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.
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.)