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:

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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