Schools need to teach the importance of nonfiction reading

March 1, 2011

By Michael Payant

Hall Monitor Michael Payant Liberty High School

Over winter break, I read a compilation of sports articles put together by renowned sportswriter Peter Gammons in “The Best American Sports Writing 2010.” These stories were focused on the “personal interest” side, not a depiction of the sporting world, but a trip into the lives of many different people who happen to have sports as a common bond.

Only two times in my life have I been moved to tears while reading. Once was in the aforementioned compilation of sports stories. The particular story was titled “Still Life.” It detailed the bond between a mother and her son after his nearly full paralysis in a high school football game.

The second time was while reading Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” another riveting compilation of short stories, focusing on the lives of soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. Though the stories were historical fiction, I felt while reading them as though the events portrayed actually occurred.

When I was younger, I thought reading nonfiction made me smarter. Now, if nothing else, I know there are an infinite number of true stories just waiting to be read which I will never be too old to appreciate.

I often recall a study I saw online a few years ago.

The National Endowment for the Arts released a report in early 2009 based on a U.S. Census Bureau study. Of the adults surveyed, just 50.2 percent had read a novel, short story, poem or play in the preceding 12 months. This is up from 46.7 percent in 2002, but still hovering around half the adult population.

In my opinion, one of the largest factors contributing to a downward trend in adult reading is the educational foundation upon which reading skills were built; fantastical fiction and dull nonfiction. We outgrow the childish fiction and are left with a negative taste of the nonfiction.

If our schools put a greater emphasis on nonfiction reading, students would have greater appreciation for it. Then, as adults, there would be no shortage of appropriate reading material and reading could remain a more integral part of our adult lives.

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