Saturday, April 28, 2012

You Need to Read This Article: "Your Brain on Fiction" by Annie Murphy Paul

So I already mentioned this article once during the A-Z Blog Challenge, but I think it is just so remarkable that I am devoting some serious real estate to it today.
Here is "Your Brain on Fiction" by Annie Murphy Paul. I am going to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer while you read it.
There. (beams at reader)
I'm a big fan of neuroscience. Brains are such a mystery.
I have a student who is an avid reader of non-fiction. This is a good thing. But when I told him I wanted him to read a Good Book (what I call the best of YA) he balked a little.
"I don't really like those stories," he said. "Can't I read..." and then he gave me a list of non-fiction titles, all of which were compelling.
I asked him if he was going to read those books anyway.
He said he would.
"Okay," I said. "Here is why I want you to read a novel."
And I printed out a copy of "Your Brain on Fiction" and gave it to him.
And the next day we had this terrific conversation about the article and brains and books and it was awesome.
He checked out The Maze Runner by James Dashner.
Annie Murphy Paul joins my pantheon of Admirable People.
Here's how she concludes her article:
"Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined."
Hooray.

10 comments:

  1. Awesome!
    Great article, thank you so much for the link.
    The theory of mind part is especially fascinating to me. I'm so glad my kids are readers.

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    1. Thanks, Kristen! I am glad your kids are readers, too!

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  2. I love it when science tells me something I like is good for me. Hello from A to Z.

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    1. Hi Susan! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  3. Kristen, I am working up a little speech for some school district officials who seem poised, though I might just be paranoid, to trade in our 12th grade (wisdom of the ages old) British Literature curriculum for the newest thing, the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum created to help students pass their placement tests as they enter the CSU or California Community College System, so they don't have to go backwards into remedial English classes as they start college. I know they're not all prepared adquately for Freshman Comp., yet I think we've got Baby Out with Bathwater Syndrome going on here and elsewhere. I will find your Annie Murphy article, and tuck it in with my other saints, like James Moffett and Parker Palmer and all the teachers people like you and I have had as students and with whom we have worked, not to mention all the saints we have read and who have changed our brains. I hope I am overreacting to this next turn of the Wheel, but I might not be. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I am starting a political movement, C.O.W., for "Cloud of Witnesses," meaning anyone who....reads.

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    1. I am honored to be a C.O.W., and I so appreciate your comment. Gah, that is so terrifying. I love me my British Literature. The way to get more kids passing placement tests is not by banishing British Lit. How about giving English teachers help with grading essays, and smaller classes, and lots of discussion, and books they can choose as well as have-tos? Earnest efforts at change should not, as you say, throw babies out with bathwater.
      You fight, and please let me know how it goes.*Salutes*

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  4. Andrew linked to a very similar article on Facebook. I think it was in the Boston Globe. Strange that there were two recent ones.

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    1. I know! I read it, loved it, and added it to the Revolution file.

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  5. This article was so good - and works well with the one Matt mentioned. I am also fascinated by brain science and the developmental process during adolescence into young adulthood. Even though I knew in my heat that fiction was good for me, it's always good to know how it lights up these wonderful parts of the brain in everyone.

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    1. I, too, love the image of brains lighting up. Today after testing *shudder* I watched my Angel Potatoes read Good Books and I just pictured a lightshow and it made me happy.

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