Empathy, A Hidden Victim of Book Bans

When we read, we not only become aware of others and their differences but also their similarities to ourselves.

Many have probably heard the words empathy, empathetic, empathic, or even empath, but what do they mean, and why are they important? Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to experiences that are not your own. Much like the saying “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” empathy is what lets people do that.

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Other Perspectives

Read about other people’s experiences through fiction, non-fiction, or any genre of literature.

Reading is a way to experience other people’s lives from their perspectives. For example, reading a book from a male’s perspective will enable me to understand better what it would be like if I were a guy. Different backgrounds, cultures, and gender identities are all facets of being human.

Book Challenges Everywhere

Books currently challenged or banned across the United States represent many people’s experiences worldwide. There are those based on LGBTQ+ characters, black, indigenous, people of color, or BIPOC characters, and stories about people who have faced prejudices. Reading these books allows people to understand better what it means to be part of these communities and how lives are different.

We can understand other lives without having to live their lives. Books allow us to step into shoes that are not our own to understand what life is like for other people.

Fight for Your Right to Feel Empathy

Empathy is the ability to relate to other people and imagine what their lives are like lets us make changes to improve their lives. Readers empathize with themselves and parts of their identities because they represent what they are reading. These terms describe how people think about characters in stories, themselves, and others.

Books are an excellent way to understand better what life is like for people. Books can look deeper into characters, the reasons for doing things, and their thoughts. Many of my favorite books are about people who are nothing like me. One favorite is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It tells the story of a young boy living in Afghanistan. It has seen challenges around the country due to the story’s location and some of the experiences the main character, Amir, has grown up knowing. Books such as this let me explore what it means to live in a different place with different ways of life.


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Why is Empathy Important?

Empathy lets us make better decisions based on how we think about how those decisions affect other people. When we see someone, we make quick judgments based on their appearance or behavior. Empathy lets us look a bit deeper into what that person may be feeling or how they may be doing. The heart allows us to look at people with more understanding and patience. Empathy lets us think about more than just ourselves in any situation.

The Research

Studies have shown that reading can positively affect how people think and think about others. Explore why the characters make confident choices, how those choices affect other characters, and what happens when confident decisions. Fiction lets readers see what happens.

Imagination allows readers to think about how their own choices may affect others because the characters in the book make certain decisions, and those decisions lead to things happening. When we think about symbols and their preferences when we make our own choices, we can make better-informed choices based on what may happen.

Reading Makes Us Better Informed

All this is to say that reading improves people because we can see what life could be and how life is for others. By “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes,” we can change how people are treated and make changes to better the lives of others. By understanding the lives of those who are different from us, we learn empathy; we develop the skill of learning about people. Empathy is the ability to think of others as individuals with their own lives, no matter how different they are from us. Read more, hate less, and take the time to make changes.