Literacy links to Wellbeing

Reading Fiction can Influence Wellbeing Literacy.

A team at Melbourne University is proposing a Capability Model for Wellbeing Literacy. This model attributes an agency, intention and freedom of choice (a capability) to enhance and maintain the wellbeing of ourselves, others and the wider world, made possible by way of multimodal forms of language. The team’s 2021 paper entitled “Wellbeing Literacy: A Capability Model for Wellbeing Science and Practice” (Oades et al. 2021) adds further weight to the assertion that reading enhances wellbeing.

The Melbourne University team defines wellbeing literacy as the “capability to comprehend and compose wellbeing language, (across contexts) with the intention of using such language to maintain or improve the wellbeing of oneself, others or the world”.

The article refers to language as a “resource that people use actively to construct their psychological and social realities”. Wellbeing literacy relies on being able to recognise and interpret the language of wellbeing. But as our capacity to use language expands, so does our capacity to recognise, interpret and articulate our wellbeing insights and experiences. Not only do we become agents in our own wellbeing, but we are able to make conscious choices that influence our own wellbeing and that of others, and we recognise that our state of wellbeing is a personal choice and we have the freedom to make those choices.

According to the Capability Model, language provides people with the capability to convert wellbeing opportunities into wellbeing experiences and achievements. This article also recognises that with more language opportunities comes more choices, greater freedom of choice and a broader interpretation of concept of wellbeing. Language can also reframe experiences to enhance wellbeing – an aspect of the written word as well known to poets as it is to journalists.

It is easy to see how reading supports this model: as protagonists use language to support their own wellbeing and demonstrate agency in their own choices we might start to recognise and realise our own values, agency and potential. Through the narrative we are able to find insights into our wellbeing experiences and achievements.

In the Capability Model wellbeing literacy becomes a recognisable aspect of Developmental Bibliotherapy, both dynamic and very personal, and closely connected to agency and the “freedom to choose what wellbeing means to a person and [the] choice in how that is maximised via language and knowledge.”

Ultimately, maintaining our wellbeing is a personal endeavour, related to our goals, values, relationships and past experiences. However, as language expands our capability of experiencing wellbeing, fiction provides language in context and offers a myriad of opportunities to learn the language of wellbeing and the freedom to discover, trial and explore our own unique versions of wellbeing.

Oades, Lindsay G., Aaron Jarden, Hanchao Hou, Corina Ozturk, Paige Williams, Gavin R. Slemp, and Lanxi Huang. 2021. “Wellbeing Literacy: A Capability Model for Wellbeing Science and Practice.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18 (2): 719.

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