Every little child loves books, picture books, colour books, story books, rhymes and lullabies. When toddlers become school children, they, too, love the wondrous world of books. And then, later in the school years it varies, as some continue to love books, while others seem not to. It is not their fault; it is the fault of a competitive school system. At school, the hidden curriculum is often that books are there to be learned by heart, not to be treasure chests of excitement and pleasure. If we could only somehow keep the positive attitude, we would learn more, and I, too, a teacher would become a better teacher. Big children and young teenagers change; that is nature and part of growing up. Many develop a new interest in literature that time. Often, though, in books and magazines that teachers and parents dont approve of, especially if the popular literature is the only thing they enjoy reading, and textbooks become a burden for them to open. I believe that we should not be judgmental, and none of us read edifying literature only. And we should also not only read books, magazines and newspapers that support our own opinions. That is much what happens today, unfortunately, particularly if we include TV, films and radio, which are probably the most powerful media and at least, the most time consuming media around. Many spend more time watching TV and listening to the radio than reading, or for children, attending school. Not necessarily bad, but we should still take note of the fact, think about it, and consider if we should spend our time differently. Those of us who have had the opportunity to take secondary education and university have often, but not always, developed a liking for continued reading after we have passed our exams. In many professions, we have to keep reading and learning in our own field of specialisation and in related fields throughout our career. In addition, we may also be interested in reading other books. But often, the interest in reading, even among academicians, is much less than we would expect. Many read just out of duty, and then mainly related to their work. They dont find time to read other things, save for a newspaper or two, which men are usually more eager to read than women. It is thought-provoking that our schools and universities have not managed to make keen readers out of their students. That does not only apply to Pakistan, of course, but to all countries, including my home country of Norway. We seem to become so busy with our everyday chores, and so glad that we dont need to sit for another exam, that we put our textbooks in a hidden box in the loft, or we sell them off to make a penny. Well, sometimes, we may cherish our textbooks, and keep them in a bookshelf to open at a later time. True, some do open their textbooks, and they keep up their reading habits later in life. They continue acquiring books and journal articles in their work field as well as other fields. Only one odd person or two will read novels, short stories, and even more rare, poetry. Well, in Pakistan, poetry is still more popular than in most other countries. Incidentally, in Norway, some important poems became popular last summer after the terrible extremist killings at the Summer Youth Camp at Utoeya on July 22. Old poems were pulled out and read again, including some by Nordahl Grieg, a wartime poet, novelist, and controversial public figure, who died doing his journalist work during the Second World War. His poem, To the Youth, was revived and became popular reading last summer. And the elderly satirical and intellectual artist Ole Pauses poem, My Little Land, was made into a popular tune, song by an immigrant woman and made a hit overnight. So who says that we have to remain anti-poetry or anti-literature? When tragedy strikes and when we all need to come together, poetry and prayers have an important role to play, with all the thoughts and conversations that follow. It is not only the intellectual side of our personalities that make us human into beings; it is also the softer aspects of us, our heart, ability to feel empathy and compassion. All literature and indeed poetry can help us use the other side of the brain; unfortunately, I always forget if it is the left or the right side that is more poetic Last Sunday, I had the fortunate opportunity to listen to a talk by a Norwegian writer and teacher, Assad Nasir, who spoke about Norwegian childrens literature. Yes, from his name you can gather that his heritage is Pakistani, with his parents having emigrated from Lalamusa in Gujrat to Norway in the early 1970s. But Assad is a Norwegian, and he was in Islamabad with his wife, whom he had sent for from home, as is normally the tradition among Pakistanis in Norway. She had spent a years time in Norway and was already able to converse in the language. All that can be topics for many other articles, but let me now focus on literature. Assad spoke in his lecture about the seriousness in Norwegian childrens books. He said that they were much less commercial than childrens books from many other countries, and that their books take up issues in creative ways; issues which are important to children. Just a few books have appeared focusing specifically on immigrants, although about 10 percent of the Norwegian population has immigrant background; they are about half a million in a total population of five million. But other tricky issues have been discussed, such as the story about a little girl living in a household with two mothers, i.e. they live in a same-sex relationship. Assad himself is working on a book for young teenagers where religion is the issue. It will be released next year. I only have about half-a-year to finish it all, and make little changes and improvements, Assad says. I enjoy writing. It is not easy, but it is very rewarding, too, because you have to revisit and think about so many issues that you might otherwise just skip or cruise over. I also had the opportunity to attend the two-year training at what we call the Authors School at the University of Oslo. It is very useful for teaching literature and language as well as for helping young aspiring writers. I find it useful for my work as a secondary school teacher, he maintains. And then, last Sunday, at the literature session in Islamabad, it was the experienced poet and teacher Jocelyn Ortt-Saeed from Lahore, who kept an eye on it all, appreciating it all, with her son not just reciting, but singing one of his favourite poems, written by his mother. It was a poem from his couple of years in boarding school when he felt homesick and lonely, every night. Although, it was he and not his parents who insisted on that kind of school for the big boy. It was moving to hear the son sharing his experience, with his mother and own daughter present. A poem could put words to feelings, and a melodious tune. Nothing else could have done that. After all, there is a future to literature; we just need to learn to understand it. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad. He has served as United Nations Specialist in the United States, as well as various countries in Africa and Asia. He has also spent a decade dealing with the Afghan refugee crisis and university education in Pakistan. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com