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There is not one word of this Guardian article by Neil Gaiman that I do not wholeheartedly agree with. I love the fact that he describes fiction as the gateway drug to reading. He is spot on about encouraging kids to read, letting them read whatever they want (even if we think the books they are reading aren't "good enough"). I remember being forced to read "The Hobbit" as a well meaning route to finding new types of fiction and getting me out of my Enid Blyton groove. Instead I found Agatha Christie, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Dostoevsky's "Cancer Ward 13" - I was a strange teenager :-)

I am so happy that my two small boys are "readers" - even though they can't yet read for themselves. My greatest wish as a parent is that my boys get as much joy out of reading as I do. Gaiman reminds us that we have an obligation to keep reading to our children, to keep doing the voices, to enjoy that bonding time, when we can't check our digital addications.

Reading gave me, the painfully shy introverted child and teenager, a way out. And much later at University and then through bookcrossing, it helped me find my tribe.

I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children's books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading.....It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. Neil Gaimain

Gaiman also argues that escapist literature is good in and of itself. He defends all books against the cliquey snobbery that still exists in this book industry....

And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

Finally he argues about the freedom that libraries bring, and the absolutely necessity of books.

Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over.

I urge you to read the full article.

And a final thought from Gaiman:
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.