Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Great Fiction/Nonfiction Debate

Sent to the NY Times, June 20, 2015
Re: English Class in Common Core Era: ‘Tom Sawyer’ and Court Opinions (June 19, 2015).
Those who write about the nonfiction/fiction controversy should read more nonfiction, specifically the research showing that reading fiction has a profound impact on language and literacy development, including vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.  In a recent study, frequency of voluntary reading of both "middle-brow" and "high-brow" fiction was a very strong predictor of vocabulary size. All this makes reading "demanding" nonfiction texts possible.
Studies also show that fiction exposes readers to other views of the world and other ways of thinking, and increases the ability to deal with uncertainty, which is crucial for problem-solving.
Fiction is the bridge between everyday conversational language and "academic" language. The common core is removing this bridge.
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California
Original article:
Reading and Language/Literacy Development research reviewed in Krashen, S. 2004.The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited and Heinemann (second edition), and
Recent study: Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from Adolescence to Middle Age. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London
Understanding other points of view: Kidd, D. and Castono, E. 2013. Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science 342 (6156): 377-380.
Dealing with uncertainty: Djikic, M., Oatley, K. and Moldoveanu, M. 2013. Opening the closed mind: The effect of exposure to literature on the need for closure. Creativity Research Journal. 25(2): 149-154.

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