By Lauren Entwistle
IF YOU want to improve the personality of a friend or relative, you could give them a book as a Christmas gift.
A new study states that people who read fiction are more likely to be better at displaying empathy and have a more understanding nature.
Study author Prof Keith Oatley from the University of Toronto, Canada, found in an experiment that readers who were “transported into a fictional story” were more likely to respond to others needing help.
Reading can help people become more open-minded, agrees Dr Liam Satchell, a research associate with the Changing Mindsets Team at the University of Portsmouth.
“It’s a great way to expose a person to different views and ways of seeing the world.
“Exploring the lives of others, even fictional characters, can help build better understanding and appreciation of diversity and adversity, not to mention that literacy is a gateway to so many more ways of interacting with other people.
“An experienced reader has many interactions with novel thought, which is great for an individual’s cultural and social development.”
One experiment from the study focused on a group of people reading a story, and saw that the more engrossed participants were the first ones to assist picking up a pot of dropped pens.
Rachel Kelly, the chief executive of literary charity Reading Matters, believes the skill of reading is vital to improving people’s lives, especially children.
“It’s about opening eyes to different worlds and cultures and being able to make your own decisions based on what you read.
“The outcome of reading good literature is knowledge, which gives people the ability to make choices.
“Gifting a book that interests and appeals to a young reader is great – it’s something that can be treasured.”
For the first time in four years, the sales of printed books have risen to £2.76 billion pounds from £2.748 billion in 2016.
The increase has been attributed to the public discovering the joys of reading from a physical copy, causing a £9 million pound drop in e-book sales.
Mark Sansbury, manager of the Grove Bookshop in Ilkley said: “This is probably our busiest period of the year, because books are indeed popular choices as a Christmas gift.
“The range of books sold over the festive period is vast, and I couldn’t really say that all of them are going to improve people, but there’s a definite perception that a book is a quality gift, one which shows thought and esteem from the buyer, so I suppose to some extent those suspicions are correct.”