Literature and You, Perfect Together
Have you read a good book lately? Literature is one of the hallmarks of a developed culture. It synthesizes the values, beliefs, and societal make up of time and era. Even books that aren’t explicitly historical fiction present a commentary of the lives and times the author experienced.
Andrew Pudewa, education advocate and founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, observes that like anything you can’t get out what you don’t put in. Our brains are like computer processors, they need the reliable connectors and high quality coding to produce good results.
Reading opens door and worlds to children and adults. Through books we can explore times and regions that would be impossible for us to access otherwise. Reading truly is fundamental as the old commercial jingle said. It is the building block of our civilization and our future innovations. In his book, How Literature Plays with the Brain, Paul B. Armstrong observes, “Literature matters, for what it reveals about human experience, and the very different perspective of neuroscience on how the brain works is part of that story.”
Books Are the Way of the Future
With all the technological advances, it is easy to focus on the STEM curriculum in the hopes of raising up a generation prepared and enthusiastic about all that is possible in this high tech world. However, it is important to have roots before we have wings. Literature can give us those roots and the brain power to soar.
Science has shown that reading actually stimulates the brain in a way that it actually believes it is doing something that it is not. This is called embodied cognition. This same principle is employed by athletes who use visualization as a manner to enhance their skills. When a basketball player uses visualization, it triggers the same centers of the brain used to physically play the game. In this way, embodied cognition truly takes our brain to the place and time of what we are reading, allowing us to experience and problem solve on a high plane that watching the same story on television.
Literature also teaches empathy and understanding of other points of view. Theory of Mind is “the branch of cognitive science that investigates how we ascribe mental states to other persons and how we use the states to explain and predict the actions of those other persons.” Studies have shown that children who have more literature read to them have keener theory of mind and are better able to empathize with others.
While reading is the important part, it also matters what we read. As stated above, you only get out what you put in. Informational reading is not the same as deep reading of literature. The reading of complex literature with the drama, suspense, and intricate details creates life like images in our brains that exercise our brain and expand our ability to think. Decoding words is not enough, we need to be reading literature that pulls us into the story.
Falling In Love Is Literature
In a Time magazine article about the value of reading literature, it states, “The deep reader, protected from distractions and attuned to the nuances of language, enters a state that psychologist Victor Nell, in a study of the psychology of pleasure reading, likens to a hypnotic trance. Nell found that when readers are enjoying the experience the most, the pace of their reading actually slows. The combination of fast, fluent decoding of words and slow, unhurried progress on the page gives deep readers time to enrich their reading with reflection, analysis, and their own memories and opinions. It gives them time to establish an intimate relationship with the author, the two of them engaged in an extended and ardent conversation like people falling in love.”
How romantic is that? Books are not only our escapes but the gym for our minds. As we teach children to love learning we must also instill a love of fine literature to fill their minds with rich language and shape their theory of mind for the benefit of the world at large. As One Planet, One People; providing the access to quality literature books to all children can go a long way toward building the bridges to a future of peace and harmony.
What has literature done for you? What piece of literature have you loved?
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