6 sci-fi and fantasy books to share with the App Generation by Laura McClure
The “app generation” struggles with creative writing — as a new study shows, they’re turning into realists. Here’s a mini summer reading list that might inspire some wild thinking.
Creative writing is part of being a kid. Writing and reading goofy stories of lost kingdoms and Mars colonies helps the imagination grow strong. But a recent study uncovers an interesting, perhaps even dismaying trend: this generation of kids seems to prefer narrative realism when they write.
In a study published earlier this year in Creativity Research Journal, researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Washington asked the question, “How have the style, content and form of adolescents’ art-making and creative writing changed over the last 20 years?”
To answer that, researcher Emily Weinstein and her co-authors, including Katie Davis, co-author of The App Generation (and a speaker at this week’s TEDSalon in Berlin), examined two distinct eras of teenage self-expression for the traditional hallmarks of creativity, such as originality, complexity and sophistication. After analyzing 354 visual artworks and 50 fiction stories, from two separate time periods, 1990-1995 and 2006-2011, there’s good and bad news.
The good news? Adolescent visual proficiency has improved. The bad news: teen creativity and technical skill in writing has declined. Instead of imagining Martian neighborhoods, the App Generation has been describing their own summer plans.
What’s behind this curve? From the study:
“The observed domain changes could undeniably be the result of any number of societal changes over the period of interest. Two changes highlighted by Kim (2011), however, may be particularly relevant to high school students’ experiences and their creative expression: the increase in digital media technologies and the rise of standardized testing in schools.”
This is a small study, but if it inspires you to think about how to green the imagination of the kids and teens you know, may we suggest this option: Read and share fiction that sparks wonder and possibility. And to this writer, that means genre fiction: science fiction and fantasy that pulls you out of narrative realism and into a world of possibility. If you already love science fiction and fantasy, I encourage you to plant seeds of inspiration by sharing your favorite authors with a teenager or young person you like. (And if you don’t think you like genre fiction, the authors excerpted below may change your mind.) Below, 6 stories worth sharing.
Included in the short story collection Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. New York: Viking, 2008
Included in the short story collection Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders. New York: Random House, 2013