The Ben­e­fits of Read­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - OUR PULSE - HAN­NAH VANDERVELDE, GRADE 10

“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.

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