglect of both people and animals. A failure of empathy may also make it difficult to lead others well, solve complex social problems or have positive, meaningful relationships with family, friends, coworkers and pets.
Yes, thank you! The second book is currently in development and in need of funding! Please visit this page to make a donation. RedRover is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization and donations to RedRover are tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law.
Nicole Forsyth is President and CEO for RedRover. In 2007, Nicole introduced a program that fosters empathy in children, RedRover Readers, and is the mind behind the new e-book app concept, in addition to the main author for the series. She graduated from the University of California, Davis with a master’s degree in animal biology in 2006, and holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree in English and education from the University of Colorado. In the spirit of Raja, Nicole spends much of her free time at home trying to understand the behavior of her two- and four-legged family members.
Kristen is a children’s media producer, director, and writer who has developed projects for Kids’ CBC, Treehouse and TVO Kids. She has built 33 playgrounds across Ontario as the director, developer, and supervising producer of the Canadian Screen Award nominated, and Youth Media Alliance award-winning Giver, a TVO Kids/Sinking Ship Entertainment series. Kristen is currently producing and directing live television with The Sunny Side Up Show on Sprout (NBCUniversal).
Illustrator Bryan Huff (and his cat Karma)
A 7-year veteran of the animation industry, Bryan has directed over 80 minutes of television animation for clients such as Warner Bros., Disney, Hasbro, and DC. Other clients include Nickelodeon, Syfy, and Nelvana. Bryan is also co-founder of Giant People Pictures, a boutique animation studio that specializes in top quality pre-production and development.
E-Book App Developers: Sticky Brain Studios
Sasha is Partner/Executive Producer at Sticky Brain Studios, an interactive digital media team focused on creating and delivering meaningful user experiences. She is responsible for project managing their slate of projects, and business affairs. In addition to her work at Sticky Brain Studios, Sasha is Faculty at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre, teaching courses on business, accounting, marketing, and project management in the Interactive Media Management, Children’s Media, and Film and Television – Business post-graduate programs. Sasha is on the Board of Directors for Women in Film and Television – Toronto, and on the Advisory Committee for Interactive Ontario’s 2015 GameON: Ventures.
Ted Brunt has been making things on screens since he was 7, when he made his first animated film with his sister. Since then, he has worked in all aspects of broadcast television production from hosting to editing, producing and directing, and is considered one of Canada’s pioneers in digital media. His team created TVOKids.com, one of the first children’s websites, and he went on to lead digital content production at CBC for children and arts & entertainment. At Sticky Brain Studios, he focuses on creative development and production. Ted is the co-chair of the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Digital Media Advisory Group, and an advisor for Humber College’s Screenwriting program. He’s still making things on screens, much to his children’s dismay!
The app may not be supported on every device. Our developers tested the app on the most common Apple and Android devices, but we would love to know which devices have issues. Please email us to let us know at info@RedRover.org. The app is available for download for smart phones and tablets on iTunes and Google Play. If you have an older Android device, you may have to update your system software.
Although this is a digital book, because of the interactive nature of the content, it can’t be downloaded onto a simple e-reader. It is an app, containing a digital book as well as a game, and; therefore, it requires an Apple or Android tablet or phone, like an iPhone, iPad or Samsung Galaxy.
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