The Huffington Post has a column here stressing the importance of teaching empathy to children, along with skills. The idea is that the ability to work with other people is as valuable a skill as specific work competencies.
Nice column. A few thoughts:
We don’t just need to try to develop empathy in students, we need to feel empathy for students—to understand the harm we do in forcing them to do endless test prep, and to learn a curriculum that may not be of any interest or value to them.
Empathy consists in caring about other people. I believe we care about people when we have some knowledge and understanding of their lives. An excellent way to increase our knowledge and understanding of others is through wide, avid reading. Then we’re pulled into the minds of thousands of narrators, and see a wide variety of experiences through eyes other than our own.
Let’s make the development of a love and habit of reading in children a top priority. Not only will kids acquire advanced reading skills, they will be wiser about the feelings and concerns of thousands of other people, and so have an easier time feeling empathy.