Why is Reading Good?

You have to talk to kids these days using terminology they’ll understand. Wait, damnit, now I sound old. …why are you still here? Get off my lawn with your hippity hop music.

I hear it all the time: ‘People don’t read anymore.’ ‘I haven’t read a book since high school.’ ‘Kids are more focused on their cell phones than books!’ ‘We need to get people back into reading again!’

There’s all this talk about sharing the love of books with people and getting people to start reading again, and I agree. But I notice that while there’s a lot of talk about what we should do, there’s not a lot of talk about why. Why should we ask people to read? Why should they even care? What can they get from a book that they can’t get from anything else? When I play devil’s advocate and ask fellow bibliophiles why exactly we should campaign for people to read more, they typically falter and can’t really give me an answer.

Now, if you love books, you’ll know why books are great. It’s just explaining it that’s hard. You can’t exactly go on about your love of the written word and how books smell awesome and that cracking sound when you open a new book for the first time. If your audience hasn’t fled by that point, you’re going to have a very easy time explaining. But for the rest of us, it’s time to brainstorm.

There are many, but I’m just going to talk about three reasons I think are important. Feel free to add to it and make something concrete.

1. Critical Thinking: Books engage us in different ways than, say, movies. We’re more heavily invested in books. Books tell a story through words and offer a plethora of details we just don’t get from a movie. It helps that we deal with books for much longer than we do movies, which means we get more time to look at the details, think them over, go back and re-read and all sorts of other things. We can take things at a slower pace and take in all the extra details, so it sticks with us. I’ve seen some darn good movies, but I’ve always felt as though I’m far more invested in books, and they’ve always been more thought-provoking, something that’s incredibly useful when you’re involved with discussions or trying to understand new issues. If you’re a critical thinker, you’re also probably open-minded; never a bad thing!

2. Creative Thinking: It’s hard to grow up reading about dragons and nights and elves and space ships and faraway planets without getting a little creative, and creativity is awesome. Sure it can make some great books and paintings and photos, but it’s also behind the groundbreaking technological designs and solutions to some of humanity’s most difficult issues. When you do everything by the book, you can only do what the book tells you — when you let yourself get creative, you can do pretty much anything.

Incidentally, you also learn that trying to communicate with some people is like arguing with a rock. Language teaches you to communicate; common sense tells you when to stop.

3. Literacy & Language Skills: Language is important. It’s the number one way we deal with other people. It’s how teams work together, how people solve issues and how you’re reading this post right now. It’s a way to  communicate ideas and work together, and the more control you have over language, the better you’ll do. You can express yourself better, you can learn to deal with difficult people and obtain skills to use in a work environment. You can learn plenty by talking, but even more by reading. You learn spelling, you learn context clues, you learn new words and phrases, new ways to communicate, and how to portray emotion and feeling through writing. Knowing how to adequately communicate in a world dependent on communication is extremely important.

These are just some to start. I’m sure the list can go on and on. What do you think? If you think reading is important, why do you think that way? What’s so important about books? How can we get people interested who don’t like to read? (For example, I think that some people may be turned off from reading after going to school and being forced to read things they don’t like and analyzing them to death.)

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15 thoughts on “Why is Reading Good?

  1. Could one be knowledge and imagination? We learn things from books (particularly non – fiction, but fiction can teach the reader something through the writer’s research). Then of course, reading takes us into alternative realities… It makes ourselves wonder: What if?

  2. Reading opens up a world of imagination and visualization. When I teach literature and eagerly ask my students what pictures they get in the mind after reading each description. Our generation grew up reading all sorts of books and so we still have an affinity towards it. But for the new generation it is a tough/lost art.

    • I don’t want to sound as though things are changing for the worst and the new generations just don’t get it, but I have seen somewhat of a change. There are still book lovers in every generation, though. I’m not yet sure whether the change is so drastic.

  3. When people don’t read, I feel a little sad for them. Fiction absorbs me, suspends my disbelief, gives me new worlds to inhabit and explore. Non-fiction informs me, gives me knowledge and feeds my hunger for information. Without reading, everything else is unreachable.
    But I think young people read more than we think they do. The internet may not be everybody’s cappuccino, but it has loads of information, good bad and indifferent, available to everyone with access to it. Kids sift through this all the time, finding stuff to post on their Facebook pages, to re-blog and tweet about. Modern youngsters are probably more politically savvy than any of us know, because of social media.
    And maybe time will cure the non-readers. Maybe they will come to it when they’re stuck in queues for doctors or dentists or waiting for buses and trains. Maybe they will get there eventually and discover what wonderful worlds are sitting there waiting to be found. I hope so.

    • I can understand having material to read, but reading just anything isn’t quite the same. There are certain things about certain reading materials that are advantageous in comparison to just reading a social network. I definitely understand the benefits of social networks in terms of keeping up to speed with current events and whatnot, though it’s a lot of bits and pieces. Give a random kid a geography test and that knowledge will suddenly seem much less.

      • True, I just meant that reading isn’t a totally lost art and maybe one thing leads to another… I love reading and I suppose I just hope that others will get there somehow.

  4. This is great! I just did a speech like this where I was talking about the importance of writing regularly. Keeping a journal and such. It’s funny how similar these things are, because they really are very important and help in many of the same areas! I think I may do a blog post to support this one. :)

  5. Reblogged this on tiny white elephant and commented:
    Critical thinking and creativity are the two foremost reasons I read. Literacy and language development isn’t much of a problem to me. However, I’d like to add a fourth reason, which I think is separate from developing a critical mind and language fluency. That reason is enriching one’s education — to broaden the mind of other ways of seeing and doing things. This develops not just hypercritical thinking, but also enlightens the mind and helps it understand more of this world we live in and the people in it.

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