Since college, I have read very little fiction. I’m motivated to learn and digest ideas so I read a lot of nonfiction books. I read about business, education, politics, theology, and the life stories of people I admire. In my younger years, I had read a lot of fiction; from classics like Jane Eyre and Robinson Crusoe, to classic fantasy from such literary giants as Tolkien and Lewis, to pulp fiction like the Tarzan books, The Hardy Boys, and every Louis L’amour Western I could find.
Recently, I have started reintroducing fiction into my regular reading diet. While getting new information is important, cultivating your imagination by engaging with a good fiction book is equally as important. Too often our society divorces imagination from reality, promoting the hard sciences and creative expression as two separate entities. In truth, fiction is to non-fiction what the arts and music are to STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics). Just like music and the arts are as important in education as STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics), fiction is just as important as non-fiction. As evidence for the claim that the arts and the hard sciences are integrated not separate entities, consider that the best visual artists have a clear understanding of shapes and the relationships between lines (in other words, geometry) and the best scientists rely on imagination to come up with new hypotheses and to design experiments (which is a form of creative expression).
It is important to introduce children to fiction because fiction and story are fantastic training grounds for the imagination. Children are moldable and easily influenced which means training their imagination from an early age is important. Stories allow them to engage with imagery and humanity in a way that can then be translated into their everyday experience.
Introduce fiction early and often and talk with your children about which stories they are drawn to and which stories are their favorites. Go to the library together and discover new books and share your favorite novels with them. Fiction is a great way to train an imagination and a robust imagination is a great skill to have whether you are a scientist or an artist.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”– Albert Einstein
Part four of a four part series on reading.
Part 1 – Books and Academic Achievement
Part 2 – Why We Need to Read Together: The Magic of Reading Aloud
Part 3 – Facebook: The New Reader’s Digest
Part 4 – Fiction and Training the Imagination