Back when I was in primary school, it was hard not to get drawn into the Harry Potter madness. After some initial resistance, and being a weird kind of kid, I ended up having to force my parents to send me to Harry Potter summer camp. It was called The Summer School of Magic and even though the activities were really lame, all the kids felt pretty special being sorted into houses and using wands.
I guess we weren’t that strange after all. Sometimes even adults need to hide in the world of fiction, which is why, for example, Jane Austen summer camps are so popular in various places around the world. That one may also be about looking for one’s own Mr Darcy, though.
But what’s realy valuable about literature is not that it let’s you get away from reality but how it is enhanced by the experience you spontaneously gain while reading. Books can be like shortcuts to understanding other people, or offer up unconventional solutions, buried within the pages. As Harold Bloom, a renowned literary critic, put it:
In fact, it is Shakespeare who gives us the map of the mind. It is Shakespeare who invents Freudian Psychology. Freud finds ways of translating it into supposedly analytical vocabulary.
Literature can also be a great source of motivation. I mean, if some silly dude with hairy legs could save the whole population of Middle-earth, who’s to say that you can’t do something spectacular, too? But even more importantly, books can also help you get through a difficult period. You might’ve heard about alternative sentencing program – Changing Lives Through Literature (read more here). Or if that doesn’t convince you, just look at this moving statement from Get Into Reading group participant, Louise:
Reading Shakespeare has helped me to connect to other people in a way I couldn’t imagine. It is the best thing I have done. Having Asperger’s is like having jelly with fish. But I feel I have found my jelly and ice-cream here. (Check out the inspiring article from The Independent)
As you see, even if some say that the written word isn’t as powerful as action, the latter has been both influenced and remembered thanks to the former for thousands of years. No one (but writers, perhaps) can predict how our world would look like without scientists, politicians or architects taking inspiration from literature. Don’t forget that Julius Verne gave a detailed description of landing on the moon decades before it happened and some consider Mark Twain the Father of the Internet.
- Anne, OpenBooks.com