As a voracious reader since elementary school, I have always preferred character driven, relationship laden stories to non fiction or action based thrillers. I wasn’t into fan fiction or comics…the magic for me lay in classic literature.
Now, more than ever, there seems to be an excellent reason to make literary fiction part of a child’s regular curriculum.
In a 2013 study, David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano found that “reading literary fiction improves theory of mind.” Theory of mind in the world of psychology includes the processes involved in a person’s understanding and expression of empathy and sympathy: these life skills are missing in much of today’s world.
The findings of the study suggest that exposure to literature and creative characters who reveal complex emotions and relationships help readers to develop their own expressions, most notably empathy for others’ situations and feelings as well as intuitive sympathetic responses. Readers of literature are better able to understand their own feelings and those of others.
It seems logical.
After all, we have all seen the studies that show that repeated exposure to violent video games can increase a child’s predilection toward aggression and desensitization to it.
How wonderful that we have an equally powerful alternative to help us enliven and enrich positive emotional awareness in our students—and how appropriate that this successful method is traditional and “old school” as many things of high value often are.
Empowering our children with self-awareness, generosity, kindness, and the ability to form healthy and empathetic relationships might be as easy as placing good literature in their hands and on their curriculums!