Written by Shannon Horton, DCSD Media Specialist
I’d like to cast my vote as to why fiction needs to remain essential in the lives of students and teachers.
What I know so far about reading:
Fiction builds empathy and morality
As someone who has been found alone in a room, clutching a book, and weeping this all makes perfect sense to me. New research suggests that we read fiction with our guard down (unlike non-fiction which we intellectually challenge) thus allowing us to be emotionally moved…and changed. And the more we’re lost in the story we’re reading, the more it molds us. Fiction can literally make us more empathetic, better able to read human emotions, and more willing to jump in and help others. Add to that fiction’s tendency to reward the good guys and we’re taught that it pays to be good, and that it might just lead us to happily ever after.
Fiction makes us smarter
No surprise to us readers, right? Participants in a study who were given a literature selection to read, versus a summary of the same passage, performed better in a subsequent test, and neuroscientists have now found plenty of proof that reading fiction lights up multiple areas of our brain, not just the ones associated with language.
Reading combats stress
Researchers at The University of Sussex found reading to be the most effective method for unwinding and eliminating stress, toping a walk or a cup of tea.
What we can do as teachers:
It’s hard sometimes, but resist judgement
Neil Gaiman, author of numerous books for children and adults, draws a line from learning to read, to reading for pleasure, to citizens that can exchange and expound on ideas. The crux of the progression, learning to read for pleasure, is on folks like us not discouraging any books our students pick up. Enjoying what they read will lead to more reading, and so it stands to reason that they will eventually move beyond what we may turn our noses up at.
Find the time to read aloud
Create time to read aloud to students. Time that’s not associated with assessments of any kind: no vocabulary lists, no comprehension quizzes, and no assigned projects. By reading aloud you’re modeling fluent reading and introducing students to new reading ideas. Best of all you’re creating a shared classroom experience that links reading to relaxation, intellectual stimulation, and enjoyment.
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