100+ Roots of Empathy babies and their parents celebrated: Program founded in
Toronto 14 years ago recently discovered by U.S. media

TORONTO, June 10 /CNW/ - They're barely a year old, but a multitude of babies were celebrated yesterday as "Toronto's youngest teachers." For the past year, these infants have been helping to foster empathy in Toronto classrooms for the Roots of Empathy program. Started in 1996, Roots of Empathy - a program that aims to change the world one child at a time - is now running in four countries. The program is widely acclaimed and has recently received unprecedented international media attention.

The Toronto Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration was held at St. Lawrence Hall and honoured more than 100 babies, all wearing tiny "Teacher" t-shirts. With their parents, these babies have been teaching Toronto's schoolchildren important lessons about empathy, emotions, neuroscience, temperament, inclusion, infant safety, and the power of a loving bond between parent and child.

The event featured remarks from The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; Mary Gordon, Roots of Empathy Founder/President; Jeff Sprang, Director of Communications, Ontario Public School Board Association; Roots of Empathy Board Member Scott Rutherford; and a Roots of Empathy classroom teacher and students. As well, The Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, Ontario Minister of Education, spoke about the program:

"Roots of Empathy is about supporting children and nurturing kindness. Our students are privileged to take part in such a wonderful program. The Ministry of Education is proud to support an initiative that fosters emotional literacy - creating more welcoming and caring classroom environments." Nearly 3,350 children in Toronto and 18,000 in Ontario participated in the program in 2009-10 with the support of the Government of Ontario.

Mary Gordon kicked off the event with the Roots of Empathy welcome song, a Baby Celebration tradition. The 100 babies and their parents took in the ceremony while sitting on a giant padded green blanket - a nod to the trademark green blanket that children sit around in every Roots of Empathy program worldwide.

Gordon believes the program is making a difference. "We started by reaching 150 children in Toronto fourteen years ago, and to date we have reached more than 325,000 children internationally. It is these children who will help build a more caring, peaceful and civil society - they are lighting the footpath to the future."

At the heart of the program are classroom visits by an infant and parent. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor guides children in labeling the baby's emotions and reflecting on their own feelings and those of others (empathy). A decade of independent research consistently shows that children who receive Roots of Empathy experience dramatic and lasting effects in terms of increased positive social behaviour (sharing, helping and including) and decreased aggression, and that the effects last for years.

Roots of Empathy is a charitable, non-profit organization with award-winning programs informed by the power of empathy. The organization has been recognized by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Daniel Goleman, the World Health Organization, and the Assembly of First Nations, among others. The program has recently been profiled in Time magazine and on Fox News.

SOURCE Roots of Empathy

For further information: For further information: interviews, or for high-resolution photos from the event: Julia Morgan, Roots of Empathy, Cell: (416) 828-5538, E: jmorgan@rootsofempathy.org, www.rootsofempathy.org

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