When I was a museum educator, we were always looking for ways to demonstrate the benefit of museum field trips to the surrounding school districts. Many museums were faced with this often-daunting task. On the museum education listserv that I enjoyed lurking about, one of the museum educators from an art museum wrote a detailed post on how her museum was starting a writing program targeting middle schoolers to bring them into the museum and get them writing.
It was a great program, the kind that a school would have a difficult time claiming worthless.
I’m a big fan of multidisciplinary learning opportunities like this, so when this article came to my attention, I couldn’t help but save it. I had never really thought about it before, but book-based fan fiction really is killing several birds with one stone.
First, it encourages the student to read. Then, it encourage the student to consider what they have written, inadvertently teaching the student to both appreciate and analyze what they read, even if they don’t agree with how the author has done something. It then incites the student to write their own version of what they think should have happened, or to write about story lines the student would like to see happen, allowing the student to take the analytical step and merge it with their own creativity. That’s a pretty powerful and empowering experience when you’re young.
For some, as they get into the writing of fan fiction, they start learning about the world created within the book. I’ve known many fan fiction writers who, in an attempt to be authentic or realistic, start doing research to help them fully develop their story. Others spend hours editing their pieces. In an English classroom, research and editing projects are like pulling teeth. Students are fearful of doing it “correctly”. When the same student approaches their fan fiction, the fear of correctness is taken away, allowing them to develop their own internal voice that helps them present a clean outside voice in their writing.
Fan fiction is not going to save the world, but it does have a useful place in the education sphere.