The Power of Story: How Literature can Teach, Enrich and Transform

By Trevor Cairney.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Reading literature offers children the opportunity to grasp meanings in narrative form that are important. The words of other people, whether spoken or written, allow us to reflect on the consequences and possibilities of our own experiences. Just as I am affected by human tragedy in my world, I am also affected by the tragedy of characters in books. So too, as readers, we can ‘enter into’ the lives of book characters and share their joy, amusement, fear, love, curiosity and sadness. For some, children’s books provide their first experience of hatred, death, disease, isolation, war, divorce and so on. These aspects of the human condition are important to understand without necessarily needing to experience them. Books allow us to reflect on these and other experiences and come to a greater understanding of our world and ourselves. As well, literature can act both as mortar to build rich personal and textual histories, and as a bridge between our lives and the lives of others. In this article I will outline research on narrative and literature that helps us to understand the transforming power of literature. I will also discuss the impact that the loss of literary experiences might have on children.

Keywords: Literature, Reader Response, Narrative Theory, Learning, Literacy

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.37-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 571.248KB).

Prof. Trevor Cairney

Master, New College, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Trevor Cairney (B.A., M.Litt., PhD) - I am a Professor of Education who has been researching and writing about literacy and children’s literature for over 30 years. I am a past President of the Australian Literacy Educators Association and serve on the editorial advisory boards of Reading Research Quarterly and the Journal of Literacy Research. I have undertaken 32 funded research projects, presented over 150 conference papers around the world and have published over 200 articles and 7 books addressing the social construction of literacy, children’s literature, family literacy and text comprehension. I am also an active blogger sharing my writing and knowledge with an international readership interested in ‘Literacy, families & learning’.


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