"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Fiction: the hottest topic of all (Published in Literacy Today)

Published in Literacy Today, Jan/Feb 2015

The Sept/Oct, 2015 issue of Literacy Today contains somewhat contradictory messages: reading "informational texts" is considered "a hot topic" that "should be hot," a view that coincides with the common core's heavy focus on nonfiction ("What's hot in 2016").  Fiction is not mentioned.

But college student Brandon Dixon ("Literacy is the answer") tells us that fiction has made the difference in his life, contributing not only to his knowledge of the world but also to his ethical development and understanding of other people's views. 

Mr, Dixon is not alone. In a recent interview in the Guardian (October 28), President Obama gives fiction the credit for his understanding that "the world is complicated and full of grays ... (and that) it's possible to connect with someone else even though they're very different from you."

Research solidly supports both Mr. Dixon's and President Obama's conclusions:  Studies confirm that fiction readers develop high levels of literacy, a great deal of knowledge in many different areas, the capacity to empathize with others and a greater tolerance for vagueness. In a recent study from the University of London, fiction reading was a very strong predictor of adult vocabulary knowledge, stronger than reading non-fiction.

With these powerful testimonies, supported by empirical evidence,  fiction should be a hot topic in literacy, maybe the hottest one of all.

Stephen Krashen


Interview with President Obama: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/28/president-obama-says-novels-taught-him-citizen-marilynne-robinson?CMP=share_btn_tw

Fiction and literacy development: Krashen, S 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann and Libraries Unlimited.  Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from Adolescence to Middle Age. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London

Knowledge: Stanovich, K., and A. Cunningham. 1992. Studying the consequences of literacy within a literate society: the cognitive correlates of print exposure. Memory and Cognition 20(1): 51-68.
Stanovich, K. and A. Cunningham. 1993. Where does knowledge come from? Specific associations between print exposure and information acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(2): 211-229. Stanovich, K., R. West, R., and M. Harrison. 1995. Knowledge growth and maintenance across the life span: The role of print exposure. Developmental Psychology, 31(5): 811-826. Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. (2014). Vocabulary from adolescence to middle age. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London. West, R., and K. Stanovich. 1991. The incidental acquisition of information from reading. Psychological Science 2: 325-330. West, R., K. Stanovich, and H. Mitchell. 1993. Reading in the real world and its correlates. Reading Research Quarterly 28: 35-50.

The ability to empathize: Kidd, D. & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342 (6156), 377-380.

Tolerance for vagueness:  Djikic, M., Oatley, K. & Moldoveanu, M. (2013). Opening the closed mind: The effect of exposure to literature on the need for closure. Creativity Research Journal, 25(2), 149-154.

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