“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild to pick up a book and read to a child.” -Dr. Seuss
Children are the gateway to our future, thus it is important to help them realize all that life has to offer. Being the little impressionable ones they are, children model off of the adults in their lives. So, what are you teaching the future generation? Think about it… Are you showing them messages of hope, strength, compassion, trust, honesty? What about empathy for others? If you yourself find it hard to incorporate these qualities, then it is likely that the children in your life will find it difficult as well. So, in addition to modeling, how can you help incorporate positive influences into children’s, and even your life? Start with the things that you and the children in your life are exposed to. One thing is reading. Do you and the children in your life like to read? If not, how come? If so, what type of books? Reading has many benefits, one being that it offers the reader an escape from their current reality. Every once in a while a person needs a distraction, especially if they are facing a lot of stress in their life. A distraction, such as reading can cause a person to feel calmer, even if it is only for a moment. Those moments add up; making it through the difficulties. Also, what about knowledge, many books offer wisdom and insight that was not previously known. Not to mention, empathy. Yes, there has been studies that books, particularly fiction, helps a person become more empathetic.
In the journal, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Psychologist, Keith Oatley, talks specifically about how fiction can impact a person’s social skills. This is not a new phenomenon, and with that said, Oatley’s aim is to build upon existing research. He, along with other researchers, devised a test to evaluate respondents way of thinking.
The respondents were given 36 images of people’s eyes and were instructed to select 4 phrases that they believe most accurately matched what each individual might be thinking or feeling. The 4 choices were reflective, aghast, irritated, or impatient. The results concluded that when compared with respondents who read non fictional books, those who read fictional books have a lot higher scores, indicating a greater level of empathy. Remember, empathy is all about understanding.
The takeaway is that fiction, whether it is books or television, helps a person have an increased understanding of their social world; the relationship between ourselves and others. Fiction creates a world of imagination, and each story invites us, the reader/viewer, to take a trip through another’s journey. The next time you find yourself reading or viewing some type of fiction, ask yourself, what have I gained from this story? You might be surprised by the answer.