I would like to say that reading makes you civilised – or, at least, that it is impossible to be civilised if you do not read. Unfortunately, this is simplistic and not entirely true. You can read an engineering manual, pornography, a tabloid newspaper, the novelisation of your favourite TV programme or a history of plumbing with pleasure but without necessarily expanding your horizons.
Reading fiction, however, does provide many of the essential ingredients that make up a civilised mind. The first is connectivity. Who am I? Where did I come from? How do people around me think and behave? What are the moral codes that bind a community and what might happen if I break them? Speaking from experience, I can say that children who read are not just more articulate and confident. They are also nicer.
It is impossible to read the great masters – Dickens, Austen, Hardy – without developing an insight and an understanding of the world around you and this, surely, is where civilisation begins. How to reach such heights? You have to start in the foothills… and I am very happy to think that my own work, Alex Rider in particular, may have started many young people on this journey.