I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how reading can expand the scope of our empathy.

Narratives are powerful, which is one of the reasons I always try to undergird my lessons with them. Andrew Fletcher, the Scottish political activist, once said, “Let me write the songs of a nation–I don’t care who writes its laws.” The same can be said for stories.

I often try to expand my empathy by considering other cultures, and while this is conventionally supposed to be done by traveling the world, reading about foreign lives can have a similar effect, without the potential alienation that comes from feeling other while abroad. Instead, through the narratives of fiction or nonfiction, we inhabit the heads of others in a way that feels completely natural.

When we do spend time in the heads of people otherwise foreign to us, we begin to consider them part of our tribe. Through better understanding, they are one of us, not one of them. This is so important. We could all stand to do more work tearing down the walls that divide us.