Reading more nonfiction literature is a fantastic way to sharpen your brain. This sounds obvious, but so many people have the wrong idea when it comes to fiction vs. nonfiction. When one reads informational text, it requires careful attention and effort to be fully comprehended. Whereas when fiction or science fiction is being read, it’s likely being read purely for pleasure.
There are, of course, exceptions to this. Plenty of people may read fiction with excellent focus and attention to detail. The thing is, these people are missing out on the immense amount of knowledge and understanding of the world that nonfiction junkies get to experience. Those who just read books for fun can stick to whatever they want to read, but those who are trying to get real, practical benefits from their reading should always lean toward nonfiction.
Public schooling often fails to teach the proper way to close read text. According to Ness (2011), students are struggling with close reading at an increasing rate. A few factors play into this. Kids in elementary school through high school are often given assignments where they’re asked to independently read and log a brief description of what they read in a reading journal. This sounds like a simple and reliable way to get kids into reading. In reality, though, this form of reading assignment gives adolescents major apprehension towards reading and is often the reason why they are so turned off to reading by the time they get to highschool. When kids feel forced to read, they won’t want to. This is why many schools need to rethink the way they’re teaching kids to read by focusing heavily the basics of close reading.
Caitlin Dakin states, in her thesis paper, “It is essential in today’s educational world that teachers begin to transform their classroom instruction of fiction literature into short informational complex texts to give the students the opportunity to meet the demands of the common core learning standards.” Read what you will, but be aware of how much benefit you are really getting from your reading.
Books are really just another form of media. There may be obvious physical differences between these medias, but at their baselines they are both delivery methods for a story. People often feel as if a hobby of reading is something that has higher acclaim than a hobby of watching TV or movies. Film has its perks though. For example, a screen can deliver language as well as picture, whereas a book will only give you the language. This may make it more difficult to get an idea of the mood of a piece of writing. Whereas, in a movie, you can see the the emotion on the face of each actor and often hear it in the music.
This is not to say reading is worse than film, as there are many benefits to reading as well. Books will often present an internal dialogue of its characters. Whereas, in television, only the exterior motives are shown. Also, reading will improve one’s vocabulary. Anyone who reads often will probably come across words that they do not know very well. This causes them to make inferences about the meanings, thus improving their ability to interpret words.
Both reading and film have wonderful benefits, including improvement of knowledge, empathy, and vocabulary. But too much of anything is bad. There is a growing problem of adults staying sedentary for too long. A study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) concluded that an average of 60% of adults’ waking hours are spent sedentary (Matthews). This is detrimental to our health because without an active lifestyle, your whole body slows down. In his manuscript, “Too Much sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior,” Neville Owens suggests, “Canadians who reported spending the majority of their day sitting had significantly poorer long-term mortality outcomes than did those who reported that they spent less time sitting.” It may sound appealing to sit down these medias all day. But it’s always important to watch how much time is spend on these activities.
The well-intentioned strategy of allowing students to choose their own reading material most often fails. To pad their grades, unambitious students choose easy-readers below their achieved comprehension level, while go-getters overreach, sacrificing the comprehension they need. As Mark Pennington puts the case in his article on the Pennington Publishing Blog, “Students often choose books with reading levels far below or far above own their reading levels and so do not experience optimal reading growth.” One approach to this issue is for teachers who want students to enjoy reading to let them select their own material from a list of grade-appropriate choices. This gives the students moderate choice without risk of jeopardizing learning. To encourage them to read what they enjoy, teachers can permit students to nominate new material for the list.
A better way to help these kids develop their reading skills is to assign them books that the teachers have already read. This ensures the teacher’s ability to guide their students down the right path. Another way to aid students is to teach them how to close read. Close reading is a form of reading in which the reader carefully analyzes a text in order to gain maximum comprehension from it. It shows kids how to truly read a text, rather than just skimming through it. It is an essential skill for all people, and should be juiced in classrooms of all levels for its benefits.
The best way to teach these students how to properly close read is to assign them short, nonfiction texts that challenge their ability to analyze, comprehend, and make inferences. Both the teacher and the student should analyze a reading passage and examine it for details, some of which include understanding how the text works, the author’s message, providing text evidence to support thoughts and predictions the reader is developing, and making connections between the reader and the text itself (Shanahan, 2012). As long as these methods are carried out properly, students will have the reading skills necessary to make them more successful and intelligent.
Amanda Christy Brown and Katherine Schulten. (2012, December 13). Fiction or Nonfiction? Considering the Common Core’s Emphasis on Informational Text. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/fiction-or-nonfiction-considering-the-common-cores-emphasis-on-informational-text/
Bartlett, B. (2014, June 20). 4 Bad Side Effects of Reading Fiction According to the 19th Century. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/beth-bartlett/4-bad-side-effects-of-rea_b_5513451.html
Dakin, C. (2013). The Effects of Comprehension Through Close Reading (Unpublished masters thesis). St. John Fisher College.
Goodwin, B., & Miller, K. (n.d.). Research Says / Nonfiction Reading Promotes Student Success. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec12/vol70/num04/Nonfiction-Reading-Promotes-Student-Success.aspx
Is fiction good for you? How researchers are trying to find out. (2016, July 19). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160719131334.htm
Strauss, V. (2014, September 08). Why kids should choose their own books to read in school. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/08/why-kids-should-choose-their-own-books-to-read-in-school/?utm_term=.a1d60b23343c