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Monday, 26 May 2014

Reading and Writing About The Big Ideas...

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Exciting Story by Tihamer Margitay
Memorable fiction contains great conflict. Real life is always so much better when the only dangers you face can be safely shut away between the covers of a book. For a lot of people, that's not an option. When I was growing up, reading was my escape route. It kept me out of trouble (if I was quiet, there was a slim chance I'd be forgotten about) and it let me experience the whole world while staying safely hidden in a shed or greenhouse.

Isolationism, whether it's a child in a corner or putting metaphorical wagons in a circle, is dangerous. This week, results from the European elections have shaken up a lot of old, established ideas. This might be a temporary kick against authority, or it might be the first signs of something more. Any individual, or any party who dehumanises "others"of a different nationality, colour, religion or culture is reaching out to dystopia. When politicians from the left, right and centre seem dead-set on sending us all to hell in a handcart, it's up to writers to fight back. We might all look and sound differently from each other, but deep down, people are people the world over. We all have the same basic needs – food, water, shelter, dignity, and love. The global population keeps growing, but Planet Earth can't. We've got to learn to get along together somehow. Writing books for children communicates big ideas like this to small people.

S.F. Said is a British author whose fiction for children highlights divisions in order to bridge them. His colourful ancestry and background helps him bring new perspectives on the puzzles everyone faces, whether they're growing up, or grown. Where do we come from? What are we here for? How can we fit in, and who are we. really?  He says that as readers, we're all citizens of the mind. This is why encouraging children to read as soon as they're big enough to pick up a book is vital. Reading is, or should be, an inclusive universe, not an exclusive one.

You can listen to a talk S F Said gave as part of BBC Radio 4's Four Thought here