Some people think it's because college kids read less than they used to.
Getting wrapped up in a fictional narrative, it's been suggested, transports readers emotionally. At least one study claimed that "fiction is a simulation of social experiences, in which people practice and enhance their interpersonal skills."
Of course, that was just a theory. No one had figured out how to distinguish cause from correlation. And we all know how misleading correlations can be.
But now there's experimental evidence of the connection between reading fiction and the ability to empathize with others.
Two Dutch scientists have conducted experiments showing that reading fiction can actually increase someone's empathy if the story is good enough to involve the reader emotionally.
Chalk one up for romance novels.
But more to the point, if you can get your kids to pick up another good novel when they put down Harry Potter, you could help make the world a better place.