CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A while back, there was a story about a possible benefit of reading fiction: Empathy. Researchers at the University of Buffalo measured more empathetic responses in 140 college students who read certain novels compared to those who didn't.
I was reminded of that story this week when readers started showing up in our lobby lugging bags and boxes of children's books.
They responded immediately, empathetically, to the announcement of the Gazette's Happy Valentine's Children's Book Drive.
Bring us your extra children's books, clean and in good shape, suitable for any age, we said. Our friends at Children's Home Society and Read Aloud West Virginia will help us distribute them to children who need books at home.
My phone rang all day.
I cleaned out a book sale, one man said. I'm coming to Charleston tomorrow. How do I get to your office?
First thing Wednesday the barrel started to fill. I saw "The Secret Garden" and "Call of the Wild," Brian Jacques and Rick Riordin, many brand new with the sale stickers still on them.
The call to help kids who lack the advantage of having books at home made immediate sense to readers.
It is easy to summarize in a news story the relatively academic benefits of reading to children and making sure they have interesting books to read themselves. Kids who listen to books and read for fun learn more words. They do better in school, make better grades, score better on tests and go further in school. Ultimately they have better job prospects, tend to have higher lifetime earnings and even enjoy better health.
But there are other benefits from reading that are less tangible and more difficult to articulate, at least until recently.