Why is Reading Important?
September 8th marked fifty years of celebration for UNESCO’s International Literacy Day. Although the world has experienced a decline in illiteracy rates, a close in gender parity gaps and advancement in youth literacy skills, there are still 758 million illiterate adults. According to UNESCO Institute of Statistics, literacy rates in Latin America and the Caribbean are over 90% and there is hardly a difference in gender adult/youth literacy rates.
Literacy is simply the ability to read and write for effective communication. Sometimes the liberties that literacy enables are taken for granted. We are life in the Information Age and have survived and are surviving the Industrial/Digital Revolution. This is the era where no excuse is valid for not knowing something, unless you are in one of the word’s really unfortunate regions or you simply don’t want to. All digital or technological entertainment is versatile enough to also be a learning tool. There are YouTube tutorials for almost anything, Wikipedia profiles for every public figure throughout history, and Michael Jackson ,as dead as he may be, has a Vevo account with all his music. Thanks to the New Age there are many ways to learn and know different things but although they have trimmed the practice of active reading, the inevitable still remains: we have to read.
In honour of the United Nations’ fifty years of hard work, here are a few reminders of the importance and benefits of reading in a region where the majority of the population is literate: 1. Our livelihoods depend on reading and following instructions correctly. Imagine giving a child an adult dosage of medication, following a map incorrectly and ending up in a dangerous spot, or filling in financial or insurance forms with the wrong information. Terrifying, right? Not being able to read can actually cause fatality or the loss of possessions. 2. Frequent or habitual reading increases focus because it’s an activity that requires visual and mental focus, stillness, and a quiet environment. Any distractions would immediately cause the reader to well, stop reading. 3. Technology definitely makes life easier for us but we still need to exercise to keep fit. Although the brain is not physically a muscle, the mind needs to be exercised. Reading as well as chess and other activities that require intense concentration are helpful brain exercises. 4. Effective communication and literacy skills are important in any working environment, to understand tasks assigned, state your views and relay correct information. 5. Reading is the ultimate passport, not just to go around the world, but through time, space and people’s minds. All literature, whether expository or fiction, teaches something, and good books take you to different cultures, lifestyles, ideas, geography, fashion and events. 6. The practice of reading widens the imagination. Unlike movies and videos that have already created the visual and audio interpretation of a story or event, reading allows the reader to fabricate it in the mind. Also, the ideas in the book are written from someone else’s mind, exposing the reader to a new experience away from what’s in their own mind. 7. Reading improves vocabulary. By seeing new words in context, readers can grasp the meaning or may look it up in a dictionary before they can move on in effective reading. 8. It helps develop empathy. Being able to relate to characters in literature on personal levels not only makes reading more interesting, but helps readers identify personality traits and types of themselves and the people around them. Have you ever read a book and realised you have associated every character with someone you know? 9. Reading is a relaxing exercise. Lying quietly, focusing on the black on white background as opposed to the many lights, colours and sounds of your smartphone before bed has actually been proven to let you sleep better.