The Benefits of Reading
“Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” These insightful words from the French writer, Gustave Flaubert, highlight the paramount importance of reading. This vital skill, taught to us from kindergarten and throughout the remainder of compulsory schooling, is certainly not without reason. Reading has many benefits for us as individuals. It serves to improve our minds, as well as our characters.
First of all, reading offers people a plethora of cognitive advantages, including increased imagination, improved memory, and expanded knowledge. Reading, specifically fiction, fosters an imaginative mind. Amidst the ever-present encroachment of television on the minds of the public, young and old alike, reading encourages imagination and creativity. These things come in the form of both interpretation of a text and visualization of the events of a text. Not only that, reading offers benefits in terms of memory. Director of Haskins Laboratories, Ken Pugh PhD, explains that when you read, “parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions… connect in a specific neural circuit.” As you read, thereby exercising your brain, you are able to absorb information more efficiently. Reading also provides you with new knowledge. Regardless of what you are reading about; be it the architecture of ancient Egypt, obscure phobias (such as nomophobia—the fear of being without mobile phone coverage), or even Kimye; you are learning something. And who could argue that is not a good thing?
Furthermore, reading essentially makes you a better person, improving the content of your character by boosting your ability to empathize, providing connection to others, and allowing for personal growth. Reading deeply enhances your capacity for empathy. Have you ever read a sad story that drove you to tears? What about an embarrassing story that made you cringe? When you read, you discover ways you identify with the characters and their experiences in a unique manner. Reading also allows for connection.
To quote author James Baldwin: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Reading gives you the opportunity to make the connection between your struggles, your joys, and your laughter with that of others. Thirdly, reading allows for personal growth. Reading regularly is like maintaining a healthy diet as you grow up. As a child, you were taught to eat nutritious foods full of key vitamins and minerals. You were taught that these foods would help your bones to grow strong and your skin to glow brightly. Similarly, reading grows your mind – your perceptions, your opinions, your feelings. Your character is altered, expanded, and grown. In summary, your entire character benefits from reading. You become a more empathetic friend, you become more connected to others, and you undergo transformative personal growth.
Altogether, reading offers a cornucopia of enhancements to your life, which appear both in your mind and in your character. It is more than a form of entertainment, more than a hobby, more than a school assignment, and more than an academic skill. Reading is a path to enrichment. With that being said, go on and begin reading that Shakespearean play, latest young adult novel, chemistry textbook, People magazine, or whatever it is you enjoy reading.