Have Some Science with Your Fiction!

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor

Learning to read is undoubtedly an important piece of a student’s education. You’re confronted with the written word every day, whether it appears on road signs, labels food packages, or the instructions that came with the nifty new dresser you’re trying to build. Reading is one of those things that is never going to go away.

I don’t recall ever studying the benefits of reading fiction, specifically. There must be some, after all, beyond the obvious answer of “it’s fun!” It’s a topic I became very interested in recently and I decided to do a little research.

One of the most intriguing articles I found online is about a study conducted at Emory University a few years ago. According to the article, the study found that reading fiction strengthened a reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Any avid reader will tell you that seeing a conflict from various perspectives is a pivotal piece of a good book. But most people know it’s also a skill that will make going through everyday life much easier.

Reading for fun is just as important as reading for information. I love a good nonfiction book as much as the next person. I also like analyzing symbolism, metaphor, and all the other devices used in fiction. It’s like trying to assemble a giant puzzle. The study mentioned above demonstrates a more subtle benefit to the hobby.

According to a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center, “[o]verall, Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when the Center first began conducting the surveys of Americans’ book reading habits.”

The survey goes on to discuss the steady consumption of eBooks and the growing popularity of audiobooks. The different mediums available nowadays make novels available for a wider array of potential consumers. I think it’s important to teach that audience why reading fiction for fun is just as important as reading for a class assignment and why they should read beyond what’s necessary.

There is plenty of other research on the science behind reading out there. This is just one small aspect of it. I encourage you to check out the sources I linked in this post and to do some further reading on your own. 😊

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