Fiction is Sometimes Better than Life

Natalie’s Monday post, “Story Connections” got me thinking about the value of different forms of storytelling. Other than around the dinner table, the art of verbal storytelling seems to be dying out. But I’m fortunate enough to say that’s not the case at my child’s school–where they often resurrect the best of the past and by doing so, are considered “cutting edge.” In their monthly Roots and Wings program, a storyteller regales the audience with tales from his or her life, often with a foreign culture bent. Or special guests might recreate folk tales to entertain and teach the children. My daughter almost always repeats the stories to me as soon as she walks in the door. Another reason I love this program is because it honors the 25 percent of kids who are “auditory learners,” which means they learn best by hearing their education.

Books fill our heads with more experiences than we could ever have

This led me to think about fiction storytelling and how it impacts the lives of its readers. Why do kids read? Here are some ideas that come to mind:

1)   Boredom: Kids might read because they have nothing else that excites them at the moment.

2)   To compensate for an occasional lackluster life: Not old enough to drive, being under parental control, and having to go to school all day and then come home and do homework, is, essentially, limiting. Real life often pales in comparison to fiction, and kids can live vicariously through the lives of their favorite characters.

3)   Escape: One sure way to get the parents to leave you alone is to announce, “I’m reading a book right now.” It’s an easy way to escape to your room for a few hours of uninterrupted alone time.

4)   Connection to others: We are all so busy that it seems difficult to make real connections sometimes. Often, our interactions are through email, texting, and Facebook, rather than old-fashioned person-to-person visits. In Natalie’s post she says this about the stories her father tells: “…it’s in the telling that we feel what he feels; it’s the telling that connects us.” A book provides an instant sense of connection between the reader and the character because it offers a tour through the thoughts and emotions of someone outside of ourselves.

Children and teenagers learn many life lessons through books. A shy reader can learn all about the extrovert’s world simply by turning the pages. There’s an entire wealth of life lessons and themes to explore through literature, even if the reader hasn’t lived through the same experiences first hand.

Fiction can be the best teacher

To me, this brings home the importance of being a writer. As storytellers, we owe it to our readers to treat our themes, messages, and characters with care and maturity.

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9 Comments

Filed under Education, Writing, Writing and Life

9 responses to “Fiction is Sometimes Better than Life

  1. Cynthia levinson

    I want my children to have gone to your kids’ school! I love the story-teller idea. Thanks, too, for the reminders of why kids read.

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  2. As a kid, I read for all those reasons, and I’ll add one more: to try to make sense out of an often incomprehensible world. Seeing someone else dealing with his or her own issues can help, even if it doesn’t solve yours.

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  3. “A shy reader can learn all about the extrovert’s world simply by turning the pages.”

    You’ve pretty much summed up my childhood right there. Wise words!

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  4. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Even extroverts can learn a thing or two about characters’ lives that are different from their own! Empathy is a big reason I introduce certain characters to my students. We can all vicariously experience what it’s like to be someone else through the pages of a book. Thanks for a thoughtful post, L.B.!

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  5. Verbal story-telling really is becoming a lost art, isn’t it? Your post reminded me of how much I loved my dad’s spontaneous Uncle Wiggly Long-Ears Gentleman Bunnyrabbit stories, and made me consider how rarely I make up verbal stories to tell my own kids.

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  6. L.B. Schulman

    I think parents sometimes get too busy to tell stories. It’s sad, isn’t it? My kids know so little about our family history. The days of chatting around the fireside have been replaced with American Idol! But I’m grateful to be promoting storytelling through the written word. We all have an important job to do.

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  7. Lisa! Love this post! Great reminders…

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  8. Darcey Rosenblatt

    Thanks Lisa – Very nice summary of reasons for reading. I’ll add one more – as a kid finding in character the person you are (that others don’t recognize) or that you want to become. Last time I read my favorite – Wrinkle in Time – I realized it was all about Meg. I felt very much like Meg, but that wasn’t who others in my life wanted me to be (my parents, my teachers). Madeline L’Engle taught me it was more than OK to be me and I love her for telling me through story.

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    • L.B. Schulman

      The brave, the kind, the determined Meg? You ARE her, Darcey. This is a very good reason for reading. One time, in an interview, I was asked, “Who were your role models?” I was twenty at the time and I think I said, “Oprah.” 🙂 But I didn’t realize that what you just said is spot on: our role models are in every book we read.

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