Literature connects us with past and present humanity.Literary reading promotes the language development and thinking that isnecessary for an educated, cultural society. It is our job as educators to putall students in touch with excellent literature, especially those books whichhave the power to change us in some way. A famous writer once said, “Books thattransform me as I read, books that go on working in me afterwards when theyhave become part of me, often refresh and reinvigorate the language.” There aremany valid reasons for using literature as the mainstay of a reading andwriting program. All these serve to motivate and promote life-long interest inreading. Here are some:
1. Literature allows meaning to dominate. Studentsread immediately for meaning and view reading as a thinking process. A storythat makes sense is easy to talk about and remember. Reading literature helps studentsto form their own way of understanding and thinking.
2. Literature concentrates on the development ofreaders rather the development of skills. Students spend most of their time readingcontinuous text, which allows them to see themselves as reader’s right from thestart. Research has shown that reading literature has a great influence in themaking of students’ character, view of the world, a way of living and choice oflifestyle.
3. Literature promotes positive self-concepts instudents. Because students see themselves as readers of books from the firstday of school, they develop positive attitudes about reading and themselves.Regardless of background, apparent deficiencies, and varying developmentlevels, children begin to learn to read with the best of children’s books. Thatearly success and confidence flows into other academic and social areas. Bycontrast, students who fail to learn to read in first grade can carry lifelongscars.
4. Literature promotes language development. Exposureto the variety of complex syntactical patterns, creative and figurativelanguage, and imagery found in good literature seems to aid comprehension oflanguage in general and to enhance vocabulary development. Since literarylanguage is not generally found in primary readers, popular televisionprograms, or general conversation, it is important that students be saturatedwith good books in the school environment. In fact, vocabulary and multiplemeanings of words are best learned and applied through the context of books.
5. Literature promotes fluent reading. It has beeninteresting to observe beginning readers reading with fluency from the start.Since the children hear a predictable story as a whole first, and possibly morethan once, they come to know phrasing, and they imitate it. Where predictingand sampling are encouraged, they are accustomed to filling in the words thatmake sense. They do not read word for word even when presented with new material.The transference of reading ability to other books is a highly important factorwhich gives the child confidence and the ability to read independently.
Literature deals with human emotions. Students relateeasily to stories that deal with anger, sadness, jealousy, etc., and they havean opportunity to get in touch with their own emotions in an natural,nonthreatening manner. Students meet characters who have traits likethemselves, which makes them feel like an accepted part of the human race. Folktales and fairy tales teach much about individual longings, conflicts, andfailings and can stimulate thoughtful discussion.