Stories have the power to develop connections and understanding, regardless if they are fictitious or not.
Imagine a group of students, all of whom have their own personal background. To talk about personal things may be difficult if they do not know of each other.
Put a story in their hands. Instead of talking about themselves, let them read and talk about the characters.
Consider a story about a single mother raising a child. How would they describe the mother?
Insight may be gained from learning how one another sees the same story. Understanding may be gained from determining who has a common or differing point of view. Sharing perspective is just as valuable, if not more, as sharing a personal biography.