The number of books in a household predicts how long a student will stay in school—better than parental education or economic status. 1
Reading about famous scientists’ struggles and the setbacks they had to overcome boosts students’ own persistence and science achievement. 2
Many top scientists can point to a book that inspired them at an early age. 3,4
In one experiment, junior high students learned more and enjoyed learning science more when encouraged to read trade books along with their textbooks.
The more time a young adolescent spends reading each day, the higher her science scores. Similarly, an adolescent who reads for pleasure and who would feel happy with a book as a gift performs much better in science that one who reads only when required and would be unhappy with a book as a gift. 5
In an extensive summary of the literature, Lucy Avraamidou and Jonathan Osborne concluded that in contrast to the language of science, which often makes learners feel excluded from the grown-up world of truth and truth-telling, fictional narrative is central to how people understand the world they live in and serves as a means to communicate personal understanding to others. They cite studies demonstrating that narrative text (i.e. fiction) enhances memory, interest, and understanding, and tends to increase student motivation and enjoyment of science. 6
In a study of college freshmen, Dabney et. al found that students who reported reading and/or watching science-related material outside of school were 1.3 times more likely to select a STEM-related major, and if the students also had an interest in science or math in middle school, they were 7 times more likely to select a STEM major. The authors state that “the inclusion of non-fiction and science fiction within English Language Arts programs may be beneficial to the development of students in STEM careers.” 7
“Even Einstein Struggled:” https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/edu-edu0000092.pdf
“How A Wrinkle in Time Inspired Female Scientists.” https://newsela.com/read/lib-wrinkle-time-women-s
http://www.achievement.org/book/20000-leagues-sea“I Was Hooked for Life,: https:///www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/10/science-writers-books-inspired-them-brian-cox-garry-kasparov“Tales of Wonder” Nature 540, 194-197, 07 December 2015. “A bedtime story can ignite a lifelong love of science…”
Fisher, Becky. Using literature to teach science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 1980, 17, 173-177.
PISA Data Explorer, National Center for Education Statistics.
Avraamidou, L., & Osborne, J. (2009). The role of narrative in communicating science. International Journal of Science Education 31(12), 1683-1707.
Dabney, K., Tai, R., Almarode, J., Miller-Friedman, J., Sonnert, G., Sadler, P., and Hazari, Z. 2012. Out-of-school-time activities and their association with career interest in STEM. International Journal of Science Education Part B: 2(1), 63-79. DOI 10.1080/21548455.2011.629455.