Reading is Empathy
Research shows that far being being a means to escape the social world, reading stories can actually improve your social skills by helping you better understand other human beings. – Keith Oatley (The Psychology of Fiction)
Likewise, Tolkien believed that fantasy “offers not an escape away from reality, but an escape to a heightened reality”. When we read fiction we enter an imagined world, perhaps far from reality, but it’s the characters that we attach to. It’s this emotional connection with characters that provides an understanding of real life interactions. Children begin to develop true empathy for others from four years old and onwards – hearing and reading fiction enables them to walk in another’s shoes. An example for older children is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor which shows the young reader something of what it was like to be a black child growing up in the 1930s; an incredibly moving story of hope despite hardship.
While reading, we can leave our own consciousness, and pass over into the consciousness of another person, another age, another culture. – Maryanne Wolf