I found a beautiful book. In his excellent book, Neil Gaiman suggests that reading fiction, reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I want to share a passage about the “library” part because everybody should read this part for our future. (You can buy the book from here)
Neil Gaiman made a plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are and preserve both of these things.
It is obviously in his interest for people to read, read fiction, libraries, and librarians to exist, and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur. So he is biased as a writer. But he is much, much more biased as a reader.
Everything changes when we read.
People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate. The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read and show them that reading is a pleasurable activity.
I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. It’s tosh. It’s snobbery, and it’s foolishness. We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: Anything they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. You are finding out something as you read that will be 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.
Fiction builds empathy. Fiction is something you build up from twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. You and you alone use your imagination, create a world, and people it and look out through other eyes. You are someone else, and when you return to your world, you will be slightly changed.
Neil Gaiman says:
“I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up and met the kind of librarians who did not mind a small, unaccompanied boy heading back into the children’s library every morning and working his way through the card catalog, looking for books with ghosts or magic or rockets in them, looking for vampires or detectives or witches or wonders. They were good librarians. They liked books, and they liked the books being read. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and they would talk to me about the books I was reading. They would find me other books they would help. They treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.”
Libraries are about freedom. They are places for freedom of reading, ideas, and communication. They are about education, entertainment, making safe spaces, and access to information. All books will or should migrate onto screens. Over twenty years before digital editions showed up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: There were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. There are still sharks around because sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is.
Physical books are sturdy, hard to destroy, bath resistant, solar operated, feel good in your hand: They are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
A library is a place of safety, a haven from the world. It’s a place with librarians in it.
We need to teach our children to read and enjoy reading. We need libraries. We need books. We need literate citizens. Books are the way that the dead communicate with us. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, the way that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned over and over.
We must read for pleasure. If others see us reading, we show that reading is a good thing. We must support libraries and protest the closure of libraries.
If you do not value libraries, you are silencing the past’s voices, damaging the future.
Fiction is the lie that tells the truth. We all must daydream and imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is vast, and the individual is less than nothing. But the truth is individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.
Albert Einstein was once asked how we could make our children intelligent. “If you want your children to be intelligent.” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more creative, read them more fairy tales.
I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine and understand.
- A passage from Neil Gaiman’s “ART MATTERS.”
Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.