Neil Gaiman has a way with words … not just when he writes books but also when he speaks passionately about subjects close to his heart, and, I would suggest, none are closer than encouraging children to read.
In 2013 Gaiman gave the Annual Reading Agency Lecture which he entitled “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”. You can hear the full lecture if you CLICK HERE
In that lecture he made some fundamental points which absolutely chime with what we believe in and are trying to achieve with Litrasaurus.
Above all else he, again, like so many others, makes the connection between reading and the development of imagination and empathy.
“When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.”
This is such an important thing – the link between our lives and the lives of others created by the written word and our imagination. It matters not whether what is written and read is fact or fiction the effect is the same.
If the world is to evolve positively to be an ever better place then we must constantly create and empathise.
“Individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different … The world doesn’t have to be like this.”
Sharing stories is such a fundamental part of that process. Originally it was the oral tradition of fire side narratives then the book, which has itself morphed into digital rather than physical form. Now there are a myriad of ways that children can access the written word. Whilst the Internet provides a powerful medium libraries still have a vital role to play, and must not be allowed to wither, but should actually be encouraged and enhanced.
“I do not care – I do not believe it matters – whether these books are paper, or digital, whether you are reading on a scroll or scrolling on a screen. The content is the important thing.”
The ability to imagine and be creative needs to be developed and like any ‘muscle’ the more you do the better you get at it. We need to make sure every new generation has access to the written word and is encouraged to immerse themselves in it. To use the final words of Gaiman’s lecture
“I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.”
We must also, of course, mention The Reading Agency whose event this was. Their mission is: “We inspire more people to read more, encourage them to share their enjoyment of reading and celebrate the difference that reading makes to all our lives. Because everything changes when we read.” and they do a great job reaching millions of people across the UK through their work with libraries, publishers and partners. For those that may be interested the next annual lecture is at the British Library on 30th November 2015 where Shami Chakrabarti, Director of human rights campaign group Liberty, will be talking about ‘On Liberty, Reading and Dissent’ – we will be there !