I can not overstate the importance of reading. Of the story. The story at its heart socializes us. teaches us, broadens us. We like to think children are born human, it's a western misconception. Nurture matters more than nature. We are all born monsters, selfish, cruel, greedy monsters.
We have to be.
Nature gives the newborn only a few driving imperatives, and they can all be summed up in one word. Feed. It is only through the vigilance of parents, family, society, and the story that we are made aware of interests outside of our own, causes greater than ourselves, conduct becoming. Only through parents, family, society, and the story, that we become more than bastards, become something not unlike men.
It is only when these pieces that are supposed to guide our young begin to miscarry that our young do not become human, they become what is necessary. In the absence of parents, of a society that cares, of schools that function, in the absence of the story, of the ability to read and understand the story, they follow their biological imperatives, to feed. They become predators. That's all, just predators.
You might think I'm overstating the case, but I'm not. I grew up in the warehouses of public school, and left only to that guardian I have no doubt my life would have been... smaller. But I had two parents at home, who cared and loved and indulged, and were fans of the word. All words. I grew up surrounded by books, by larger truths than the small lies they wanted to feed me in school.
By larger concepts, and I grew by fits and starts, into something not unlike a man. Grew into something that believed in words like truth, honor, justice, duty, loyalty. Comic book words, good words. Words that have saved me from drugs, prison, and for a little while at least... death.
So yeah, I tend to think books are important. I tend to think the story matters, I tend to think it saves our souls.