Neil Gaiman on reading, imagination, literacy and libraries

I recently came across and loved Neil Gaiman's lecture for The Reading Agency about the importance of encouraging reading, ANY reading but particularly fiction, in young children. He says:

"Literate people read fiction. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. ....


'And the second thing fiction does is to build 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.


'You’re also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this:

The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different.”

He also discusses the importance of imagination, the benefits of ‘escapist’ reading, the necessity of libraries and how the rise of the digital world increases our need for literacy:

“Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.”

It’s fabulous, entertaining and thought provoking, everything you could want in a lecture—head on in and have a read or a watch+listen:

P.S. I loved this little caution:

"We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. (Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen King’s Carrie, saying if you liked those you’ll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen King’s name is mentioned.)"

Credits - The Guardian: Photograph: Robin Mayes