In the last decade or so, schools have so focused on early reading that too many have ignored the need for students to know a great deal of content to understand what they are reading. Too many have undervalued the role instruction in science, history, and the arts play in reading instruction -- which is, I suspect, at least part of why so many eighth-graders don't read at a proficient level.
They may not have souls, but they're not inanimate objects, either. Ideas are alive in them, and they can contain characters more real than some people I know. Writers spend years struggling to create them, to get them published, noticed, bought and read; how can they not embody some of an author's spirit?