Being in the middle of a book has been my happy place since I first sounded out the words to Are You My Mother? when I was about 6 years old. My mom had gotten so sick of reading that book to me she told me to learn how to read it myself, so I did and I’ve been going strong ever since.
I’m not a picky book consumer either. I’ll read just about anything on any medium — real-live books, computers, e-readers, fiction, nonfiction. According to my Kindle, I usually average over 100 books a year on there, so yes, I’m a certifiable bookworm. I’m obsessed with the words, with the other worlds, with the characters, with the stories, with all of it.
So imagine my delight when a recent study done by Kingston University London reported that bookworms are, indeed, superior human beings. I knew it! Okay, so maybe the study just said that people who read books are more empathetic and kinder, but I’m going to interpret that as more fabulous altogether.
The study looked at the differences between people who preferred to read (specifically fiction) versus those who enjoyed watching television. They found that the readers were actually more in tune with how others’ feel. Rose Turner, study leader, said that, “Engaging with fictional prose and comedy, in particular, could be key to enhancing people’s empathetic abilities.” Interesting.
The genre of fiction seemed to make a difference too. Fiction-lovers had better social skills. People who read romance and drama were able to see others’ points of view better. And the comedy readers could relate to others the most. The researchers did note that more research needs to be done because they aren’t sure whether or not kinder, more empathetic people are simply just more attracted to those types of stories.
If the study’s findings are indeed true, there is hope for our future because some new analysis by the Pew Research Center found that millennials are more likely to visit the library than other generations. The research officially said that, “four-in-ten Millennials (41%) used a library website in the past 12 months, compared with 24% of Boomers.” Whew. Let’s learn some things and make the world into a better, kinder place. I mean, maybe the light is great in there for selfies, but I’m betting that they are actually reading stuff too.
I would have to say that I think of myself as being pretty empathetic and kind most of the time, but ironically, not when I’m in the middle of a good book. I get sucked in so far that I think a steamroller could roll through my living room and I wouldn’t notice, let alone worry about the needs of anyone but myself. But we just won’t talk about that part. For now, I’m going with it. Readers = superior humans.
So if you want to be a nice person, read! And teach your kids to read so they can be nice people too. It’s probably better than watching reality television, and we don’t even need a study to tell us that.