Literature is any story in any medium that is able to use fake lives to teach you about real life.
Literature, unlike what many uninformed people think is not about immersion. Immersion is a part of it, but it is not the point. If immersion and taking you out of reality into another world were the point, it would be merely escapism. That would be extremely shallow, and not worth the vast amount of research, studying, and writing that goes into it.
We read, or study literature because of the exact opposite reason; the story may be captivating and interesting, but its always infinitely better if it has something awe inspiring to teach us. We don’t learn physics or listen to lectures in literature, we delve into a piece of art that is structured to flow in a very deliberate way. It is both like a painting and a film at the same time, and from it we learn what children’s stories simplify into a one word moral. True literature does not necessarily tell us how to think, but rather it shows us something inherently human and prompts us think. It reveals ideas that we interpret and reinterpret. It is like a thousand motivational facebook pictures and every good piece of advice you have ever heard in one small book.
Books make you a better person. Even if you read a biased book that promotes bad things, if you are open minded and reasonable, you will learn about why they are bad and why other people might think these things. Even if they are bad things, they might even have good or understandable parts to them. Books (hopefully) intricately and elegantly weave meaning into the story through tools like metaphors, symbolism, irony, foreshadowing and other things. Through these we do learn what is taught in a philosophy lecture without even realising that we are learning.
The most obvious examples are satire. The book “Animal Farm” can be read as a story about animals taking over a farm, or an analysis and social commentary on dictatorships and the Soviet Union. Some books do this by accident, most on purpose, but that you can learn more about yourself and others by reading is the important part.
When you read a book, you should be looking for the deeper meaning. Making connections not only makes the story more interesting and likable, but you learn valuable life lessons from it. Teenagers are known for having advanced intelligence but not as advanced decision making skills, which often results in them being rebellious. While this may be seen as just a phase, it actually represents something much deeper. It shows a stage of philosophical development where they realise that no one should be oppressed and forced to do things unjustly, even though they mostly apply this when it is convenient for them. They also show moral and reasoning maturity, since they stop blindly believing what others, especially those who have authority, tell them to believe dogmatically. A good book about teenagers could explain why these are both good and bad things, and allow teenagers to grow up having taken the good parts of what they’ve learned and fix the short-sightedness that they didn’t know they had.
Based on this definition, books, plays, operas, film, and videogames can all be literature.
The reason people are encouraged to read is because it makes them better people by informing them about human values and philosophy. This is important because as any philosophy, it forms your character, personality, morality, virtues and views.
Literature is learning new ways of living and thinking, through a story that makes it interesting.