The academic benefits of reading have been well publicized. What is less often considered is how those skills overlap into social situations. Social skills are a vital part of a child’s growth and development. While we are increasingly connected on the digital front, we are also becoming less connected in everyday life. More children are growing up in this fast-paced and frenetic environment. As they move on to adulthood and the job market, learning appropriate methods of social interaction at an early age will be even more important. Reading books can improve those skills.
Reading books improves concentration and patience
It is generally well-known that reading improves focus and concentration in academics. That same focus is essential to social interaction. Think of the many crucial traits of a good conversationalist: the ability to give your full attention and be present in the moment, to wait for your partner to finish their thought before adding your own, and stay in the conversation, even if it has become tedious or a source of conflict. Sounds like a book, doesn’t it? Reading books helps children to develop that patience and concentration, making them better at conversation and conflict resolution.
Reading books (particularly fiction) increases empathy
The ability to step inside another’s mind, to feel what they feel and understand their thoughts, seems an insurmountable concept. Adults have a hard time explaining how it works, so imagine how much harder it is for children. In fact, children are not born with the ability to feel empathy. They learn this skill through social interaction with family, their peers, and society in general. Luckily, books can help with that. Research shows that reading fiction puts us in the mind of another person, allows us to experience every challenge, feel every emotion, and triumph over adversities right alongside our favorite characters. This direct immersion in another person’s mind stimulates systems in the brain, and develops the ability to empathize with other human beings.
Reading books enhances social problem-solving
In addition to learning empathy, books provide an endless supply of social interaction examples from which to learn. Scenes full of character dialogue show children effective – and ineffective – ways to handle conflict in a variety of situations. It allows children to experience a range of moods and emotions they aren’t likely to experience in everyday life. Experiencing these emotions in a “safe” environment allows the child to think about how they might react in a similar situation, preparing them for future interactions. This makes their emotional development more well-rounded and mature.
Reading books provides topics for discussion and learning
In addition to problem solving, books hold the gold standard for sparking thoughtful discussion, no matter what age you are. Books provide children with topics that might not come up in everyday conversation. Not only does talking about these topics aid in logic and reasoning growth but it also is perfect for group discussion!
So there you have it. These are just some of the benefits that reading has on social skill development for children. Perhaps the best benefit, however, is the one you create when you read with a child: a lasting and healthy bond.