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Why Books And Reading Should Be At The Heart Of What The UK Does Next...

05/06/2017 14:30 BST | Updated 05/06/2017 14:30 BST

Oscar Wilde once said, "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it."

And he's right. Never has it been more important to read books to imagine, to be encouraged, and to be inspired.

Reading of course starts with the young, and passing a love of books on to the next generation is one of the most important things we can do. An introduction to storytelling at a young age can mark out a lifetime love of books and learning. It is the start of an incredible journey of discovery.

On a purely surface level books are for enjoyment. But they also educate surprise and delight in equal measure. The best books have uncompromising storytelling at their heart.

They contain subject matter that is complex and multi-layered and characters who are above all else, authentic. Characters you can believe in, who are human, with weaknesses and frailties and an inner strength that drives them on. Characters much like us. And these characters drive the plot. Not the other way around. Brilliant, messy complicated characters like Jo Nesbo's, Detective Harry Hole or Arthur Conan Doyle's, Sherlock.

And it's these characters that go on to breathe life into live experiences, television programmes, movies. Each of them propelling the UK's arts credentials into public consciousness on the world stage. And it all starts with an author's imagination and intellectual property.

You only have to look at the huge success of the Harry Potter franchise and the impact it's had globally. And then there are books that define a generation, which have rightly or wrongly divided nations. Books like Salman Rushdie's Satantic Verses, now widely acknowledged as one of the seminal works of his career. The impact of an author's words in each case, is far reaching.

In July of this year, we will be marking the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, one of the UK's most revered literary talents. Not only is she admired as a classic author, but through the characters she created, Elizabeth Bennett, Mr Darcy and Emma, she continues to be hugely popular to this day. Touching lives and inspiring others far beyond the pages of her books.

Stories taken from the author, admired by those who love to read, translated onto the small and big screen, winning hearts and minds along the way. Years apart in each stage, but driving success in equal measure. And it all started here in the United Kingdom.

As a nation we have long been admired and revered for our home-grown talent.

UK Nobel Prize Literature winners including Rudyard Kipling, Harold Pinter and Sir Winston Churchill prove that in size and stature the UK has always punched above its weight when it comes to books and storytelling.

So it should come as no surprise that I believe our literary heritage is where we should invest the most. Why books and reading are fundamentally key to the UK's continued growth.

We are home to some of the best storytellers in the world. It's an enviable position to be in - and it's something that should continue to be harnessed.

The characters revered and celebrated, our home-grown writing talent supported and encouraged, our books at the heart of everything we have to offer.

And it all begins with the first stories we introduce our children to. The ones that open up the doors of possibility to what lies ahead and which stoke their imaginations. The inspiring, the educating and the delighting - as they learn to turn the pages one at a time.

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Image courtesy of Rubie Love Photography

Nicola J Rowley is a Children's Author and PR Strategist whose book James and the Amazing Gift is available to buy now on Amazon. £1 from every copy sold is being donated to the UK charity Contact the Elderly

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