Category Archives: Reading & Literacy

Readers are the Best People (and Lovers), Science Says

There’s been a lot of studies recently talking about how “deep reading” of good literature has many benefits in terms of emotional intelligence. An recent article, “Why Readers, Scientifically, Are the Best People to Fall in Love With” outlines some of this work:

According to both 2006 and 2009 studies published by Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, those who read fiction are capable of the most empathy and “theory of mind,” which is the ability to hold opinions, beliefs and interests apart from their own.

They can entertain other ideas, without rejecting them and still retain their own. While this is supposed to be an innate trait in all humans, it requires varying levels of social experiences to bring into fruition and probably the reason your last partner was such a narcissist.

Did you ever see your ex with a book? Did you ever talk about books? If you didn’t, maybe you should think about changing your type.

It’s no surprise that readers are better people. Having experienced someone else’s life through abstract eyes, they’ve learned what it’s like to leave their bodies and see the world through other frames of reference.

Since relationships require understanding another’s perspective and recognizing their existence independent from your own, people who read good books – the one’s that get us to feel what it’s like to be another person – have, through reading, learned, in effect, to be better partners.

According to Psychologist David Comer Kidd, at the New School for Social Research, “What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others.”

This is proved over and over again, the more people take to reading. Their ability to connect with characters they haven’t met makes their understanding of the people around them much easier.

They have the capacity for empathy. They may not always agree with you, but they will try to see things from your point of view.

Do y0ur partner a favor and read a good book!


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Filed under Education, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy

Love of Reading Matters for Student Achievement: Some Empirical Research from Educational Psychology

A study in the most recent Journal of Educational Psychology by Jihyun Lee, “Universal Factors of Student Achievement in High-Performing Eastern and Western Countries,” sets out to investigate whether there is a common set of attitudes or traits students exhibit that contribute to academic success. One thing that’s interesting about this study is that it’s one of the few that gives us cross-cultural data, East and West, on this important issue: “This study concludes that what motivates human learning is invariant across countries with vastly different educational, cultural, and language systems.” Something that should be especially interesting to librarians is Lee’s finding that one of the main things that motivates learning across cultures was a love of reading.  From the abstract: “[e]njoyment of reading in particular was a strong predictor at both individual and country levels” for student success (particularly in the area of student success with reading comprehension skills). In short, students attitudes toward reading – whether they like it or not – has a lot of to with how well they do in school.

This is all very interesting for librarians, as it illustrates the substantial educational role we can play in facilitating student success, from K-12 School Media Specialists to reference & instruction librarians in academic libraries. And, again, it extends our scope beyond just helping students find resources; it shows how instrumental we can be in determining how students feel about their education. As I’ve argued  in my scholarly work about authentic engagement with students’ interests, students’ level of engagement and interest with their work impacts their motivation to learn, which, in turn, can impact how much they do learn: How we feel about what we’re learning impacts whether we learn it. One way for library practitioners to benefit from the research in education, then, is to develop strategies to figure out how we can share our love of reading with our students, to instill those feelings in them as well.

Pediatricians are now (literally) prescribing books for children’s health; no reason (academic) librarians can’t try to change how students feel, as well.

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy

Mind Reading and Literary Fiction

We’ve touched recently on the topic of whether librarians can help students develop emotional intelligence and, also, on the topic of whether academic librarians should be pursuing reader’s advisory.

NPR discusses some pretty interesting research bearing directly on both of these issues:

Your ability to “read” the thoughts and feelings of others could be affected by the kind of fiction you read.

That’s the conclusion of a in the journal Science that gave tests of social perception to people who were randomly assigned to read excerpts from literary fiction, popular fiction or nonfiction.

On average, people who read parts of more literary books like The Round House by Louise Erdrich did better on those tests than people who read either nothing, read nonfiction or read best-selling popular thrillers like The Sins of the Mother by Danielle Steel.

Do you think this means my kitten will start to understand how I feel when he bites my ankles at 5am every morning?


Probably not. But some very cool possibilities available to the innovative academic librarians of the future!

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy

On Being Attracted to Bad Boys

Okay, I admit it … I’m attracted to bad boys.

For their books, that is. At least according to Howard Jacobson’s piece, “In Praise of Bad Boys’ Books,” which mentions some of my favorite writers, like Henry Miller and Philip Roth.


Jacobson articulates a quality that I think sums up a lot of the writers I love rather nicely, that:

In their own individual, rancidly sardonic way these novels of which I speak are always funny.

I like serious novels as much as the next guy – I took English 847 “Seminar in the American Novel” with Post-45 guru and bona fide rock star Florence Dore during library school for fun –  but the stuff I love, and go back to again and again, although serious, is always funny, and maybe even a little bit trashy . These books may not always be redemptive – if you want that go read Nicholas Sparks – but they always delight me, and allow me access into the twisted consciousness of another person trying to make sense of it all. 

[S]ome novelists make it possible for us to stare at pain with bitter and derisive comedy, and because there is a part of us that values truth above illusion, we grab at that bitter comedy for dear life.

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Filed under Education, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy

On Reading: Should Academic Librarians Be Doing Reader’s Advisory?

When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool.

Philip Larkin, “A Study of Reading Habits

Perhaps the single most constant thread running through my life since I was a little boy is that I’ve always loved books and reading. When I was young, I was really into sports, and read sports biographies, mostly ghost written affairs about various New York Yankees and Buffalo Bills. I never liked school, and never did very well in it, either, but I still remember the books we read in class that I loved.

Later on,  after essentially failing out of high school, I got fired from a series of high-fashion department stores, and spent my free time roaming the bookstores of Westheimer and reading fiction. I had absolutely no interest in school, but loved literature. Books were what mattered to me.

During this time it was my dream – like literally, all I wanted in this world – to get a job in a bookstore. That was my life’s ambition: to be around books at work. Alas, my suitability to work at Barnes & Noble or Borders was apparently in question, because none of these places would hire me. Which, looking back on it, seems like a good thing, because I doubt I’d be doing what I want the way I am now if I had, in fact, gotten what I wanted at 20. Nevertheless, it seems fitting, looking back on that 20 year old self, that I became a librarian.  Books and reading are still pretty much right there at the top of the list of the few holy things there are to me in this world.

But here’s the strange thing: as anyone who’s ever applied to library school knows, just about the worst thing you can say in your statement of purpose is that you want to be a librarian because you love to read. Why? Because being a librarian, the story goes, has got very little to do with a love of books or reading at all. In fact, even saying that this is your reason indicates that you don’t understand the nature of the profession.

I want to tell you that I think this is very strange.

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy, The Library Game