Digital Reading, Learnings | January 9, 2023

Emotional Intelligence: A Key Benefit of Reading


Reading supports children’s social-emotional development, boosting empathy and emotional intelligence. When we get children reading, we help them develop stronger self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision-making – crucial skills to lead a happy and successful life.

Three girls smile at the camera as they hold each other in the schoolyard.

We know that reading is a superpower that helps children reach their potential in school and life. Readers benefit from greater educational outcomes and go on to earn more than their peers. But did you know that books can also help boost emotional intelligence, a key skill for success?

The importance of emotional intelligence

Think about someone you consider a great leader, or an extraordinary changemaker – what are their most impressive skills? Is it just their technical skills, or their ability to inspire and influence others? Maybe their creativity and out-of-the-box thinking? What about their drive and hard work?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is one of humanity’s most powerful gifts. It allows us to explore our own emotions and recognize others’ and encourages us to make responsible choices. It’s the foundation of success in living and working together as a society, as it enables us to support, lead, and empower each other, and work together for a common goal.

From teamwork to leadership, the “soft skills” of some of the most remarkable humans stem from emotional intelligence development.

Girl talks to the rest of the class from her school desk

Emotionally intelligent people are more successful

Children with higher emotional intelligence stay more focused and engaged in school and build more positive relationships with their peers. Research shows that they tend to make healthier choices and even earn better grades.

In adults, EI has been linked to improved mental health and socialization as well as career success. Employers look to hire and promote candidates who show strong emotional competence, and professionals with high EI earn more than their colleagues across all industries.

From the workplace to school, from family to community, emotional competence makes us happier and more successful.

Is reading linked to emotional intelligence?

Numerous studies prove that reading fiction boosts empathy and emotional intelligence. In addition to stronger comprehension, writing, and critical thinking skills, reading allows children to walk in a character’s shoes, recognize their own and new emotions on the page, and see how different complex relationships can unfold. Plus, by taking them on a variety of adventures, stories stimulate a child’s imagination and creativity.

Even though our emotional competence can benefit from reading at any age, we know that starting readers young is crucial, and family reading plays a major role in a child’s EI development. By age four, most children use self-regulation strategies to manage their emotions. By age eight, children’s social and emotional functioning begins to stabilize, predicting their behavior patterns and mental health later in life.

Books are powerful allies for parents, caregivers, and educators who wish to support the development of a child’s emotional intelligence. That’s why Worldreader provides the tools, reading material, and support caregivers and educators need to get children reading at least 25 books a year with understanding, and why we place a special emphasis on children 3-8 years of age.

“Family life is our first school for emotional learning.”

Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence

Four ways reading improves emotional intelligence

Reading benefits all fields of emotional intelligence, including the CASEL-5 framework areas for social-emotional learning – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. But what does that mean for children?

  1. Reading minds. Talk about the magic of reading! Books help us recognize how other people feel and pick up quickly on social clues. Readers develop social skills that allow them to understand other people’s emotions and react appropriately.
  2. Knowing oneself. Readers are exposed to a rich vocabulary to explain emotions. When characters describe how they feel, children learn to name their own experiences and better communicate their needs, boundaries, and emotions to others.
  3. Critical thinkers. Readers live exciting adventures, solve problems, and ponder dilemmas through the characters on the page. Engaging reads allow children to reflect on the story and critically evaluate its content. BookSmart’s free digital books include fun learning activities that are designed to help children engage with the story and make the best out of reading.
  4. Empathy = inclusion. Books are powerful tools that help children identify with the characters in a story. Sometimes these characters speak and look like us. Sometimes, they live far away in space and time. Stories nurture empathy and encourage us to celebrate our differences, fostering equality and inclusion.
Child and father read together on BookSmart

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