Rebecca Solnit’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Books Solace, Empower, and Transform Us - In childhood when life itself is pure potential, a book becomes potential squared
“Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings… Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying.”
Galileo considered reading our sole means of having superhuman powers. For Kafka, a book was “the axe for the frozen sea inside us”; for Anaïs Nin, the alarm to awaken us from the slumber of almost-living; for Gwendolyn Brooks, “meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower.”
Since the invention of the printing press, books have fed the human animal’s irrepressible hunger for truth and meaning, and some of the most celebrated exemplars of our species have extolled reading as a pillar of our very humanity. Among them is Rebecca Solnit — one of the most lyrical and insightful writers of our time.
In her beautiful memoiristic essay about how books saved her life, Solnit observed that “the object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed.” In childhood, when life itself is pure potential, a book becomes potential squared.
Books can be educational (DIY, History, Philosophy, etc) for those who can't or did not attend school, books can also be an escape to happier places for those who cannot travel or who are trapped in unhappy situations. The mind is an incredibly powerful thing, and a well-written book will often make the experience so real you will wake up in the morning wondering if it really happened.
Books are so many things to so many people, and they can also be incredibly cheap. When I was young I used to frequent many second-hand bookshops as well as my local community library. I always had at least two books I was busy reading and I must have read a few thousand books by now. A well-written book will make even a boring subject fascinating. Just think of some of the modern perspectives on history and mathematics, and writers such as Bill Bryson who will take travels through a country and make it an absolute page-turner filled with humour and interesting facts. Needless to say, just the act of reading often makes people more articulate and able to communicate better themselves.
And technology makes books are very accessible too from being able to hold a few hundreds of eBooks on a Kindle (many of which are free or US$0.99) and audio podcasts which allow the sight impaired to also read or the able-bodied to fill gaps in their day with information and knowledge when they cannot physically be sitting and reading.
If I could only give one piece of advice to a young child it would be to learn to love reading and all else will follow...
but don't miss out some of the links to further interesting sources in that article.