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Fiction and Non-Fiction Can Contribute to What A Child Learns

"Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Superman!" So goes an awestruck commentator's observation while referring to one of the most famous fictitious characters.

By Reagan Gavin Rasquinha

“Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superman!” So goes an awestruck commentator’s observation while referring to one of the most famous fictitious characters. But then again, is fiction all smoke, mirrors, and made up hocus-pocus? Not really, because there were also values that conveyed without being pedagogic – heroic values that impacted generations of young minds worldwide without being preachy. Values that emphasized heroism, chivalry, and making a clear-cut demarcation between good and evil.

Quite merely and succinctly put, fiction fires the imagination. And to be more precise in this context, novel fires the unbridled and unfettered [as indeed it should be] imagination of a child. While a child’s grasp of non-fictional concepts, theories and tenets cannot be understated. Because we all know the whole left-brain/right-brain function – it is equally important to have a developing brain inculcate and incubate the ability to embrace abstract concepts and derive sense.

Fiction powers a child’s inner vision. It allows a child to go on flights of fancy, construct thrilling thoughts in their minds, and more. Now, some may argue that reading fiction is a ‘waste of time’ for children, as it does nothing but encourage their minds to go on aimless flights of fancy. But this is where I will willfully disagree. Any child can mug up a formula or learn a passage by rote and regurgitate it. But reading fiction encourages a child to think in colorful ways. Associations created between colors, sounds, and words. The correct term for it is synesthesia. And far from being some disorder [oh, how society is quick to label children and adults and place people into neat little boxes!] synesthesia is a form of everyday fantasia.

For a child – and indeed for some adults – fiction fires the imagination as mentioned earlier, and fiction also fires wonder. Reading a novel for a child also promotes self-learning. By its very nature, the meaning that a child derives from fiction is often too personal and precious for a child to have a teacher or parent try and tell that child what purpose to obtain from a piece of fiction. For example, in reading Tom Sawyer, the rich visual imagery can fire up beautiful images in a child’s inner vision. At the same time, he or she is reading it in the bedroom or while alone on a rainy weekend afternoon while alone, carefree and without a worry in the world – much like Huckleberry Finn himself!

Reading fiction for a child also gives him or her an insight into the author’s mind. If a child grows to love and enjoy one piece of fiction written by an author, there is no doubt that he will seek out other works by that author. It could mean a Roald Dahl, Dickens, or our very own Ruskin Bond. Countless children who have read works by these authors [and indeed much more] have grown up with their actions. Then, there are pieces of fiction that are fun to read for a child for the pure and straightforward sake of innocent fun. Take Tintin and Asterix, for example. From today’s generation of children who can access, read and enjoy these beloved classics on their iPads to those among us who used to borrow dog-eared copies of the same from friends and libraries and read them till the pages and binding gave way. There might not be any moralistic outtake from these two titles. However, for a child reading these works of fiction, the details in the drawings, the vivid colors, and the characters’ expressions and wit provide countless hours of fascination and enjoyment, says Mr. Reagan Gavin Rasquinha in a conversation with Prittle Prattle News.

Reading fiction is very important for a child who is an introvert by his or her very nature. While an introverted child might regard as painfully shy by the adults around him, the child would be busy constructing beautiful new worlds in their minds and being perfectly content with the same. That same child could be an editor, filmmaker, author, animator, ad guru, or vocations in the creative field. The sky is the limit. Reading fiction gives a child a voice. It also thereby provides the child with a degree of self-confidence and self-belief, both of which are precious traits to develop right from an early age.

There is a requisite analysis to be made at this juncture between a child reading fiction versus a child watching fiction movies. While there absolutely nothing wrong in the least with the latter, reading novel helps a child to develop a sense of empathy; it helps the young reader to step into the shoes of whatever character he or she chooses and lets the imagination fly. And speaking of ‘fly,’ who can forget the famous quidditch scene in the Harry Potter series? A poll conducted amongst young readers by Rowling’s beloved fictional character’s daily newspaper revealed that that scene was amongst the most enjoyed fantasy sequences in the series.

There is a myriad range of fiction to choose from for children today. Before a child pops in a Jungle Book disc into the Blu-Ray player, it might be helpful that he or she downloads some of Tarzan’s original stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs on a Kindle or purchase a few books, or mage like Robin Age to begin. No title is too complicated or anything of that sort when it comes to popular fiction. The rewards to be reaped are immense in later years.

While J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings cannot consider children’s literature, it built up to with a child reading fiction works like Narnia and can be built up to Tolkien. The reason I am mentioning this is that of the vocabulary Tolkien uses. Words and worlds made up out of thin air. So too with the Star Wars series, of which there published titles in abundance. The ability to break out of the strictures of what makes sense and create a fictional set of words a helpful tool for a kid’s imagination. Reading fiction also encourages lateral thinking in a child.

Reading fiction might also help mold a child into an author one day. It is because fiction helps a child use language differently instead of saying how one would write an instruction manual. Fiction teaches a child to use their preferred language in different ways when it comes to sentence construction. Fiction can give a child a window into a new world—an experiential bonanza.

For a young reader, long before his or her grammar schoolteacher introduces Wren & Martin, reading fiction subliminally conveys delicate and artful writing constructs to a young reader. They use the right combination of words in a paragraph and piece, the tasteful and judicious use of metaphors and similes, using simple words to paint a beautiful picture to describe a scene or scenario. When a child reads [and, more importantly, enjoys] a good work of fiction, he is not merely absorbing the story, but also downloading word usage, phraseology, and descriptors when to use a specific adjective. Reading works of fiction also help convey another essential message to a child: it is okay to have some ‘me-time’ and not feel a sense of peer pressure always to be surrounded by people when they would rather be in the company of a good book. Or, in the context of this case, a good work of fiction. Leisure reading works of fiction for a child can help offset stress. It’s almost like a reward mechanism. When the homework completed, and textbooks put away, a child who likes to read fiction would in his or her head, look forward to the thought of relaxing with a good book as much as he or she would relish the idea of going outdoors and playing with their buddies.

And lastly, reading keeps a young brain in a good creative flow. Along with non-fiction, a reading diet balanced with fiction will surely reap the young reader rich rewards. Prittle Prattle News interviewed Mr. Reagan Gavin Rasquinha, a senior writer and media person. Reagan is a former writer from the Times of India, where he reviewed English films as well. In addition to scripting and co-producing TV shows for Channel [V], before that, he has also written on travel, lifestyle, music, reviewed gadgets, and more.

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