What is True: Young Readers and Fiction

Young children are surrounded by fictional media, including books, videos, and games. Often they are expected to learn new information from these explicitly fictional sources, while simultaneously avoiding confusion about what is true in the real world versus what is true only in fictional worlds. How do children navigate this “reader’s dilemma”? A new article in the journal Developmental Review addresses this question by first examining whether fiction can change children’s real-world knowledge or behaviors, both generally and through learning of specific pieces of information from fictional contexts. The bulk of this research suggests that children can learn new information from fiction. The authors then ask whether fiction teaches children more effectively than other types of activities or than nonfiction media, as well as whether there are differences in children’s learning from realistic as opposed to fantastical fiction. Many open questions about these topics remain, including how selective children are when learning from fiction, which properties of the media affect their selectivity, how long children retain information learned from fictional contexts, and how child-level factors like age may affect this learning. The review addresses these issues and offers some suggestions for future research in this area.

For the abstract


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