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Neuroscientists mapping the brain have discovered that reading fiction taps into the same brain networks as real life experience. When you are engaged in reading a fictional story your brain is literally living vicariously through the characters at a neurobiological level!
In August 2014, Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, gave a lecture titled "Fiction and Its Relation to Real-World Empathy, Cognition, and Behaviour," at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention. In his lecture, Mar discussed how exposure to narrative fiction can improve theory of mind and someone's ability to understand what others are thinking, feeling, and doing.
Mar explained that when you are engaged in reading a story that your brain automatically puts yourself in the character’s shoes. Throughout the process of reading narrative fiction, the reader learns life lessons from how he or she personally experiences the journey of the protagonist and other characters in the story. So read these stories with your children or encourage your children to read them themselves. Then talk about the story and its characters afterwards. Learning to recognise and understand the feelings of other people and animals is important in developing empathy and compassion.