Why Read Fiction?

 “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” –William Carlos Williams

In  a hard economic world, where classrooms at every level seem increasingly designed to be vocational training grounds and little else, where the three RRR’s (which included reading and writing) are being replaced by the hot new acronym STEM, where the new Common Core language arts standards insist on a shift away from fiction into non-fiction (and by non-fiction they include maps, and menus and manuals), in a world where the man who spearheaded the Common Core notes that employers are not apt to ask someone to produce a “compelling account of his childhood” before tackling that market analysis…In such a world, why should fiction be a part of a child’s education?

Because fiction, as William Carlos Williams notes, provides life-giving sustenance:

It can be a friend when we’re lonely, a refuge when we’re overwhelmed. And children are often lonely and often overwhelmed.

It supplies the pleasure of recognition—wow, someone put my own thoughts into words—as well as wonder at the new: who knew?

It takes us inside ourselves. It takes us outside ourselves.

It makes us explore, as nothing else can, the most intriguing question of all: What if?

It makes the strange familiar—we don’t ever have to have lived on a farm to know exactly what Wilbur and Charlotte’s barn looks and feels and smells like.

And it makes the familiar strange: a boy’s bedroom becomes a kingdom of wild things.

It makes us stretch our minds and use our imagination and ask uncomfortable questions. It comforts, inspires and reassures. It scares and stimulates.

Absolutely, it’s important to be able to read maps, and menus, and manuals. And market analyses. It’s also important to be able to journey to where the wild things are, and back home again.

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