I am not a eavesdropper, nor do I like listening to other people’s conversations, but, unfortunately I heard every single word of their argument. The girl was about 11 years or whereabouts and the mother a harassed thirty something. The girl had selected a pile of books ( my heart swelled with pride). I just love to see children buying books (not necessarily mine, but any book) rather than frittering their pocket money on silly things.
My bubble of happiness was burst by the mother. “You have chosen all fiction books,” she scowled. The books were rudely removed from her daughter’s hands and dumped back on the shelf. “I am not wasting money on fiction,” she grumbled. A small pile of non- fiction books that was guaranteed to put a child to sleep was dumped into the girl’s hands. “Fiction does not teach anything,” she said. Her words shocked me.
Where fiction is concerned, I confess I do have a vested interest, as I am a fiction writer. But labelling fiction as something that just doesn’t teach is completely wrong. Infact, I feel kids are definitely more likely to learn a lot from fiction because fiction teaches, but in a fun way, unlike non-fiction which is in your face teaching while fiction is gentler and kind on a child’s mind.
“All that non-fiction can do is answer questions. Its fiction’s business to ask them,” Richard Hughes. I completely agree with it. Fiction questions like nothing else does, and the questions make one sit up, take notice and ponder for a long time. The questions are asked by characters the children have fallen in love with and protagonists they have befriended. Somewhere along the reading journey the questions become the child’s own questions, one he or she is eager to find the answers to.
Its extremely important that for parents there has to be a willingness to accept that everything does not have to be fed into a school curriculum or any curriculum for that matter. Stories help children all over the world develop in many different ways which are often more important than the school syllabus. Fiction helps children explore the amazing possibilities of imagination, the finer nuances of human emotions, the sheer joy of words and language, fiction transports children to countries and worlds they have never been to, acquaints them with creatures they have never seen and many, many other things. And the icing on the cake is that it entertains the child like nothing else does.
What do you all think, was the woman right in nudging, or, rather pushing her daughter towards non- fiction books? Do you feel that fiction just does not teach anything? I would love to get everyone’s opinion.