Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books

I’m pretty familiar with the Common Core standards, at least the English Language Arts ones, thanks to my day job. [Warning: I will now dabble in curriculum babble for approximately 4 sentences. And then I will stop.] Overall, I think it’s a good idea to standardize across the country what’s taught at certain grade levels and to make sure that really important reading and mathematics skills are covered. One thing that really bugs me about the Common Core, though, is that the standards de-emphasize reading fiction in favor of reading informational texts and nonfiction. The rationale is that reading informational texts better prepares kids for future testing and future employment. Fiction-reading skills aren’t seen as essential to compete in the academic and business world. Fiction is treated kinda like leisure reading, and nonessential. Not that there’s anything wrong with leisure reading–but fiction is so much more than that.

Julia Steiny wrote an essay for the Providence Journal about this issue and shared her thoughts on why fiction holds as many real-life benefits for students–read her essay here. She makes some great points, like the reason why her teachers all taught classical fiction in their classrooms:

[T]heir most compelling reason to hike around fictional landscapes was to build wisdom. Really smart people absorbed a lot of worldly experience from literature, well beyond what anyone could acquire in a single human life. Fiction can take us anywhere, to any time, and help us sense how it might feel to be a different sex, race or nationality. And these experiences would prepare us for the slings and arrows of our own uncertain futures. 


Steiny’s article made me think about what reading (not to mention writing) fiction has taught me:

Fiction made me love history.
Fiction made me a more empathetic and less judgmental person.
Fiction taught me the value of humor, and made me appreciate irony. 
Fiction educated me on how other people live in this country and around the world.
Fiction prepared me for tough circumstances I hadn’t yet experienced.
And fiction has helped me support others in their difficult times.
Fiction helped me embrace my imperfections and celebrate what made me unique as a teen.
Fiction taught me about resilience and that a dream unachieved isn’t as sad as a dream abandoned.
Fiction has helped me make choices about the kind of life I lead and the person I want to be.
Fiction fueled my imagination and made me more creative.

What has fiction taught you?