Reading & Literacy

Friday Reading Roundup

By Mary Hendrie — March 28, 2014 2 min read
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As the week winds down, dive into some of the recent literary discussions you might have missed.

Of Mice and Men-like Mice

On Tuesday, the journal Frontiers in Psychology published a study on the effects of anthropomorphic children’s books on young readers. The study concluded that books with human-like descriptions of animals were less effective than realistic books in teaching children about animals. Beyond impeding the acquisition of scientific knowledge, books that attribute human characteristics to animals also instill in young readers erroneous anthropomorphic conceptions of animals, the study suggested.

Some news outlets have framed the study as an indictment of fantastical children’s books, such as the London Daily Express, which wrote “forget reading your children Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book, parents are being advised.” Patricia Ganea, the lead researcher on the study, is advising no such thing. In an interview with National Geographic, she admitted to reading her own children Winnie the Pooh, noting that fantasy helps children develop imagination, just not scientific knowledge.

In Search of Lost Booksellers

A recent New York Times article by Julie Bosman raised concerns over the steady disappearance of bookstores in Manhattan over the past few years. Exorbitant rents have pushed Manhattan bookstores toward a slow extinction, Bosman explains, “threatening the city’s sense of self as the center of the literary universe, the home of the publishing industry and a place that lures and nurtures authors and avid readers.”

The Time‘s opinion section followed up the article with a Room for Debate discussion, asking participants “how can bookstores stay alive?” Respondents suggested bookstores form partnerships with libraries, court community engagement, or even radically transition to e-books.

Discussions over imperiled bookstores center around more than just access to books. As the New Yorker‘s Rebecca Mead articulates, “Those of us who cherish our local bookstores do so not simply because they are convenient--how great to be able to run out for milk and also pick up the new Karl Ove Knausgaard!--but also because we feel a duty to support them, because we believe in their mission.”

Crime and Punishment

New prison measures in Britain that, in effect, ban prisoners from receiving books and other parcels have sparked outrage among prominent British authors, as well as the nation’s general public. A petition protesting the new restrictions has already secured over 21,000 signatures since its launch on Monday.

Author Jenny Diski, one of the petition’s signees, excoriates the new policy in an essay for the London Review of Books, arguing that books offer “an entire world of new thoughts and philosophies people whose lives have been blighted by misfortune or careless lack of empathy for the sufferings of others.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.