Fantasy literature has been popular for centuries, captivating readers with its magical and imaginative elements. While some people view fantasy books as mere escapism, the truth is that reading fantasy can have numerous benefits, particularly for teenagers. While many of these benefits are true of reading in general, there are some benefits that I believe are somewhat unique to the fantasy genre (as opposed to other genres of books) because of the way it immerses readers in completely new worlds and environments. So, here are ten reasons why reading fantasy books is good for teens:
Sparking creativity and imagination
Fantasy books often feature magical creatures, unique worlds, and extraordinary characters that can spark the creativity and imagination of teenagers. By introducing them to different concepts and ideas, reading fantasy can help teenagers think outside the box and explore new possibilities. This can be particularly beneficial for teenagers who are often struggling to find their place in the world or feel limited by their current circumstances. (And these are common struggles for teens, because they're in that awkward between of not-quite-adulthood, and beginning to feel the tension of that transition.)
Developing critical thinking skills
Fantasy literature is known for its complex storylines, intricate characters, and detailed world-building. As teenagers delve into these books, they must analyze and interpret the information presented to them, which can help develop their critical thinking skills. They must evaluate the logic of the plot, the consistency of the world, and the motivations of the characters. This analytical process can enhance their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which is definitely a good thing!
Serving as a source of inspiration and motivation
Many fantasy books feature protagonists who overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and achieve their goals (often even world-changing, epic-scale goals). By reading these stories, teenagers can find inspiration and motivation to pursue their own dreams and passions, and the resolve and confidence to face and overcome the problems their own lives (and the real world) may throw at them. These books can provide them with a sense of hope and optimism, reminding them that even overwhelming problems can have a solution if they are resourceful, courageous, and determined enough to face their problems head on. (And by assembling a solid support system, too, because very few fantasy characters save the world completely solo!)
Improving language skills
Fantasy books often use unconventional sentence structures and introduce new vocabulary, challenging teenagers to expand their language skills. By reading these books, teenagers can improve their reading comprehension, writing ability, and communication skills. This can be particularly beneficial for teenagers who struggle with language learning, as fantasy books can make learning fun and engaging.
Providing an escape from reality
One of the most significant benefits of reading fantasy books is also the most obvious: their ability to provide an escape from reality. By immersing themselves in a different world, teenagers can temporarily forget their problems and relax. Don't dismiss this as cheap "escapism," though! This safe escape from reality can be a vital part of processing life (remember, the brain is still engaged and processing and applying lessons learned from the stories to real life, even while they are reading!), and this "escape" can be particularly valuable for teenagers who are dealing with stress or anxiety, as reading fantasy books can provide a healthy outlet for these emotions.
Fostering empathy and emotional intelligence
Fantasy books often feature characters who face complex emotional struggles and challenges...sometimes even with "the fate of the entire world rests on my shoulders"-level stakes. By reading about these characters, teenagers can develop empathy and emotional intelligence, understanding the feelings and perspectives of others (particularly others who are going through very difficult, trying circumstances, as characters in fantasy often are). Many teens are dealing with overwhelming situations, as well, and struggling with their emotions around those circumstances, so this can be particularly valuable for teenagers. Reading about the experiences of others can help them process their own feelings, and also help them to realize that they are not alone in their struggles, even if the context for the struggles in fantasy is different. (In fact, sometimes this vast difference in context can be helpful, as it allows some distance while processing an otherwise similar emotional struggle.)
Developing a sense of wonder and curiosity
Fantasy books often introduce teenagers to new concepts and ideas, encouraging them to explore and question the world around them. By sparking a sense of wonder and curiosity, fantasy books can inspire teenagers to think critically and creatively, leading them to pursue new ideas and perspectives. But I also think the sense of wonder is valuable, in and of itself. The feeling of "wonder" helps us to view life in a fresh way, and also brings a light and a sense hopefulness to life... and hope is something teens this day desperately need more of.
Improving mental health
This is a bit of an overlap with some of the points above, but... Reading fantasy books can be a therapeutic activity that helps improve mental health. It provides a way to unwind and escape from the stresses of daily life, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, as I've mentioned in other posts. The emotional depth of the characters and the stories can also help teens understand and navigate their own emotions, leading to improved mental health.
Teaching valuable life lessons
Fantasy books often contain valuable life lessons that can help teenagers develop important skills and values. For example, they can learn about the importance of perseverance, courage, and compassion by reading about characters who embody these traits. They can see the impact of strong support systems (or lack thereof) as they play out in the storylines. They can learn from characters' failures and successes, and how the character chooses to grow (or not grow) in the aftermath of each.
And the above are just a few quick examples... the potential life lessons from fantasy abound, especially since fantasy can demonstrate all these lessons in wildly new and engaging contexts, which not only helps teens to see the lessons in a new way, but can also circumvent blind spot or defensive (emotional) walls those same lessons may have otherwise encountered if addressed more directly. (Storytelling is a powerful learning tool! It was employed by the prophet Nathan, in the Bible, when he needed to confront David about his sin, humbling David as he realized his own guilt via the mechanism of the story Nathan told, rather than immediately addressing the sin directly... and Jesus often used the same technique in parables.)
By applying these learned lessons from fantasy to their own lives, teenagers can become better equipped to handle challenges and succeed in the future.
Encouraging a love of reading
Finally, reading fantasy books can be a fun and enjoyable experience for teenagers, encouraging them to develop a lifelong love of reading and learning. By finding books that capture their interest and imagination, teenagers can learn to appreciate the benefits of reading and develop a love for it. This love of reading can extend beyond the fantasy genre and lead to a lifelong habit of reading and learning, which can benefit them in numerous ways throughout their lives. Additionally, reading for pleasure can have a positive impact on mental health and academic success, so encouraging a love of reading in teenagers can have long-lasting benefits.
Overall, reading fantasy books can be a fun and rewarding experience for teenagers, providing them with numerous benefits that can enhance their personal growth.