Reading with children

a blog by Magic Tales

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Navigating the Magical Labyrinth of Empathy: The Catch-22 Surrounding Children and Reading

Ever felt like you’re on a lonely island, trying to impart empathy to your child without any Magic Beans to aid you? I've been there, and I can tell you that it's both challenging and confusing.

Navigating the terrain of emotions with children, especially when it comes to empathy, can often feel like a maze. We strive to create compassionate individuals, but there are times when it seems that all attempts at grounding them in the reality of others’ feelings end up falling on deaf ears.

Reading has always been my silver bullet solution to most of my parenting woes, but I was stuck when it came to understanding how to breach the barrier of empathy. How could I use this powerful tool to cultivate a better understanding of empathy in my child?

The thrill of the chase and a world inside a book!
The beauty of reading is that it transports a person into another world, a world filled with diverse characters, facing varied situations and emotions. A child’s mind absorbs these stories like a sponge, often leading them to understand and feel the pleasure, pain, happiness, and sorrow of the characters. But here is the catch-22. My child was happy to experience those emotions, but often the empathy stayed within the pages of the book.

Bringing empathy from pages to the real world
The real challenge for me was to bring empathy outside the world of books and into real interactions. I realized that although I was reading books with my child and discussing the characters' feelings, I was not connecting those feelings to his world.

Tip-toe through the tulips - connecting the world inside a book with the real world
Here’s the thing - Using stories and situations from books, I began relating them to real-life situations. For example, if a character in a book was sad because they lost their toy, I would remind my child about a time he lost something he cherished. We would then talk about how it made him feel, and that's how another person might feel when they lose something.

The power of a question
Asking questions such as “How do you think that made the character feel?” or “Remember when you felt like that?” soon became instrumental in crafting these empathy bridges. Not only did this make our reading sessions more interactive, but soon I began noticing a newfound understanding in my son. He was showing empathy, not just while reading, but also during everyday interactions.

Victory is sweet when the quest is arduous
As a mother, nothing made me more proud than seeing my once seemingly indifferent child grow into an empathetic individual by harnessing the power of reading. It wasn't an overnight transformation, but the slow and steady path was totally worth the sweat and worry.

So, if you’re bobbing in a similar boat of struggles, remember it's all about 'Reading, Relating, and Responding.' Together, we can sow the seeds of empathy as we traverse the magical garden of children’s literature.

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