Have you ever felt that you are also a student at Hogwarts, playing and performing magic with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger? Did reading the Harry Potter series transport you to a world of Magic where you thought muggles are boring? That’s the power of books. They would help you shift the words into a world to walk through.
Reading fiction, reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Novels, short stories, poems, travelogues and comics entertain our minds. It keeps us engaged. Books enhance the children’s imagination.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read. I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children.
One there was a talk in New York about building private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needed to plan its future growth – how many cells were they going to need? How many prisoners would there be 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure. You can’t say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.
Reading also builds empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things created using one person’s or a team’s imagination. The world is already shown to us. But while reading, you build up a world from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, can see and experience it. You get to feel things and visit places you would never otherwise know. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed. You might think that the world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different.
Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.
Today everyone is busy. Some of us say that we don’t get time to read. But technology has given us options. Digital libraries have made reading easier. Even while travelling, we can browse the internet, mobiles and tablets. Our lives have changed but reading hasn’t. If you haven’t started reading yet, go pick up a book from your nearest library or bookstore.