Intriguing new evidence “shows a positive correlation between literacy and moral reasoning, most particularly between reading fiction and being able to take the perspective of others. Perspective-taking in novels requires a matrices-like rotation of relational positions combined with an understanding of what it would feel like if X happened to you, even though the “you” in this case is a character in the novel.”
“In a 2011 study, for example, the Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson and his team scanned the brain of a woman while she told a story out loud that the scientists recorded and subsequently played back for other subjects while their brains were being scanned. When the reader’s emotional brain region called the insula lit up during a certain portion of the story, so too did the listeners’ insulas; when the woman’s frontal cortex became active during a different part of the story, the same region in listeners’ brains was also activated. It’s almost as if the fictional story synchronized the reader’s and listeners’ brains.”
“This experiment is important because it nails down the direction of the causal arrow from reading literary fiction to perspective taking, eliminating the objection that perhaps people who are interested in and good at interpreting the mental states of others just happen to be people who read novels.”
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“many children lack a sophisticated vocabulary for expressing their emotions, and […] their inability to clearly label their feelings leaves them unable to describe their state of mind in a way that permits teachers to help them.”
“Students should learn to find the language to express the full complexity of human emotion, even emotions that they themselves haven’t yet experienced. The best way to achieve that is to make sure that they […] read and critique poetry, short stories, and novels. Through literature and the arts they will not merely hear and talk about emotions generally, but they will experience and learn to express the interior lives of other people. As a result, they’ll be not only better students, but better people.”
“Cubans enjoy one of the richest and most deeply embedded literary cultures in the world, according to researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham.
According to the researchers, the richness of Cuba’s tradition is typified by the Havana Book Fair held each year in the capital and then across the country.
“It shows how literature and culture are deeply embedded into Cuban culture: within every neighbourhood there’s a writing workshop and a ‘Casa de Cultura’.
… “the Cuban model is something we should be emulating in the West”
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“Books are an irresistible retreat from the chilly and damp; they carry us to lands of whimsy and wisdom. They provoke thought and passion and often entertain our wildest notions. Books provide more than escape. I argue that they force us to observe some aspect of reality, be it through the lens of fiction. …
“I am saying, then, that literacy, the mastery of language and the knowledge of books, is not an ornament, but a necessity. It is impractical only by the standards of quick profit and easy power. Longer perspective will show that it alone can preserve in us the possibility of an accurate judgment of ourselves, and the possibilities of correction and renewal. Without it, we are adrift in the present, in the wreckage of yesterday, in the nightmare of tomorrow.”
More often than not, books are the wonders that save me from the banality of everyday life. It is fortunate that books provide a luxury to everyone. The danger is in the easiness to forget the preciousness of literacy. We cannot neglect our minds and give in to the laziness which favors television over novels.”
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Literacy rates by country, top 10:
Georgia, Cuba, Estonia, Latvia, Barbados, Slovenia, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Armenia… (see complete list).
World Map of Literacy: