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  • Thumbnail for Empathy and Narrative Fiction: The Effects of Palacio’s "Wonder" on Fourth-Grade Students’ Empathy
    Empathy and Narrative Fiction: The Effects of Palacio’s "Wonder" on Fourth-Grade Students’ Empathy by Freliech, Lydia Marie

    Narrative fiction, as a vehicle for empathic development, is deemed important across many contexts; however, limited empirical studies have examined this hypothesis as it relates to elementary students. The purpose of this mixed-methods action-research study is to investigate whether reading narrative fiction, combined with classroom activities on empathy and perspective, potentiates empathy in fourth-grade students. Participants (N = 46) were asked to complete pre- and post-unit questionnaires to measure empathy within three domains: affective empathy, cognitive empathy, and intention to help. Questionnaire data from the eleven-week novel study demonstrated statistically significant growth in my students’ empathy across all three domains. There was no significant difference in empathy growth between males and females in the three empathy domains. Qualitative data from eight academically diverse fourth-grade case studies were analyzed to further investigate the development of students’ empathy. Results indicated that during the eleven-week novel study, students developed their abilities to articulate their own affected emotions, their understanding of another’s emotions, and their plans to help another.