Since the constant use of computers and the Internet came to be part of our lives, there have been widespread predictions of the demise of books. Kids would rather play Minecraft than read, kids would rather make TikToks than read, kids would rather chat with their friends online than read, kids would rather eat Brussel sprouts…sorry – that was a step too far but you get the idea.

Books are so last century – they’re dull and boring, totally passé, except that they’re not and I hope with every fibre of my being that will never be the case.

Books contain something that connects us all. Stories. Everyone who has lived and is alive today has a story. Some of them are more interesting than others, some of them are tragic and some incredibly fortunate but stories are the one thing that bond us as human beings. As a writer I have the pleasure of creating my own.

Children need books and stories more than ever, as reading for pleasure quite simply offers a doorway to success. There are studies that show that children who read for pleasure are academically more successful than their peers but perhaps even more important than that, reading for pleasure offers children a greater opportunity to be a successful human being – someone who understands and cares about the lives of others.

In an ideal world we want our fellow man to be empathetic – to consider what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes. Let’s face it as a girl growing up in the south west of Sydney I had no understanding of what it would be like to be a child faced with war or poverty or quite simply an extremely different way of life to my own. I had no idea what it would be like to live in Europe or the pioneering plains of America. But I learnt about many of these things - through stories.

My empathy and understanding of lives different to my own was greatly enhanced by the books I read as a child. 

I remember crying at the cruelty inflicted on the animals in Black Beauty, learning about life in America through books like Ramona the Pest and Bridge to Terabithia, being horrified by the Nazis and inhumanity of war in The Diary of Anne Frank. And the sheer joy of stories like Paddington Bear.

I also learnt a lot about the world. Never mind that as a child we never travelled further than a beach holiday in NSW, books helped me journey to England and Japan, to the USA and India – and so many other places all through the joy of stories.

It is well documented that reading for pleasure can improve wellbeing, reduce stress and help the reader to relax – but there are so many more benefits too. In the fast paced world we live in, the fact that you can pick up a book (which doesn’t need to be charged or have access to the Internet) and have all those things happen, is truly a gift!

Jacqueline Harvey