How do we teach empathy? This is a question Andy and I have discussed a great deal this past year. Increasing the news has shown people ranging from those in power to everyday folks using rhetoric full of hate and indifference for people they don’t identify with. How do we prevent young ears from picking up this heartbreaking habit?
There are a number of ways, but there is only one this librarian and former teacher wants to focus on – reading.
Empathy is defined by Roman Krznaric, author of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, as “the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions.”
Readers are given the oppurtunity to live parts of other people’s lives and experience their internal thoughts and emotions.
All types of books can have this effect – non-fiction, popular thrillers, and literary fiction. Some research suggests that literary fiction has the greatest effect as it forces readers to be more engaged in the plot than general popular fiction.
So what can you do? Support your local libraries and buy your nephew a book or two for Christmas.
This isn’t limited to children and young adults. Like all cognitive abilities, our emotional intelligence can grow throughout our entire lives if we choose to nurture it.
So again, what can you do? Support your local libraries and buy your sister a book or two for Christmas.
Further Reading / Bibliography
- Bury, L. (2013). Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy, Study Finds. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/oct/08/literary-fiction-improves-empathy-study
- Kidd, D. K., & Emanuele, C. (2013). Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. Science, 342(6156), 377-380. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1239918
- Krznaric, R. (2015). Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It. TarcherPerigee.
- McKearney, M., & Mears, S. (2015). Lost for words? How Reading Can Teach Children Empathy. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/may/13/reading-teach-children-empathy
Donate to New Mexico Libraries
- New Mexico Library Foundation
- Friends for the Public Library, supporting the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System