Literature is important because it helps readers develop critical thinking and discussion skills, build up new knowledge and experiences, and develop empathy for other people or cultures. Although literature is often de-emphasized in favor of more technical education, proponents argue it is still a useful discipline.
Studying literature helps readers develop many skills, including reading, interpretation, discussion and writing. Through sustained study of a poem or novel, readers can increase vocabulary and become more verbally refined. Discussing literature improves readers' ability to debate and defend their thoughts out loud. Writing about literature can also help improve written communication and organizational skills.
Literature can also help readers build up a much wider range of knowledge, creating interest in new subjects and experiences. Literature provides vicarious experiences that directly influence readers' lives. They learn about new places, new cultures, new ideas and new ways of looking at the world. They can visit both the past and the future through the imaginative power of stories. A perceptive reader of a poem or novel may discover an interest in Eastern philosophy or a new way of thinking about the environment.
Literature also allows readers to perceive and empathize with the experiences of others. Readers can gain a greater understanding of different races, cultures, social classes or genders through reading stories about them. This increased range of experience can actually help readers better empathize with other individuals in life.