Peter Gray is a champion of natural and play-based learning for children. His book Free to Learn advocates for play as the most effective way to learn, remembering that play has, perhaps, a broader scope here than in common usage.
In this Psychology Today article, he writes about the benefits of read-it-before-you-need-it books. (He didn’t call them that, but it’s a close fit.) Here are a few quotes that I found interesting, you might like them too:
"Stories provide a simplified simulation world that helps us make sense of and learn to navigate our complex real world. The aspects of our real world that are usually most challenging, most crucial for us to understand, are social aspects. Knowing how to deal with evil as well as love, how to recognize others’ desires and needs, how to behave towards others so as to retain their friendship, and how to earn the respect of the larger society are among the most important skills we all must develop for a satisfying life."
“Stories are a form of play, and, as in all play, our involvement with stories is a way of acquiring skills and ideas that are valuable for negotiating the real world.”
“The stories that attract us most are about social interactions. … We are hungry to learn about the various harmful and helpful ways that people interact with one another, perhaps because that is what we must learn for a satisfying life.”
“Because listening or reading is mentally active but physically passive, it promotes thought and reflection that may not occur so much in real life. … in fiction, where we cannot alter what happens, all we can do is feel, reflect, and think. In the process we may learn to care about people whom we might not otherwise care so much about, including people who are quite different from ourselves.”
In other words, “stories teach you how to act”.