Middle Grade Fiction and Social Situations

While our kids are still in diapers, we’re already teaching them the rules of social behavior. Things like, “Say please.” “Say thank you.” “Don’t hit your sister.” But as hard as we try to bring up polite, well-mannered, confident, compassionate children, we can’t possibly teach them how to act in every single situation in life.

But there is a way to help them feel better prepared for, say, bullies. Or stranger danger. Or how to show tolerance and kindness for those who are different. Turns out, reading books can do all that and more.

Studies have shown that children (and people of all ages, really) who read fiction are also more socially polished. The reason for this, they believe, is because when we read about a situation, we actually practice that situation in our minds. Reading fiction is like rehearsal for real life. And because reading requires active participation (as opposed to the passive participation of watching a movie,) our minds process the experience in a way that is memorable and meaningful.

Ragamuffin CV4 frontSo when we read about how an underdog handled a bully, and then we face a bully of our own, we recall that information. It’s almost as if we’ve lived the situation before, and it gives us confidence that we can get through it again.

When we read about a person who is different, and then we encounter a person who is different, we’re not as uncomfortable with the differences. Again, it’s like we’ve lived the experienced before.

Fiction makes us more polished. geralds journal 2 cover

That’s one of the reason we try to include characters with disabilities in our middle-grade fiction. Two books that present disabled characters in a positive way – really, in a way that doesn’t highlight their disability nearly as much as their awesome personalities – are Gerald’s Journal and The Ragamuffin Sisters: The Mysterious Mr. Whistler. If you or someone you know has a middle grade reader, I highly recommend these books. Check them out! You’ll be glad you did. 6

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