READING CAN SAVE THE WORLD?— PART 1
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO WHY READING BOOKS IS CRITICAL FOR PEOPLE, SOCIETY, AND HUMAN KIND
There are many things in this world that are good. And there are many things in this world that are bad. Some so bad that we‘d be better off if these never existed. Then there are many things that are bad versions of the good. Yet for some of these ‘many’ things — just some, even the baddest version of the good is still better than not having any version at all. Art, music, and of course, books are some of these many things.
Stay with me here...
Imagine a world where there are no books. Imagine a world full of people, and cars, and buildings, and buses, and factories on the horizon, and fruits sold in cans and everything else.
But no books — no books at all. Not a single one!
How utterly bland an existence it would be to live in such a world. If this “hell’ were actually real and if I lived in it, I’d imagine reading the worst book of them all would still bring me miles and miles (and miles) closer to happiness than if there were NO books at all.
And I suspect many would share my opinion.
But is the practice and habit of reading books that big a deal?
Yes, it is!
To explain, let’s attack this topic by asking three simple questions:
1: What makes reading such an important activity for people?
2: What makes reading such a critical activity for society as a whole?
3: What happens when we don’t read?
What makes reading such an important activity for individual people?
Countries, populations, and society itself comprises of individual human beings. Take away the later and none of the formers will exist, or even matter (a simple fact that many systems of thought (especially political and social systems that either discount or don’t adequately consider).
Therefore, it only makes sense to begin with why individual people need to read books and support a healthy reading diet just like they would (or should) with the food they consume, AND what they stand to gain from reading.
We’ll arrange the various reasons individuals need to read into the following categories:
1. Primary Benefits
2. Other Benefits
a. Cognitive Development
b. Personal Development
c. Social Development
Primary Benefit # 1:
Reading is Fun – And it’s fun like you will not experience anywhere else
Yes, I said it!
And it is the number one reason why everyone should be reading books regularly. Because it’s absolute fun.
Be it non-fiction or fiction, the process of reading a good book is an ‘experience’.
Between the authors written word (and/or images on the book), it’s the mental imagery that the reader paints in their minds that create all the magic. And it’s a process so personal that the experience can be one that’s remembered for a lifetime.
It is one of the reasons why everyone especially children should have access to books, or at least given the opportunity to experience.
Having fun reading can, in turn, help facilitate social interactions and foster connections with others, too. Example: when two or more people find common ground w.r.t. their experiences, share likes (and even dislikes) relating to a particular book. This is because of a few simple behavioral traits people around the world share. It’s obviously fun to meet and be with people who like us. But we also tend to like people who are like us and have the same experiences as us. And the fun of reading a book and sharing the experience is itself, a lot of fun.
Now, you would say, yes, but I’m not the reading “type”. I hate reading.
If you don’t like reading as an activity (and therefore don’t find it fun), chances are:
1: You’ve either somehow developed negative mental (or neurological) associations to the task of reading, where the task itself or the “idea” of reading brings back strong negative memories or emotions (kind of like how many people hate math, or public speaking etc.).
You haven’t stumbled across a good book, yet, and haven’t had the chance or taken the time/effort to find one you’ll like.
In the first case, having “fun” reading a book will probably be absolutely out of the question. And if this is the case, remember:
a: Connecting strong negative feelings to any unrelated task, activity, action, thing etc is normal. We all do it ALL the time (more on this in another post)...
b: If this negative neurological connection exists, it can be changed and you can learn to change it. Especially if it’s preventing you from doing something you want to do, or need to do.
In the second case: There are millions and millions of books (and multiple books formats) out there and with a little bit of searching, you’re bound to come across books that fit your taste and fancy. There are things you can do to find books that match your interest and to develop a habit of reading. So give it time and keep looking (More on this on another post, as well).
In summary, FUN and enjoyment is the main reason to read books.
However, if you’re still not convinced, there are several other reasons you need to read.
Let’s get to them.
