Fairy tales, fantasy epics and science fiction stories (like ‘The Racer from Outer Space’, from this month’s issue of Storytime!) and have been popular with readers of all ages for a very long time! However, whilst some people might see this kind of story as being ‘mere’ escapism that doesn’t teach us much… we believe they play an important role in making young readers fall in love with stories! Our Worlds of Wonder strand often features adventures in imaginary worlds, with fantastical characters. They have been very popular for many years so here is why!
We would like to share seven reasons why fantastic literature should be on everyone’s reading list!
1. They ARE escapist… and that’s a good thing!
One of the appealing things about fantasy and sci-fi is that they do allow us to escape the mundane world for a time. We all need to relax now and then, especially in stressful times, and reading a tale about an epic quest in an imaginative world might be a healthier option than playing a game on a tablet or watching TV!
2. They stimulate the imagination!
Reading any book requires us to use our imaginations to visualise characters and settings, but tales of the fantastic take this to the next level. We can all imagine a letterbox or a car relatively easily, but conjuring up a picture of an alien or a princess who transforms into a swan is a rewarding imaginative challenge!
3. They increase mental flexibility!
Fantasy and sci-fi tales take place in worlds that differ from our own and work by different rules. Perhaps magic works, for example, or spacecraft can move faster than light. JRR Tolkien, author of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, called fictional realms with their own consistent laws ‘secondary worlds’. Part of the fun of reading a fantasy novel is exploring a secondary world and discovering its secrets and rules. Engaging with a world that runs by a different logic to our own encourages us to think in new ways and come up with new approaches to problems!
The best way to build vocabulary is to read books that contain lots of new words! You can work out what they mean from context or keep a dictionary handy and look them up… Tales of the fantastic are often filled with new and interesting terms to discover. Need proof? Talk to a fantasy fan, and they are sure to know lots of cool terms for magical items or bits of medieval armour. Sci-fi afficionados, on the other hand, can tell you about high-tech concepts or facts about science and space.
5. They encourage us to think beyond the literal!
Science fiction and fantasy may be about different worlds, but the best ones also have profound things to say about the world we live in. They just use fantasy metaphors to communicate them to us! This means that fantasy can be more challenging than stories set in the ‘real’ world because readers must work out the messages that authors are trying to get across.
Continuing from the last point, many fantasy and science fiction novels have profound and complex themes – they certainly aren’t ‘just’ escapism! A story that involves contact with aliens (like this month’s Storytime cover story!) makes us think about what it means to be humans and how we communicate with those that are different from us. Fantasy stories often ponder heavy themes such as the nature of good and evil and what we would sacrifice to protect the things we love. However, because these ideas are introduced in a fictional context and in fictional worlds, they can be more approachable to younger readers.
As humans, we can imagine how things could be different, and then work towards making what we imagine a reality. Stories of the fantastic introduce us to mind-bending ideas and encourage us to think in new and innovative ways. It’s no mistake that many of the most successful entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives of modern times were enthusiastic sci-fi fans or fantasy gamers in their teens, as engaging with the fantastic encourages creativity. Many say that a love of fantasy and sci-fi might just have been their superpower. So encourage your kids to read fantastic stories… who knows where it might take them!
There should be no boundaries for which worlds you would like to visit while reading stories! We encourage you to go far and beyond, wherever your imagination takes you! And there are many places yet to be visited, so we hope to write about them all… and we truly hope you will join us!