The Link between Reading and Empathy

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.


Hello everyone. I hope all is well with you. I’ve been working on my second WIP and it’s coming along. I try to make it perfect and then I have to tell myself to relax and let the story flow. It is after all, my first draft. My seventh novel has been on the back burner, simmering while  a third Beta reader checks it out. I’ve gotten very positive feedback from the first two, so I’m crossing my fingers. 🙂

In between my writing times I’ve been keeping a presence on social media and I’ve gotten involved in some Twitter Chats. These chats have centered on the topic of Diversity and Social Media.

Photo via VisualHunt

It seems to me that Social Media has allowed people to drop their masks and spew their hate for certain minorities, genders, or people of different sexual orientations. Since these people can’t see the hurt they inflict, they don’t experience the consequences of their actions, so they keep doing it.

Photo credit: Eddi van W. via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

The reality is empathy for our fellow man is declining.  With the internet and social media, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been in our entire lives, and yet we’re struggling to be empathetic. Why?

Some researchers feel that information overload has made our brains screen out the emotionally expensive content. It’s a defense mechanism. They’ve also found the increase in screen time has an inverse relationship with empathy. Simply put, when our screen time increases our ability to empathize decreases. To learn more click this link:

Another study states there has been a sharp decline in reading for pleasure in the last ten years. What’s interesting is that along with this decline there’s also been a decline in the ability to feel compassion for others. As an author I find that very interesting. Don’t you?

This strongly suggests reading is linked to empathy. In fact, studies have shown the number of books preschoolers read predicts their ability to empathize. To read the full article click here:


 Photo credit: Brian Metcalfe via Visual hunt / CC BY


So authors keep writing, don’t give up. Write those diverse books and try to ignore the haters. If they don’t get a reaction they can’t continue spewing their garbage.  It’s hard to ignore them, I know, but we as a society need those books. There’s enough readers out there for all of us, so let’s band together and send out a positive vibration that obliterates their negative one. Don’t even engage with them. They’ll get the message sooner or later.

To read more Slice of Life Posts click here.



About Lisa Orchard

I'm a Young Adult Author with two new series, "The Starlight Chronicles" and "The Super Spies." The first one's a coming of age series and the second one's a mystery/thriller series. I'm also the mother of two boys who keep me hopping and they're my inspiration for everything. When I'm not shuttling my boys to school or a play date, I'm writing. When I'm not writing, I'm reading, hiking, or sometimes running. I love anything chocolate and scary movies too.
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43 Responses to The Link between Reading and Empathy

  1. sharonledwith says:

    Great post, great message, Lisa! People don’t realize the ripple effect that they cause hurts them in return. Cheers!

  2. Adrienne says:

    Indeed! An excellent post! Now more than ever We Need Diverse Books, and people getting them into readers’s hands.

  3. carriegelson says:

    I think the link between reading and empathy is a strong one. The more I read about other lives, the more I learn about how to be a human.

  4. elsie says:

    Story teaches us about others’ lives but also our own life. I worry what social media will do for developing humans. Hopefully, we can counteract this tide of ugliness with every book read.

  5. You are right that it’s hard to ignore hateful comments. Words hurt, especially ignorant words. What we can do is refuse to engage with the haters, despite the hurt we feel. My mother used to say, “They want you to be mad. Don’t give them what they want.”

  6. Tara Smith says:

    Reading about our world does make us more empathetic…I am on the fence about social media, seeing more disadvantages these days.

  7. aggiekesler says:

    I agree with you! I hate how people use social media as a platform to say hateful and mean things…most would never say them aloud!

  8. cvarsalona says:

    Lisa, thank you for sharing the information on empathy and reading. BTW, I love your digital image. Do you have one for my Spring’s Seeds Gallery?

    • Lisa Orchard says:

      You’re welcome, Carol. I will check and see if I can find one for your Spring’s Seeds Gallery. Which image were you interested in? Just let me know and I’ll send it to you. 🙂 Thanks for the shout out on Twitter by the way. It was a nice surprise.

  9. Definite serious regression going on in the world. It isn’t just in the US; it is a worldwide decline. No surprised by the connection between reading and empathy, or myths and legends/the superhero and virtue and character building. Thanks for a great read tonight,

    • Lisa Orchard says:

      You’re very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. It makes me sad to think the regression is worldwide. I hope we can turn this around. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Very thought provoking. I agree with this 100%. 🙂

  11. Reading has SOOO much value that I firmly believe it’s the most important thing anyone can learn. I’m hoping to pass my love of reading on to my children.

  12. Wow! This is so powerful. I am a huge believer in books and reading actual books – not just things on a screen. This gives me one more important reason to keep reading with my children and filling our house with books. Thank you!

  13. I’m actually doing an action research project on bullying and one of the articles I read said exactly this: having students read books with relatable characters who go through bullying can help build empathy

    • Lisa Orchard says:

      It’s so true! Reading is very important and bullying has become worse now that we have the social media arena. Thanks for stopping by! If you’d ever like to do a guest post on my blog, just let me know! I’d love to have you!

  14. Kristen says:

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly written!

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  16. Bernadette says:

    Lisa, I never thought about screen time leading to a lack of empathy. Something important to think about there. I do agree that reading can lead to empathy because as we know when you engage in reading you have to step into the character’s shoes.

  17. m88 says:

    It’s truly a nice and useful piece of info.
    I’m happy that you just shared this helpful info with us.
    Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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  20. thebeasley says:

    This is so interesting Lisa. The psychology of our increased screen time fascinates me & sadly what you’ve mentioned in your post does not surprise me. It has encouraged me to put down my phone & pick up a book instead though!

    • Lisa Orchard says:

      Good for you! Reading is such an important life skill. I’m encouraging my boys to read at least twenty minutes a day. It’s a great way to relieve stress and sharpen analytical skills as well!

      • thebeasley says:

        Absolutely. I’m hoping to pass my love of books onto my daughter too. So far, so good 👍🏻

      • Lisa Orchard says:

        That’s awesome! What does she like to read?

      • thebeasley says:

        Ooh anything and everything, but Roald Dahl is a particular favourite. Plus the Worst Witch, David Walliams’s books and Pippi Longstocking. She also loves factual books and is obsessed with her human biology book and a book about the greatest women in history. It’s a wonderful book that’s made her become obsessed with Amelia Earhart! She’s currently creating a plan to find her & I don’t have the heart to tell her she’ll never find her.

      • Lisa Orchard says:

        Awww…how sweet is that? I remember reading the Boxcar children and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. I think they’re still around and still quite popular. I don’t know if any of those would interest her. I was also a big fan of mysteries. The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew were huge hits with me. 🙂

      • thebeasley says:

        Ah wonderful. I’ll make a note of them. We love book suggestions. I’m sure she’ll love Laura Ingalls Wilder especially.

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