In English class, our most recent assignment was to choose a benefit of reading and lead a class discussion on it. Since I have a fascination with psychology, I decided to lead my
empathydiscussion on the effect reading has on your personality. I based my topic on an article posted in January 2016 by Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne ( The main argument made throughout the article is that reading fiction makes you more empathetic. I had never heard of this concept before, so I was fascinated when I found a heap of articles on this topic. I was interested to discuss it and hear what my classmates would have to say.

My teacher told us that we had to type a brief summary on the article

and insert 3 quotes, on a document, and print enough copies

to hand to each person in the class.

I gave the class a few minutes to read the paper in front of them and write a few notes, then we began the discussion. At first, I did most of the talking and then we began discussing the quotes. One of my quotes said “It’s not that empathetic people read more, but that reading promotes empathy.” My classmate Ben Tyler supported the quote by saying “I agree, when reading [fiction] you can feel what the characters are feeling, because when

reading-makes-u-betteryou’re reading about that person’s thoughts.” I like his response because the majority of people know the intensity of reading a fiction book. Reaching the climax  is unlike any other point in the book because it is usually extremely intense and sometimes easy to relate to.

A statement in my summary said “People became more empathetic after reading fiction but not after reading short nonfiction pieces.” Avery Semkow responded by saying that “longer pieces gives [the reader] more time to thing and reflect.” Avery made a great point because I know that when I read short pieces, I am often left with many questions that will never get answered. Having questions makes it difficult for me to connect with the story, so I completely agree to her statement.

The one quote that received a bulk of attention during the discussion is “Not only do many people believe that personality is fixed by the age of 30, even some scholars believe that your personality is predetermined by your genetics.” To me, this means that once you reach 30 years old, your personality has a low chance of being changed in any way, which includes reading books. This quote seems to also be saying that your personality is also genetic, which makes it even harder for it to change once you have lived 30 years of your life with that personality.  Many of my classmates commented on this:

“Is my personality more likely to change when I’m younger? -Brian Sayre

“Personality is shaped by experience but genetics helps.” -Samantha Bernstein

“Does listening to music do this [shape your personality] too? -Nick Frasco

“What personality traits are genetic?” -John Miele

“I think personality involves some genetics, but also the environment you grew up in.” -Skylar Giarusso

“Does Reading stop affecting you at 30 too?” -Thomas Hamrah

Overall, the discussion was a success because each person did have a chance to speak their opinion and ask questions. I also enjoyed this assignment because I am now curious about how reading will affect me the most.


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