September 10, 2019

Why Reading Out to Children is Important for Their Self-Growth

Watching children read and losing themselves in the world of their favorite fictional characters is a feeling that all parents desire. The different emotions that a child reflects while reading is a sign that shows how reading goes beyond mere literacy. According to a study at Cambridge University, young people get excellent training in developing empathy through reading fiction. This is further backed by the studies done at Carnegie Melon and Emory University. According to their findings, fiction makes us believe that we are part of the plot.  The empathy that we feel for the characters get imprinted on our brains and help us develop similar sensitivity towards people in real life.

Development of Core Skills in Children
Recognized as a core life skill, empathy is the foundation for strong and sound relationships. So, how can we help our children develop such core life skills? Laura Holman Byrne, author of Tater Tot (, recommends using reading with your children as a tool to teach them about empathy, mindfulness, respect, and self confidence. Some methods that you can try in exploring ways to use reading to boost the children’s core skills are:

Select the Right Books  
Stories that relate or explore familiar real-life scenarios help children understand the different emotions and help develop insights into what their peers are experiencing. The motivation of characters should be understood by the children – irrespective of their acts. Find stories where feelings are dealt with in a subtle manner.

Teach Vocabulary
It is very difficult to share and communicate feelings if children lack the words to express them. One of the major tasks when reading with children is to teach them vocabulary. While it is easy to explain the words in the story, it is also important to interact with the children in terms of exploring the actions or feelings of the characters. Asking questions relevant to the story/character helps children articulate their thoughts – thus improving their vocabulary as they discuss the actions/feelings of the characters and the reasons and consequences of their actions.

Become the Character
Another good way to teach children's core skills is to make them get into the characters’ skin. Stories abound with situations that a child may not have faced for real so far. Stepping into a character’s shoes helps develop imagination and explore the skills required to tackle such situations. Making children enact characters that are unlike their real selves will help them understand the characters’ points of view.

Why is Teaching Empathy so Important?
The ability to understand and feel what another is going through is empathy. This core skill has never been as important as it is today. In a world filled with conflicts and societal issues, it is important to be empathetic to maintain one’s mental health. The ability to connect with others, to be helpful and involved, is a great tool in a society where individuals rely on each other.

Reading to or with children is a great way to educate them – not just in the literary sense but also in developing skills like empathy. Teach your children to think of reading as a game – where they play the role of characters and hence see the world from the characters’ perspective. This will help teach them to see the viewpoints of others and help develop respect and understanding of people’s actions and experiences.

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