Primary Benefits # 2:
Reading Builds Awareness, Knowledge & Critical Thinking
Among our various needs as human beings, we have a psychological need for growth, intellectual stimulation, and development.
Also, in today’s globally connected world, there are several things that affect us directly.
The challenge — CHANGE.
In our world of constant change, there’s the very real need to be well read, correctly informed or at least aware of what we know and what we don’t know and don’t understand (yes! being aware that there are things we don’t know is important, too). It is for these two reasons that reading, and reading a variety of books is critical.
However, there is a caveat. Putting intellectual know-how into practice and gaining practical benefits from it is a skill by itself. What you read, the function of recall, the process of critical thinking and the process of putting information to use and / or practice are additional skills that we all need to foster.
But it all starts with reading.
And reading helps build awareness, knowledge, and critical thinking.
Other Benefits Of Reading
For the purpose of this blog post, “Other Benefits” can be defined as benefits that come from focused and persistent application, or with guidance from, or along with other factors and actions e.g.: with the help of teachers, parents, a journal, disciplined practice, learning plan, memorization, focused effort etc, etc).
Note: these benefits could also be labeled as “indirect benefits” that come from reading; however, this would not be entirely accurate because any one of these can be made a “direct” benefit by applying intentional focus and action. Example: The simple act of making a list of new words when reading a book, and then actually putting in the effort to internalize the new information will automatically elevate the “indirect” benefit of “improving your vocabulary” to a “direct” benefit from reading that particular book.
Let’s look at the other benefits you stand to gain from a regular reading habit.
Other Benefits #1
Books contain information. Feeding you mind with new information helps in several areas of cognitive development, including:
1. Reading engages the mind
2. Stimulates Imagination
3. Helps improve understanding
4. Improves memory
5. Improves focus and concentration
6. Helps maintain mental health e.g. with conditions like depression and dysthymia
7. Helps to ease out stress
8. Helps boosts sleep
9. Builds self-esteem
10. Makes you smarter
Other Benefits #2
The habit of reading can help in several areas of personal development.
1. Reading is the first step to an education (even after school and college) and a way to learn and gain
2. Helps you learn from the experiences and insights of other people
3. Exposes you to new ideas, concepts, things and possibilities in the world
4. Informs your perception and broadens your view of things
5. Help develop a worldview
6. Helps in self-Improvement (and more importantly self-help which is a valuable life skill)
7. Helps you change (another valuable life skill)
8. Helps develop ideas
9. Prepares you before action
10. Helps foster independence of thought and action
11. Aids in academic success
12. Helps foster self-confidence
13. Improves Discipline
Other Benefits #3
Reading helps in several areas of social development. Let’s look at some of them: (*Keep in mind, like most things in life – balance is necessary. An excess of any one particular benefit can have a detrimental effect on ones overall social development.)
1. Reading a book inherently puts you in someone else’s shoes forcing you see a different point of view thus building empathy
2. Improves your communication
3. Improve language skills and make you more articulate in conversations
4. It makes you knowledgeable and interesting
5. Helps you enjoy the arts and appreciate creative endeavors
6. Strengthens your own writing abilities
7. Builds confidence
8. Make you opinionated
9. Helps foster relationships and social development (e.g.: in the case of books friends/ book clubs etc)
10. Books, personal libraries, stories etc are also great conversation starters
This is the end of Part 1.
In the next part, we shall look at what makes reading such a critical activity for society as a whole and what happens when we don’t read?
Click here to go to Part 2 of this article.
Infographic! 35 Reasons Why Everyone Should Read Books
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What do you think about this article? Is reading an important habit to develop? Should everybody read? What did we miss? We'd love to know what you think! Enter your comments below or send in your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the connection between reading, learning, brain development, and empathy?
In this video on the TEDx Talks YouTube Channel, Rita Carter, who is a writer, broadcaster, journalist and specializes in the workings of the human brain, explains her findings in this insightful TEDx piece...
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