Empathy and Reading

Here’s more good news for children who read.  A Study by the New School for Social Research in New York revealed that reading quality fiction improves empathy. ( Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy.)  This will not surprise avid readers or their parents.

51meGC4gxXL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Your child likely goes to school with someone like Albie.   No matter how hard he studies, he can’t pass the weekly spelling test, or read on grade level.   He never gets picked for sports team and sits alone in the cafeteria.

As Albie shares his story in Absolutely Almost, the reader learns that Albie’s parents are busy people with high expectations for their son.  Mom and Dad feel disappointed that Albie has been asked to leave his private school.  When his  father tells him that his grades are “unacceptable,”  Albie feels baffled because he tries so hard but his work is never good enough.

Albie  knows he is not a “cool kid.” A brief period of “popularity” followed by rejection by the same crowd only leaves him feeling more dejected

His new babysitter, Calista, finds new ways to help him study spelling and math, teaches him how to draw and counsels him on the social dynamics of fifth grade.  As a newcomer to New York City, she insists that Albie show her around. Albie may not be a whiz in the classroom but he  navigates his New York neighborhood.    Unfortunately, Calista often forgets that she is working for Albie’s parents and makes some unwise decisions.

Albie is an appealing character, resourceful and kind. When Calista breaks up with her boyfriend, Albie sneaks downstairs to buy her ice cream. He takes the blame for vandalism in his classroom to keep his friend Betsy out of trouble.

The reader can’t help but root for Albie. There are no simple solutions but his story ends on an optimistic note.   When his grandfather criticizes Albie’s grades, his dad defends his son.  Father and son work on a model airplane together.

Children will both identify and sympathize with Albie.  After seeing the world through Albie’s eyes for 320 pages, they will see some of their classmates with new eyes.  This is a great book for children in 3rd-6th grades.