Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
DEPENDING on the type of literature that people study, there are various lessons drawn from written texts and books. Literature can be focused around history, art and can even be a direct reflection of a society.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines literature as “pieces of writing that are valued as works of art, especially novels, plays and poems (in contrast to technical books and newspapers, magazines, etc.)”. Short stories, drama texts and certain types of essays are also part of literary works. Reading and learning about such written works help one to see how complex human beings truly are.
One scholar, PT Barnum, described literature as “one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity”. Though its educational significance is often downplayed in favour of business and technical education, the study of novels, poems, drama and stories – in their written form – offers many positive benefits to readers.
As reading literature is pleasurable and entertaining in nature, it offers readers the potential to escape from the troubles of daily life. It helps one build experience, learn to empathise with others and, above all, develop thinking skills. Literature provokes thought in readers, making it a leisure activity which is also intellectually productive.
As it is an art that is directly connected to language, a reader learns to look between the lines. One learns how to find symbols and themes in a written text. He or she begins to make connections and to learn about different characters. It is reading that expands these skills, as learners begin to look at a sentence in detail and bring out hidden meanings so that they may come to a conclusion.
Literature also improves one’s writing skills. Since literary works are aesthetic in nature, a reader would like to take in the contents of a novel, poem, a drama text, etc – to master the flow of the words in a sentence. So, for the beauty of the language itself, a person may ask: How did the author imagine something, and then write it in the manner that he or she did? Well, the truth is that those novelists, poets and playwrights used literature to enrich their writing.
This important area of human life serves as a gateway to learning about the past and expanding people’s knowledge and understanding of the world. An individual’s eyes are ‘opened’ so that one realises the wider world surrounding them. As one begins to learn, ask questions, and build one’s intuitions and instincts, his or her mind expands, too.
Without literature, it would be impossible for us to know about our past, the different traditions and cultures of the world, and the people who lived before us, among others. A story exposes readers to different time periods, places, and viewpoints. Its portrayal of varied human beliefs, ideas and societies allows people to learn about where they came from and how everything that took place in the past worked in shaping the different cultures that exist today.
Cultures and beliefs other than our own are there to be appreciated. Literature is there to help people truly understand and experience the other systems of living and other ‘worlds’. Stories, poems, drama texts and literary essays which are historical in nature, for instance, offer readers an opportunity to learn about other people’s way of life and religious beliefs. When one gets a personal view and insight into the minds and reasoning of people found in different societies, he or she learns, understands and appreciates the way social systems operate in the world.
All literature – long or short stories, poems, drama and essays – exists to address all conditions that affect humanity in general. These conditions include physical, intellectual, spiritual and moral growth, fears related to success and failure in life, the need for family and friends (as no one is ‘an island’), the richness of compassion and empathy towards others, trust, love versus hatred, and the fact that no one is perfect on this earth.
As we encourage our children to read, let us help them to read some great literature that provides growth, strengthens their minds and gives them the ability to think outside the box. Good literary works connect us to our own humanity.