If you want your children to be emotionally intelligent, compassionate people who can accurately anticipate, diagnose, and care for their own inner life–read to them.

If you want them to be skilled at extending this type of empathy and compassion to others–read to them.

On the whole, I believe great books are better suited to teach these skills than film.

A good book gives the reader insight into the thoughts, fears, feelings, hopes, and motivations of the characters in ways that are extremely hard to replicate on film. In fact, most film that attempts to take the viewer into the mind of the character comes off poorly. The voiced over monologue strikes us as unnatural at best, and super-cheesy at worst.

As you read to your kids, they will not only be exercising their imaginations to visualize the scenes (something that film probably portrays better than print media)–but will be entering into the inner life of the characters. Depending on the point of view of the narration, they will also receive insightful commentary on the thoughts, feelings and motives of those characters.

All the while they will be developing the imaginative muscle necessary to be able to be emotionally intelligent–for themselves, and for those around them–hopefully evidenced by empathy, compassion, and wisdom.