The Death of One Way Thinking: Do books change the way teenagers think

If a book is well written, it can change the way you think. Whether it’s your view on life in general or just a singular topic. For example, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by Death and gives a new insight into the everyday lives of Germans in World War II and the struggles they faced. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein does not focus on the lives of Germans or Jews during World War II, but instead describes the lives of the women in the British air force and gives new insight into their lives as they try to fight for their country against the axis powers and overcome the sexism they have to deal with. Night by Elie Wiesel tells the horrors of his life in a concentration life that can open your eyes to the unfiltered suffering of Jews and was one of the first true accounts of what went on in the eyes of a Jew. All three of these books are about the same overall topic, World War II but tell stories of different people involved. This gives the audience a greater grasp of what the world was really like for several different groups of people and changes how the reader views the subject.

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This same idea that reading changes the way someone thinks about the subject was studied by the University of Toronto, where they found “people who read regularly are more open minded than those who don’t” because of the different points of view in books. By reading a book set in multiple points of view, a teenager will be able to put themselves into the minds of several different people and sympathize with them.

 Empathy

Reading books like The Book Theif, Code Name Verity, or Night expand your mind. Even if you only read one, you would gain knowledge about a topic you didn’t know as well before and gain insight into the lives of characters in the book, or in the case of Night, empathy for real people who suffered horrors beyond our comprehension. Unless we actually through the holocaust there is no way for us to know how terrible it was, but by reading about it you change the way you think about the topic because you will think of the way the camps were explained in the book.

According to Scientific American, literary fiction is so effective in opening your mind because “The characters disrupt reader expectations, undermining prejudices and stereotypes” they teach values, how to react properly in social behaviors and “the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.”

 

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Open Minds

The University of Toronto studied the effects of reading on creativity, and the article that reported the study states, “people who read regularly are more open minded than those who don’t.”because of the multiple points of view in fiction writing. The same study also found that after reading a short story, people had less need for certainty and were able to go with the flow more than people who had just read an essay. Their reasoning for this was that a reader can think along with a character they don’t like- no matter how terrible they are, and by thinking in a way different than their own, the reader can have an “opening of the mind”. The study follows this by stating long term readers are more affected by this than those who don’t read.

A study by The Smithsonian proved teenage brains are extremely impressionable and can be responsive to positive feedback.

Likewise, if a teen had a nurturing or positive childhood were better at understanding others. This study is similar to that of the University of Toronto because of their nature. Both suggest the brain can be influenced, either by reading or by positive influences as a child. The two studies suggest if a teenager actively reads fiction they will be more open minded and will be able to understand the people around them better than those who don’t.

Positive Role Models

Characters in books often leave an impact on young readers minds. They might look up to a certain person in a book because they are brave, or kind, or funny. This is similar to when young girls say “I want to be a princess when I grow up” after watching a Disney movie. This is a testament to the idea that children and teenagers minds are easily impressed upon by their surroundings. If this is an idea that young adults minds can change based on their influences is taken into account when talking about reading books, you would think that the characters in books teens read play a similar role as other things in their lives, such as their parents, friends, or even the TV shows they watch.

Female empowerment has become a common trend in pop culture in the past few years to make women feel more confident. Recently the idea has transferred into young adult literature in hopes of inspiring the young women reading the book. There are countless articles and lists on female characters to look up to, like this article on Goodreads which lists a multitude of books with strong female characters that many people find inspiring. BuzzFeed also made a list of the strongest female characters that inspired them when they were younger, including Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Matilda from Matilda, and Princess Cimorene from Dealing with Dragons.

Maya Angelou is a perfect example of changing the way you think through reading, even though her childhood was a long time ago. She immersed herself in reading books at the library, and eventually got over her childhood trauma because of it. She, later on, became an extremely successful poet because of her love for reading.

A one-track mind is defined as a focus on one issue or topic, to the point of exclusion of everything else. This can apply to the way teenagers think as well, without thinking of others or their situations. Reading can open their minds and help teenagers and younger kids learn, both including Shakira and Angelina Jolie work to build schools in developing countries so young children, especially girls will be able to learn and help themselves in the future.

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