Book Week – Books, the best teachers

I’ve been an avid reader since about the age of eight.

Growing up in a virtually exclusively Afrikaans community in the small Karoo town of Carnarvon, I remember reading my first Stephen King book in what was then called Standard 1 (Grade 3). I devoured his novel Christine with the help of an English-Afrikaans dictionary, and remain a huge fan of the horror master to this day.

However, what I remember most vividly about my childhood reading is the experience and excitement of gradually exploring the local public library and all its hidden treasures – André Brink, Etienne Leroux, Alice Walker, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Bryce Courtenay.

I was raised in a very conservative environment, and books really opened my eyes to other worlds, other realities, different views than the ones I was brought up with.

This may sound like a cliché, but to this day I consider reading the most important way to understand more about the world and one’s place in it.

And this is one of the reasons I plead with parents and teachers to emphasise the joys of reading when raising and educating children.

There simply is no greater or more important skill that you can teach a child.

You can teach a child many things about the world but if you teach him to love books you expose him to many of the greatest teachers, philosophers and ideas in the world.

JM Coetzee’s Disgrace has had the most effect on me.

It’s a complex, challenging novel about South Africa, and one that doesn’t provide or suggest any clear-cut or easy answers.

But the main reason I’ve read this novel six or seven times is the lovely, evocative, prose – not a single word out of place.

» Jacobs writes Afrikaans books aimed at young readers.

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