I had a long discussion with 6th graders about novels today. Reading a novel about a problem you deal with can be incredibly comforting to a child. Knowing you're not the only one facing something helps, even if the characters are fictional.
@timeturnerjones, I had a student ask why would anyone want to read about, say, an alcoholic parent. We discussed how it could either help a kid who had to deal with that situation, or it could help someone who didn't know what it was like to have empathy for someone who did deal with it every day.
@LibraryLady So true. It's often really hard to relate to others' experiences (like me, I never understood what it might be like to have divorced parents until I read a few books with narrators who's parents were divorcing). It's a great way to gain that empathy