Literature Can Also Teach Empathy

Literature Can Also Teach Empathy

When you read to your young children, you know you're helping them develop their language skills, but did you know you're also honing their empathy skills?

When you read to your young children, you know you're helping them develop their language skills, but did you know you're also honing their empathy skills?.

Raymond A. Mar works as a professor at the Faculty of Health in the Department of Psychology at York University. In an interview with TVOParents, he explains the connection between reading and empathy.

The expert says that while children read, they could be imagining the books' world, and their mental stimulation would help improve their social abilities.

York University conducted a study in collaboration with Jennifer Tackett at the University of Toronto and Chris Moore. They looked at children between the ages of 4 and 6 because these ages are a pivotal developmental step in which children understand that other people have mental states that may differ from them, including thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and preferences.

Children were exposed to different storybooks, and the study measured their ability to understand what other people were thinking and feeling. They studied a child's vocabulary ability and parental income. Researchers found that the more storybooks that children were exposed to, the better they did in all the tests of social ability.

Raymond A. Mar assures that "our ability to empathize and understand other people can lead us to have more pro-social behaviors."


There are many great children's books that focus on emotional understanding and development. Some of these stories talk about mental states and complex social situations.

Professor Suzanne Keen at Washington and Lee University points out that reading takes us away from the world and makes us come back to it with an improved sense of other people's perspectives, points of view, and experiences that are quite different from our own. However, the main benefit is in the imaginative work of co-creation that a reader is involved in novel reading.

Suzanne assures that people who have a high degree of empathy are often attracted to novel reading in part because this genre invites us to empathize and to exercise through character identification and other forms of imagining our human kindness. However, she warns that thinking that books are magic pills that can be used to solve society's problems would be pretty unrealistic.

In a Ted Talk titled "How literature can help us develop empathy" by poet and author Beth Ann Fennelly, she explains that a study of over 14,000 college students found that today's youth are 40% less empathetic than those in the past. According to Beth, literary neuroscience is beginning to prove that reading literature makes us more compassionate.

For Mark Bracher, Professor at the Department of English at Kent State University, teaching or studying literature can make people more responsible citizens and more compassionate human beings.

The role of literature books in developing alongside professional skills any thinking methodologies that encourage us to think about fellow human beings differently to strengthen compassion and empathy is crucial.

Human majors can play a huge role in training students not about thinking individually but also about their obligations and responsibilities as part of a community. There's no doubt cultivating this habit from a young age can significantly help to improve our capacity to better connect with others.

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