Book Magic, the Empathy Spell

Fools

I have long known that reading good books is the primary path to being a wizard.  There are many, many things you can learn from the magic contained in fiction books, but now there is also research that proves books can improve your empathetic skills.  Here is the article I found to suggest it is so;

http://blog.theliteracysite.com/fiction-readers/?utm_source=lit-twcfan&utm_medium=social-fb&utm_term=20160108&utm_content=link&utm_campaign=fiction-readers&origin=lit_twcfan_social_fb_link_fiction-readers_20160108

If you don’t feel energetic enough to actually go there and read that, let me summarize a bit.  When you read a good fiction story, you get to live for a while in another person’s skin… see the world through someone else’s eyes… and if it is intelligent, realistic, and complex enough, it rewires a bit of the part of your brain that tries to understand and make sense of perspectives that are new to you, not merely habits that you follow down muddy, well-worn paths on auto-pilot.  You get to practice understanding other people.  And the more you practice this with well-written, insightful material, the more empathetic you will become.  The article notes significantly that children reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series develop skill at compassion.  I can personally testify that as a middle school teacher, I saw that very thing happening as students in my nerd classes not only became more sensitive towards the gifted weirdos in their class because of Harry, but also became more understanding of the special education students, and other often-bullied minorities.  Harry Potter books are literally magic books.

Here are some other notable books and their magical powers;

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is taught in numerous middle schools and high schools across the country because teachers have instinctively realized how much it does to solve problems of racial and cultural tension in the school environment.  It tackles the unfairness of racism, the effects of extreme poverty, the possible side effects of too much religion, and it illustrates everything through the voice of a very intelligent young girl.  Learning hard lessons becomes practically painless.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by the angel of death.  It is set in Nazi Germany in the war years.  The central character is the daughter of a man arrested and executed as a communist.  She is forced to live with German foster parents who turn out to be very loving individuals, though they are enduring difficulties of their own.  They not only love and nurture her, they take in a young Jewish man who is fleeing the Gestapo and the work camps.  In the face of the constant threat of death, the main character learns to read both books and people, to care about others, and face the deaths of those she loves without fear.  This book makes beauty out of human ugliness and war, and love out of fear and death.  Very powerful magic, in my humble opinion.

So what am I saying in this Paffoonied post of books and magic?  Only this.  There is magic power to be gained from reading fiction books, especially well-written fiction books.  Try it for yourself.  You may accidentally turn yourself into a frog… or a little girl from Maycomb, Georgia in the 1930’s… but it will turn out to be very good magic.  Go ahead, try it.  I dare you.

11 Comments

Filed under book reports, humor, magic, Paffooney

11 responses to “Book Magic, the Empathy Spell

  1. I completely agree and love books for precisely this.

  2. Two excellent books and movies for those who would rather use that medium. Lessons abound.

    • I do love both of those movies too. Gregory Peck is incredible as Atticus. And Geoffrey Rush in Book Thief made me weep my eyes out. (No, really, I had to fish around in the dark on the floor of the movie theater and use a little extra Elmer’s glue to get them back in place.)

      • Agreed on both counts. By the way, I cannot bring myself to read Harper Lee’s new book, even though I own it, as I do not want to tarnish my image of Atticus. He ages differently in my mind.

  3. As I’ve gotten older, I prefer non-fiction, but lately I’ve tried fiction again.

    • Nothing that is true is ever true-er than the truth you can find in fiction. Non-fiction is written by people who don’t have ALL the facts. Some facts will later prove to be mere opinion, and incorrect. But if you can tell a truth is true with your heart… (Yeah, I know. It still can be a misguided opinion. But it feels true.)

  4. Even poorly written book can transport you.

  5. I remember reading something about this research a while ago, so it’s great to get your perspective as a teacher witnessing the change in children.

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