Through several circumstances, including the Second World War, my parents never enjoyed the education they had aimed for. But one of the things that my parents possessed in abundance were books. This appears to be a rather important fact according to the outcome of scientific research reported in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.
‘Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. This is as great an advantage as having university educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father. It holds equally in rich nations and in poor; in the past and in the present; under Communism, capitalism, and Apartheid; and most strongly in China.’
Of course, it is essential that when you are a child you do read these books. That is what I did because I followed the example set by my parents.
One of the first books I read by myself was Wipneus and Pim and the Pestering Guy (Wipneus & Pim are two dwarfs starring in a series of Dutch children’s books, Wipneus is named after his upturned nose). ‘King Good Heart lives in Fairy Tale Wood. Schorretje, Pestering Guy’s name, is travelling with his donkey Mok. He is a ghastly character and he certainly enjoins tormenting others, in particular dwarfs Panhandle and Keybeard. Luckily Pim and his friend Wipneus are on hand.’
Later I progressed to Winnetou and Old Shatterhand created by Karl May and at quite an early age I graduated to books for grown-ups.
Besides we were encouraged to read every book and yet I do think that books are responsible for more than just a good education.
Reading good fiction increases your emphatic capacity. You establish a bond with characters that do not form part of your day to day world. You learn about other countries, cultures and societies.
Books make you streetwise, something that comes in handy when you embark on your own life.
Reading of fiction encourages creativity. Books are far more effective in nurturing this than films. In order to interpret books your brain has to be able to convert abstract input (the text) into pictures. Films produce the pictures for you.