Why You Should Read Books

Insaf Ali

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Book ReadingNBC News

I’m almost sure you will remember ‘KYLE XY,’ the popular TV series that took to the airwaves in the year 2006, the lead actor was Matt Dallas. It was mainly about a brilliant kid who stayed in an incubation tank that had all the attributes of a womb, for years.

He could memorize the content of a book, word for word by merely flipping through its pages. Although ABC cancelled the show somewhat prematurely, the protagonist’s supernatural reading abilities inspired its mostly teenage audience who wished they possessed them. However, for many people, reading could be a daunting chore.

They’d rather spend time on activities that don’t require as much mental effort. For instance, I and millions of viewers followed the blockbuster series ‘game of thrones. But very few know that the movie was a book adaptation, and even fewer people would have read the book.

But why is this so?

Why would some folks rather watch TV or mindlessly scroll through their phones instead of reading for a few minutes?

In 2017, an estimated 24% of adult Americans didn’t read any part of a book, according to a 2018 study. As surprising as this statistic is, before we get into the reasons why people don’t read, let’s look at some of the benefits of reading.

The benefits of reading Reading has been a very vital part of the human-race survival, and existence — it’s how humans transmit ideas and information. The cross-pollination of ideas extrapolated from reading widely is how we’ve been able to make advances in the fields of technology medicine, and engineering.

We indeed have things easier now. Thanks to the advent of the web, we can now watch how-to videos rather than read to learn a particular topic. While this might seem okay and more accessible, it’s of importance that we don’t neglect the foundation on which these things we enjoy were built.

Reading is not the only way of acquiring knowledge. However, it remains highly relevant. Here are some benefits of reading:

1. Increases your vocabulary

Have you ever had a problem with expressing yourself with the right words?

Reading can go a long way in ensuring that you build up a wide range of vocabulary which you can use in expressing yourself every day. A poll conducted in the year 2019 by Cengage showed that 69% of employers are more likely to hire people with the ability to communicate effectively.

Nobody wants an employee who wouldn’t have the right words to say at the right time or who wouldn’t have the right words at all. New words are continually added to the dictionary, and the surest way to get acquainted with words as they evolve is to read books.

Reading is the best way to increase your exposure to new words. You won’t learn most of the new terms from shows and sitcoms. Authors are usually more detailed in the use of words than entertainers.

2. It stimulates your mind and improves your mental health

Reading helps prevent cognitive decline that can be age-related. Although research has yet to prove that reading can help combat diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies have shown that older people who read will maintain and even improve their ability to remember things, preventing memory loss, which is associated with ageing.

Your brain, just like a muscle, gets stronger and healthier the more you work it. Activities like playing chess and doing puzzles engage the mind the way reading does. They are also sources of cognitive stimulus.

The National Institute on ageing has also recommended that reading books and magazines will go a long way in keeping your mind busy as you grow older.

You wouldn’t want your mind to become the devil’s workshop, or bored to death, would you?

3. It makes you more empathic

Research shows that those who read fiction novels that navigate the lives of characters will show a heightened ability to relate and understand the feelings and beliefs of others.

Reading can help you develop the needed empathy required in relating to people in pain or need. You can’t read about the genocide in Rwanda and not have a heart for the victims, or read about wars and still feel it’s okay to settle disputes using gruesome means.

4. Reading can be transformative

According to a growing body of researchers, reading transforms your mind and thoughts. Inspired by a book, many people have had their lives transformed and charted a new course.

‘Gifted hands’ by Ben Carson so much changed my life and thoughts back in high school that I really wouldn’t know how I would have coped without it.

5. Reading helps in stress reduction

Now, this is important for some folks who think reading is “stressful.” In 2009, researchers carried out a study on the effects of humour, yoga, and reading on stress levels on students.

The study discovered that about 25–30 minutes of reading lowered heart rate, blood pressure, and feelings of psychological distress in the same way that humour and yoga did.

So you see?

It’s not reading that is “stressful,” but your beliefs towards it.

6. Reading Helps with depression

The rising cases of suicides and deaths from depression are pretty alarming. Reading fiction can help the depressed mind escape their troubled world into a world where they can feel safe and valued. And if done continually, it can help them begin to see reasons as to why they can come out from every situation they are passing through.

