How Reading Helps Kids Develop Empathy – If you have elementary-school-aged kids, or if you just enjoy middle grade books, check out the excellent Middle Grade blog, From the Mixed Up Files. It's chock full of helpful information for parents, teachers, and writers of middle grade readers. One of their recent posts is about how reading helps kids develop empathy.
I experienced this lesson first hand with my kids. I read aloud to my kids until they were around 10 or 11 years old. Plus, I gave them a special book allowance, where I would buy them one book a month– in addition to their regular allowance. They were also given an extra half-hour later bedtime, if they wanted to read in bed — but it could only be used for reading. I also suggested books I thought they might like, not books I wanted them to read, but books I truly thought they'd enjoy. As a result, they read a lot as kids and as teens. In fact, my son came home from college and was happy he was able to read a book for pleasure during his winter break.
Now that they're 15 and 18, I'm starting to see the results of all this reading. Not only has their regular reading habit helped them with their SAT scores and writing, but it also has helped them empathize with others and understand people who are quite different from themselves. They both are able to get along with lots of different people, without much drama, because they seem to understand others pretty easily.
When kids read, they get to feel what it's like to live in other parts of the country or world and even other imaginary societies. They get to experience romance, adventure, and heartbreak vicariously, and see how others handle those situations, and what the consequences of their actions are. This gives kids who read an upper-hand when they start dating, or have to deal with drinking and drugs, or head off to college, or when they get their first job. There's nothing like getting to do tricky things vicariously first to help you feel more confident when you start doing them as yourself in the real world. This doesn't mean that my kids have never learned life lessons the harder self-experience way. They have, but they also seemed to learn a lot of lessons the easy way too.
PS – Middle Grade books are fiction novels for kids from around 8-12 years,
Smash ( 4 stars) – I watched the pilot for the new TV show, Smash, on Hulu last night and loved it. Smash is the fictional story about a Broadway play coming to life. It starts at the beginning, when a writing team first gets the idea to do a musical about Marilyn Monroe, and I imagine will follow the story all the way up to the show's opening and beyond.
The pilot deals with introducing the major players: the writing team, the producer, and the director. The potential leads are introduced as the initial production team starts auditioning for the lead role of Marilyn.
All the major players have their own problems and dreams and I can already see what conflicts are coming, and the potential Marilyn has to be a smash hit, but also the real possibility that it might not make it to Broadway either. The insider details of putting together a Broadway show, plus the musical numbers, plus the individual character stories make the show really fun to watch. Smash has the strong potential to become a favorite show.
The cast of Smash is a mix of excellent unknown actors and well-known actors, like: Anjelica Huston, Jack Davenport (Coupling, The Event) and Debra Messing (Will and Grace). I don't usually like Debra Messing, but so far, her character is pretty low-key.
[The pilot is available to view for free without registration on Hulu. It's also available for free online viewing on NBC. The show premieres on NBC, on February 6th at 10/9c.]