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And I am even more biased as a British citizen. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read. I want to talk about what reading does. I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons — a huge growth industry in America.

The prison industry needs to plan its future growth — how many cells are they going to need?

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How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? But there are very real correlations. And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction. Fiction has two uses. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going.

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To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing.

Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you. We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy.

When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well.

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Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals. I was in China in , at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed? The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans.

But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls. Fiction can show you a different world. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

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.

And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up. They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read.

They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader — nothing less or more — which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old. But libraries are about freedom.

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Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university , about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information. I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally.

But that is to miss the point fundamentally. I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories — they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need. Libraries are places that people go to for information.

Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before — books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online.

Librarians can help these people navigate that world. Blythin, 24, enjoyed a prolific first season for Kent, where she was named player of the year after scoring runs with a top The transgender cricketer Maxine Blythin says her ambition is to play for England and that she is In normal circumstances, a manager whose side were trailing to the bottom club might look along his substitutes In normal circumstances, a manager whose side were trailing to the bottom club might look I have been a professional sports photographer for all of my working life, covering World Cups, Olympic Games, Wimbledon and countless world title fights.

I have been a professional sports photographer for all of my working life, covering World Cups Lover of Savoy opera who created the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival and was the very model of a modern major-general. Author whose evocative books explored the lives of African-Americans in the Deep South from slavery to the civil rights era. Anna Murphy was feeling deflated — until she dug out an old favourite.

The best finds on the high street, what to wear to work and how to find a style that suits you, from The Times and The Sunday Times. Then again, while Bijan Sheibani is new to us as a writer, over the past 15 years he has made a name as a stylish We are at a crowded train station during the Second World War; officials bustle around with evacuation cards as they send hordes of children off Click here for your interactive listings.

For full TV listings for the week, see thetimes. Dominic Maxwell is a theatre and comedy critic for The Times. He has been reviewing, interviewing and He has been reviewing Thousands and thousands of new titles have been published this year. The literary team at The Times has tried to make life simple for you by choosing 50 books, fiction and nonfiction, that we think you may enjoy.

We hope you find something enjoyable. The literary team at The Watch our critics discuss the big new releases. This week Kevin Maher and Ed Potton give their The outgoing chairman of Rangers FC will consider taking legal action against the tax authorities if it is proven they made errors that contributed to the collapse of the Ibrox club.

Dave King indicated he would be willing to explore building a legal case against HMRC around its historic pursuit The outgoing chairman of Rangers FC will consider taking legal action against the tax authorities if it is proven they made Attacks on students in the university town where Prince William and Kate Middleton fell in love has prompted police to bring in additional officers. For centuries St Andrews has been regarded as a tranquil and cloistered outpost of academic excellence, attracting gifted and well-heeled scholars from around the world. Attacks on students in the university town where Prince William and Kate Middleton fell in love Established by two drapers in , it has a special place in the hearts of shoppers.

Social media is awash with a hankering for the Politicians have been urged by church leaders to engage in a truthful debate during the election campaign. A joint statement signed by ten leaders also implores the public to treat candidates with respect.

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It comes after the A joint Colette Murray came up with the idea during prisoner week, a school project to help children learn Rita Thomson was the genial and caring nurse who tended the composer Benjamin Britten in his last three years. She entered the close-knit community at his home the Red House in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, to look after the celebrated classical musician Rita Thomson was the genial and caring nurse who tended the composer Benjamin Britten in his last Dave King has insisted striker Alfredo Morelos will not be sold in January — at any price — as he confirmed he will step down as Rangers chairman in the belief he is leaving the club in the best shape it has been in for four decades.

The year-old South African-based major shareholder says winning the Ladbrokes Premiership title back from Celtic is more important than Dave King has insisted striker Alfredo Morelos will not be sold in January — at any price — as he The Green Brigade has claimed its ticket allocation is being withheld for all games until further notice.

Celtic decided to close However, it was not clear if the subsidiary, called Google Ireland Ltd, shifted revenue to its parent company, Google Ireland Holdings Unlimited, something which it is legally entitled to do. Google Ireland Holdings Unlimited, which Four men have appeared in court charged with the kidnap and torture of Kevin Lunney. The Quinn Industrial Holdings The Quinn Industrial Holdings director was abducted from outside his home in September and badly beaten by a number of men as part of a campaign of intimidation.


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The four men were brought before Virginia district court in Co Cavan The Quinn Industrial Holdings director was The Irish The Disclosures Tribunal is in its fifth week of hearing evidence Subscription Notification. We have noticed that there is an issue with your subscription billing details. Please update your billing details here.

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