Empathy is an important emotion and it is unique in the animal kingdom. With empathy, humans
can put themselves in others’ shoes and try to understand their perspectives or emotions. It’s
quite evident that having empathy for other people makes us a little better person. But, empathy
isn’t as common as we would think. In fact, empathy is in decline. People have become more
self-centered within the last few decades than they have ever been. A common cause of this
may be because people read less!
There is a direct relation between reading and having empathy. Studies show that people who
read more are far more empathetic than those who read less or don’t read at all. You might
wonder why reading makes us empathetic or why it is necessary to read to improve your
empathic ability. Some studies suggest that reading stories or fiction makes us more empathetic
than reading non-fiction books.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.” — George R. R. Martin
With fictional stories, you will come across many characters with complex lives. We will see a
character through their lenses which involves a different gender, occupation, region, religion,
culture, and lifestyle. This makes us feel for them and live a life like them. So, with each fictional
book or story, we will experience many different lives and characters.
Studies have shown that something in our brain changes as we read a fictional story. Our brain
will comprehend much more than it used to before. We will think about how other people think
and what they are going through from their perspective. This is what empathy is!
The benefit of reading books is not just for adults, in fact, it can be seen from an early age.
Researchers have shown that children who regularly listen to bedtime stories or kids who are
interested in reading books are much more empathetic than those who don’t. In fact, kids who
have a habit of reading are more likely to become well-adjusted adults who can easily make
friends or understand people better.
On a different note, if you’d like to get to know your friends better, you can consider asking them
some fun slam book questions like their favorite book or author, or maybe their most cherished
childhood book. It’s a great way to connect over shared reading experiences!
Teenagers who read more are more likely to be understanding and less discriminating or even
being a bully. Some surveys have shown that teenagers who read Harry Potter were more
empathetic towards immigrants and those who were less privileged. This can be because they
have got to see a character like Hermione who was a mudblood, and Ron who was not so
privileged, was discriminated against by the elites or purebloods.
When we read fiction stories and books we often get to see the characters who are treated
poorly, are less privileged, or even are considered “not normal” by societal norms, and how their
lives are being affected. This creates a form of understanding in our brain and when we come
across someone who is even slightly like these characters, we can understand them far better.
Even if someone who hasn’t read any fictional books growing up can start reading and after a
few books and characters they will see some change in their perception of people and grow an
understanding approach towards them.
What we read clearly has a lot of impact on us, this means the genres people read also create a
difference in the way they think. Literary fiction might be most effective when it comes to
generating empathy and other emotions in us, one of the great examples of this is The Great
Gatsby. On the contrary thriller and crime-based, novels are more plot-driven which is less
effective in honing empath skills in readers.
Furthermore, you can always choose to read books that you like regardless of their genre and
subject. By doing so, you will find some change in yourself. If you are new to reading, then you
can always start with some easy-to-read fiction books and explore some stories and characters.
Reading questions make us a better person as we get more educated on various subjects, and
with that, we become a more understanding person, which positively impacts our social and
personal relationships with people around us. Let’s just say goodbye on this note, and Happy