A book communicates knowledge, and not only knowledge but wisdom of all kinds. The more you read, the more well-read you are. In simple terms what this means is that the more you read the more exposed you are, and your attitudes, your ideas, your imagination and your thinking changes. I believe that my personality, behaviour, ideas and knowledge are all built on the books I have read. Nothing can add to our intellect more than reading a book.
Currently though, the debate about the value of reading in our lives has become very narrow, focusing obsessively on the role of schools and literacy skills. Instead we need a framework which embraces reading’s role in society’s growth, creativity and well-being in the widest possible sense; where getting the youth back to reading is made the business of a whole range of agencies, not just schools. If different people from all walks of life understand the wider role of reading in our lives we will build a new, much more effective and holistic approach.
If we look at reading’s contribution to our lives more broadly, we also start to map out a much stronger case for the role literary festivals play, something we’re passionate about at the World Integrity Centre (WIC). LitFests, as these festivals are now called, play a stunningly important role in helping promote reading and writing. What started as mere discussions about books and writers has evolved into an active force for social change discussing issues, which are usually not spoken about. We’re proud to be one of the many organizations who are working alongside the government and the rest of the civil society in promoting not just reading and writing but thinking as well.
With this thought in mind, we are organizing the 2nd Dehradun Community Literature Festival (DCLF) in Dehradun. We are putting special emphasis on the role of reading in people’s wider well-being, putting the debate in a much wider frame. There are huge problems and costs to society of people being ill informed and discontent. Frustration levels, be it against authority or otherwise, is rising. Lack of knowledge and false propaganda at times is creating serious rifts within our society. Reading, learning and absorbing knowledge can help in all of these issues.
There are frequently cited arguments linking literacy and the wider determinants of well-being. Less prominent are the arguments around a more holistic view of reading’s role but the evidence base has been building. Just to cite an example, there is enough research to show that reading fiction develops social skills like empathy, which is great for stress busting. We are working with several educational institutions to promote reading and writing. We have partnered with the renowned Woodstock School in Mussoorie and will be organizing creative writing workshops during the festival. Our intention is to create a whole new platform for promoting literature and help anyone who is interested in any facet of the literary world to find an opportunity to engage.
At a time when the communication revolution is convoying ideas and messages to people around the globe, we support for the liberty of thought, freedom of expression, and right to information. Reading means establishing an interactive dialogue with the virtual universe created by the author of a text — a universe of intellectual representations that differ according to the imagination of each reader. There are books on all subjects, for all people and for all times. But we must make sure that books are accessible to everybody everywhere in formats old and new. Let’s promote reading, writing and thinking. Let’s do our bit to be part of this global celebration of knowledge.