7. It lets you in on the ideas of others

Having just an opinion on a subject matter is detrimental to any kind of meaningful growth. Ideas need to be collated from time past and present, and the pros and cons weighed in order to create something truly outstanding.

This has been very important in the numerous breakthroughs we have made In various fields today. No idea is a waste, be it successful or not. Now you know why you should form the habit of reading and encourage the younger generation to do the same.

Asides from the benefits listed above, encouraging youngsters to start reading rather than play video games all day helps them to build discipline. Building discipline early will help them navigate life better and form a foundation for enduring success.

So, How do you go about developing the habit of reading?

You can start by following the simple steps states below.

i. Change your mindset:

The belief that reading is stressful or difficult is one that hinders so many from taking up the habit. But nothing could be further from the truth. When you read something exceptional and come to realize the importance of books for learning and growth, you will find it not only enjoyable but also a form of stress release. However, to start, you must find something that genuinely interests you.

ii. Read books that interest you:

A work of fiction will be a good start or an inspirational non-fiction book that you can relate with, like the Ben Carson book I read years ago. If the prospect of reading a book seems daunting, start with articles, blog posts, and other shorter forms that interest you. It just takes one excellent piece of writing to make you fall in love with reading.

iii. Read at least 30 minutes every day:

Carve out time from your busy schedule to do some reading. As little as 30 minutes every day followed consistently, will help build the habit over time. And before you realize it, you could be reading as many as 3 books a month.

iv. Carry a book everywhere you go:

While riding in a taxi, waiting in a line, or the airport, you can start reading and gainfully employ your waiting time. eBooks are now a thing, so transform your smartphone into a portable library and make it easier to carry your books around.

Now, let’s look at some of the common reasons why people don’t read.

i. No time to read

Understandably, this is the most common reason — everyone is busy. You have your work, household chores, parental responsibilities, and a million other things needing your attention.

You also have just 24 hours for them each day. Reading can be time-consuming. And some books have thousands of pages, requiring several months to finish. So why bother at all?

Reading can be a lot of hard work. For a lot of people, reading feels like a lot of work. Especially when the books are massive “dictionary looking” adult books — they get discouraged seeing the thousands of pages filled with brain-tasking words.

If it has a movie, then what’s the point?

I used to be this, statistically speaking, books that have been adapted into motion pictures are most likely to get less attention after the motion picture has been released. Most people would rather watch the episodes of game of thrones than pick up the books. Apparently, the movie is easier, more engaging, and more entertaining.

ii. Nothing to gain from reading

Another common excuse that people have for not reading is that they see it as a waste of time. They believe that they gain nothing from reading. To these people, the only benefits from books were when you read them in school to pass exams, graduate, and get a job. Asides from that, they see no value in books.

iii. Poor Concentration

It’s a known fact that people tend to get distracted easily. And when you add the ubiquitous smartphones and other modern devices, it’s not difficult to see why we have the attention span of a goldfish. For those with weak concentration, they will find it hard to immerse themselves completely in the reading experience.

The stress and anxiety of day-to-day living can make your mind wander. Therefore, it’s natural to want to move on to other activities that don’t require focused attention for long periods.

iv. Lack of support in childhood

My uncle taught literature, and his children grew up surrounded by an ocean of books by Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway, and others. Having no source of entertainment other than classical English literature at an early age made them develop a life-long love affair with reading.

People that don’t read are usually from homes where parents didn’t read and didn’t promote it either. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In conclusion, the foundation for all the progress we have today is all built on the knowledge found within the pages of books. So it’s safe to say reading is one activity you must learn to do if you want to get a head start in life. Even if you are not naturally inclined, make every effort to grow this habit.

Most of the world’s greatest leaders and successful business people have a large appetite for books. It’s reported that Bill Gates reads as many as 50 books in a year. Warren Buffets reads 5 newspapers and over 500 pages of reports daily. And Mark Zuckerberg reads a book every 2 weeks. So who knows? Reading could just be, the secret pass to the billionaire club.

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