The Science of Stories

Science of Story conference
Category: Reading

We know that it is good for children to read for pleasure, and that reading stories in particular can help develop their emotional and social lives.

Yet the most recent figures for the UK suggest that as children move into their teens, reading for pleasure falls; only 40% of 14–16-year-olds say that they enjoy reading very much or quite a lot, compared to 73% of 7–11-year-olds.

We don’t know for sure why enthusiasm for reading declines in the teenage years, but it is striking that young people now do more of their reading online than in books. This close relationship with screens suggests that film and video may have replaced text as a medium for stories.

The Scotland’s Stories project is a partnership between Strathclyde University, Scottish Book Trust and Glasgow Women’s Library to look at these questions:

  • Does it matter if young people enjoy stories by films and videos rather than by books?
  • Can visual, screen-based narrative help to build enthusiasm for books?

Our one-day, free conference, The Science of Stories, includes talks from neuroscientists, specialists in literature, film and education and representatives of Scottish Book Trust and Glasgow Women’s Library. From 9am on Friday 3 June 2016 at the University of Strathclyde, lecture room 301, McCance building, 16 Richmond Street, Glasgow G1 1XQ. 

  • Chris Butler (Oxford University, Neuroscience) will talk about how the brain’s ‘episodic memory system’ lets us create and understand stories, and the implications of this for text and screen.
  • Yuki Kamide (Dundee University, Psychology) explains how our visual and language systems work together.
  • Elspeth Jajdelska (Strathclyde University, English) looks at how we process stories, and life, as a series of small ‘events’, and investigates how far we do this differently in texts rather than films.
  • Wendy Kirk (Glasgow Women’s Library) talks about the library’s outreach work and how it uses film alongside reading.
  • Shari Sabeti (Edinburgh University, Education) discusses her research on teaching Shakespeare through comic books, and the interplay of the visual and verbal.
  • Scott Donaldson (Film Education at Creative Scotland) demonstrates some of the ways that ‘literacy’ can be learned from films as well as books.
  • Marc Lambert (Scottish Book Trust) rounds off the day by asking why stories – and the medium they’re told in – matter.

For conference booking, please register at Attendance is free.  

Bursaries are available to support attendance, for details please email

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