fiction teens kids empathy

Fiction Let’s Them Think About Others for a Change

Posted on Posted in Blog, Color Me Educated

Fiction Let’s Them Think About Others for a Change

Anyone besides me have children who clearly think they know it all?  The younger two will still more than likely take my word when I explain how something does or does not work.  The oldest however is under the strange teenage spell that somehow she’s advanced past what I already know.  The debate game that she currently loves to ‘play’ with me is – that’s so stupid, who/why would they do that? 
The oldest has about as much empathy for children who go to bed with angry empty stomachs, as she does for commercials that ask for donations of as little as a dollar a day.  When it comes to understanding how someone came from small time singing in the church to headlining Madison Square Garden she underestimates the time and sacrifices made.  It’s no wonder.  It’s not as if we have an Olympian training with us or someone taking on adversity day by day for her to witness what it takes to make it.
She is however very sympathetic to the oh-so not really serious whines and complaints of her fellow teens.  I used to think it was because she is one. After reading a study by Raymond Mar I am beginning to think that her lack of empathy for anyone other than herself has something to do with what she reads.  My oldest loves young adult fiction about teenage life.  I guess rightfully so.  When I was a teen I devoured my share of books like the Babysitters Club and Almost Fifteen.  But perhaps these books are limiting her perspective on the life of others.  Mar’s study found that:
  • Over 75 percent of books typically read to preschoolers frequently reference mental states.
  • Children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old acquire an understanding that other people have thoughts, beliefs and desires that may differ from their own…Around the same ages, children also begin to understand what characters in stories are feeling and thinking.
  • There is some evidence that adults who process stories deeply and are highly engaged in the story report more empathy, but the results have been inconsistent. 
I do make an effort to try and vary what the oldest reads.  Sometimes she’s receptive and sometimes not.  Right now, she’s over the Underground Railroad novels.  She can only take so much of the, I- grew –up- in- a -war-torn area stories. Still I’m not giving up on hoping she will at least begin to loosen her reading grip on the teeny bopper novels.  God give me the strength to have patience and persistence on my side as I do.  I want all my kiddos to get to the point one day where they can see themselves in others and completely get why someone may have had to do that


Does your teen read a variety of fiction?


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