Fewer people are reading fiction than ever before.

According to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts, the percentage of U.S. adults who read literature fell to the lowest level recorded since the group started tracking the statistic in 1982. It's anyone's guess as to why we're spending less time reading for fun, but one theory is that people are simply spending more time online and don't make time for books.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.


Last year, Dallas bookstore The Wild Detectives tested out a unique approach to getting people interested in the literary classics: clickbait.

Yes, clickbait. It worked for internet posts, but would it get people to read Hemingway? That's what The Wild Detectives wanted to find out.

The premise for the experiment was simple: They took beloved pieces of literature and gave them modern clickbait titles. For example, "The Jungle Book" became "He befriended a bear when he was a kid and fate reunites them years later." "Dracula" became "Romanian man discovers shocking fact about garlic that will give you nightmares," and "Frankenstein" became "German doctor becomes first to perform full body transplant."

The Wild Detectives didn't stop there — they actually tested these headlines on Facebook. People who clicked on the posts were taken to the full text of the public domain stories, which the store uploaded to its Medium profile.

"When it's OKAY to slut shame single mothers" describes the plot of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" pretty well. Photo from The Wild Detectives/YouTube.

The coolest part of this campaign wasn't just the cheeky titles and Facebook trickery, but rather, that it netted some majorly positive results. According to the store's case study, they experienced a 150% increase in engagement with their Facebook posts and a 1,400% increase in traffic to their website.

The store did it for brand awareness, and it clearly paid off.

"British guy dies after selfie gone wrong" might be the nudge you need to pick up Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Grey." Photo from The Wild Detectives/YouTube.

Why go through so much trouble to encourage people to read fiction? Does it really matter what people read?

Aside from being a good way to spend some extra time, reading literary fiction actually serves a pretty important purpose in building empathy.

A number of recent studies concluded that literary fiction plays a role in developing the necessary skills to be able put ourselves in someone else's shoes. According to a study by Keith Oatley, the director of the Cognitive Science program at the University of Toronto, the act of reading fiction helps build empathy due, in part, to the way people engage with stories on an emotional and analytical level as well as the content of books themselves.

"Fiction can be thought of as a form of consciousness of selves and others that can be passed from an author to a reader or spectator, and can be internalized to augment everyday cognition," wrote Oatley.

"Teenage girl tricked boyfriend into killing himself" captures the essence of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." Photo from The Wild Detectives/YouTube.

Empathy is essential in helping create a better, more livable world.

Social skills are a key factor in predicting how successful someone will be in life. Empathy is a driving force behind social change, and it's what makes up the very foundation of civil society.

If building these skills relies on picking up the occasional book or two, we should celebrate acts of innovation like The Wild Detectives' "Litbaits" campaign that aim to reignite a passion for reading. After all, it's for the sake of humanity.

Learn more about what made Litbaits the success it is in the video below:

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less

Former President George W. Bush and current president Donald Trump may both be Republicans but they have contrasting views when it comes to immigration.

Trump has been one of the most anti-immigrant presidents of recent memory. His Administration separated undocumented families at the border, placed bans on travelers from majority-Muslim countries, and he's proudly proclaimed, "Our country is full."

George W. Bush's legacy on immigration is a bit more nuanced. He ended catch-and-release and called for heightened security at the U.S.-Mexico border, but he also championed an immigration bill that created a guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people.

Unfortunately, that bill did not pass.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less

Roland Pollard and his 4-year-old daughter Jayden have been doing cheer and tumbling stunts together since Jayden could walk. When you see videos of their skills, the level of commitment is apparent—as is the supportive relationship this daddy has with his daughter.

Pollard, a former competitive cheerleader and cheer coach, told In The Know that he didn't expect Jayden to catch on to her flying skills at age 3, but she did. He said he never pressures her to perform stunts and that she enjoys it. And as a viral video of Jayden almost falling during a stunt shows, excelling at a skill requires good teaching—something Pollard appears to have mastered.

Keep Reading Show less