guest post by: C.J. Quinn
Does your child enjoy reading fantasy books? If so, your child may be smarter than you think. Reading the genre of fiction and fantasy has many social and behavioral advantages.
Intelligence quotient (IQ) was once considered the golden standard for measuring how smart a person was. However, in 1995 Daniel Goleman, an internationally known psychologist, proved that we weren’t taking into account emotional intelligence when determining a person’s intellect. According to Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a person’s ability to identify, evaluate, control and express emotions.” Since Goleman’s theory, both IQ and EQ are now combined in order to study the ‘intelligence’ of a person.
A person with a high IQ as well as a high EQ is a person who has good interpersonal skills and possesses compassion and empathy. As a result, this person is able to develop strong relationships, has greater self-awareness, and operates with the faculty of reasoning and understanding.
Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings. Research consistently shows that the more people read, the more it helps people’s understanding of others. The genre of fantasy is an especially effective way to encourage empathy among children. For example, when children read fantasy that provides valuable lessons, such as environmental awareness, they become more empathetic toward important issues. In the case of environmental fantasy, they learn how to be sympathetic about human impact on the natural world that surrounds them.
In recent years, psychologists and childhood development experts have expressed concern with the apparent decline in empathy among children and young adults. One study found that the number of children’s stories parents expose their preschoolers to can predict a preschooler’s ability to understand the emotions of others.
Fortunately, one can start learning empathy by reading fantasy. The genre of fantasy encompasses a world of imagination and make-believe with myth and legend involved. Fantasy appeals to children because it brings them out of the mundane and into a world of magic. Reading fantasy gives children an important tool in dealing with reality by discovering hidden meanings within the story. Fantasy is timeless and has shaped culture for centuries. The security of knowing that the story is fantasy gives the reader a safe place to discover topics that are sometimes difficult to understand or too frightening to confront. A child’s brain may not be developed enough to understand a subject that is beyond their comprehension. Through the experience of reading fantasy the child’s mind has a chance to make sense of their lives by learning through the sympathetic experience.
Many children today spend more time indoors than outdoors. They are becoming deprived of the connection between who they are and the marvel of the natural experience. America is in the midst of one of the most profound and rapid societal shifts in history. Today’s generation is the first to grow up indoors. Their plugged-in lives are often devoid of exploration of the natural world. It is difficult to teach about nature in the classroom when children are detached from it. In the year 2000, two-thirds of the public failed a basic environmental quiz and 88 percent failed a basic energy quiz. By spending very little time outdoors there are costs to our children’s health: attention difficulties, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, and a diminished use of senses.
However, children who read environmental fantasy may have a more intrinsic yearning to go outside. And, once a child has the opportunity to learn about their environment through reading fantasy, the child begins the transformation of becoming a guardian of the environment, rather than simply being a consumer of it. The child now has the empathy to relate to his environment and the desire to go outside and experience nature. When our youth read environmental fantasy it helps them become ambassadors of the earth. The National Environmental Education Foundation Act of 1990 (NEEF) believes “with increased environmental involvement of individuals on a national scale, their actions, taken collectively, will have a tremendous environmental impact and help bring about a cultural shift in attitudes and behaviors.”
The rewards from reading environmental fantasy for our youth spawns a new empathy and understanding for the natural world. This in turn assists in molding them into stewards of the environment in which they inhabit.
C.J. Quinn is the author of Talia and the Capture of Wrath, a middle grade fantasy novel that promotes environmental awareness. After traveling the world, she settled down to start a family, which has proven to be the biggest adventure yet. She currently resides in Seattle with her family.
Talia and the Capture of Wrath is available via Amazon wherever books are sold. The audio version of Talia and the Capture of Wrath was released November, 2016.