Why books matter

Building Empathy – One Novel at a Time

The other day someone asked me, “Why do you write for children? It’s a tough market to break into.”

“I’m so glad you asked,” I replied. “Aside from just a love of telling stories, there are some hard reasons why I think it’s so important to write for children. Here is just one.

It seems the qualities that reflect the best in our species have been under attack for some time now. Polarization is growing, as are divisiveness and demonizing those who differ from us in any way—ethnically, culturally, or politically.

Reading novels and stories builds empathy and helps to reduce divisiveness. When a child (or any of us) isreading a novel or story, they are immersing themselves in what it’s like to be in another person’s head. They’re experiencing the character’s experiences in deep and complex ways. Ways that current virtual reality can’t come close to replicating.

When a child is reading a novel or story, they are drawn into imagining the character’s motivations, their goals. This develops the same way of thinking that helps them to understand the people surrounding them in the real world:

  • It helps them to realize and understand that people from other cultures and ethnic groups have feelings, abilities, and desires, just like them.
  • They can come to understand that surface behaviours, particularly undesirable ones, may be driven by deeper underlying causes and shouldn’t necessarily be taken personally.
  • Discussing books and stories offers parents and children a way to discuss topics and feelings that might not be comfortable or come naturally otherwise.

Empathy and compassion are closely related, and both are increasingly precious in our turbulent and divisive world. Reading books and stories is one of the best ways to help our children develop both.”

Let’s help our children build their empathy muscles, one book at a time.

What I’ve Been Reading

Evil in Emerald, by A.M. Stuart

Craving a change of pace, Harriet Gordon, joins a local musical theatre production but when a fellow cast member is brutally killed, Harriet and Inspector Curran must turn the spotlight on murder in this all-new mystery from the author of Revenge in Rubies.

Harriet and Curran get better and better. I love the detailed and evocative setting in historical (1910) Singapore and the author includes a number of ‘real’ as well as fictional personages in the work.

The pacing is brisk, the characters continue to develop in interesting ways and complexity, and the climax was very satisfying.
I am impatiently awaiting the next title in the series!