You might have read the title of this post and immediately thought: “Well, that’s redundant. Everyone knows how beneficial reading is.”
But do they?
It’s no secret that modern culture has become more visually stimulated than ever. In fact, we had to invent e-books because our screens made us forget that libraries and bookstores exist.
Now, don’t get me wrong—technology has made some significant and beneficial advancements over the past few years, and I love it. E-Ink technology, such as Kindle, Kobo, and Nook e-readers, has made life more convenient for us bookworms. They’re lighter than a book (but hold thousands), and read just like tangible paper—I highly recommend them.
I won’t ignore traditional screens, either. Films and television shows have the power to communicate important messages in ways that literature cannot. Nevertheless, television and social media just don’t have the same touch as a good book in your hands, even though they’ve begun to take up the majority of our time.
I don’t care if you’ve never picked up a book in your life, or if you’re a bibliophile currently reading this and rolling your eyes like an angsty teen who thinks they know all.
This is meant as a reminder for everyone.
There are infinite reasons for why you ought to read. So many, in fact, that it might give you a headache if you had to read all of them. Fortunately for you, I’ve narrowed them down to the five I find most important.
1. You’ll become—or at least appear—more educated.
It’s always a good feeling to sound like you know what you’re talking about, whether you enjoy being a know-it-all or not.
While I wouldn’t consider myself top of the class, I’ve found that reading has subtly improved my intellect over the years. Your spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary strengthen through constant exposure to physical words—and those things aren’t just important for writers. Having the ability to articulate language well is essential in nearly every profession, and who knows? Those language skills might come in handy someday.
2. Your stress levels will subside.
In a 2009 study, cognitive neuropathologist David Lewis compared reading to other forms of relaxation, and found that it was:
- 68% better at reducing stress levels than listening to music
- 100% more effective than drinking a cup of tea
- 300% better than going for a walk
- 700% better than playing video games
(National Reading Campaign)
There you have it. Reading is the ultimate source of relaxation. It allows you to escape into another world, into another dimension of reality. Books pull us out of our stress-filled lives for a while; they allow us to decompress while continuing to engage our entire brain.
Make sure your reading environment is distraction-free. I know a select few who can listen to music and read at the same time, but I don’t recommend it at all. That book is all you should be focused on, so turn off the electronics around you. Put your phone in the next room if you must. If you’re having trouble focusing, try reading aloud. Speech will further increase your mental focus and reading skills.
3. Your attention span will improve.
It’s an unfortunate truth that [traditional] screens have dumbed down our brains to the extent that we constantly need visual stimulation to remain functional. The constant interaction with our devices lowers productivity as we lose focus, and it’s hurting ourselves and those around us.
Thankfully, the solution to this is—you guessed it—reading! By immersing ourselves in a book, we channel our attention into one area. This allows us to settle down and concentrate on the information we’re taking in, enriching our thought process.
Reading constantly is vital, because the more time we spend away from the books, the shorter our attention span becomes. Try starting off your day with a book, newspaper, or magazine, and see if your productivity for the day increased at all. I can almost assure you that it will.
4. Your mindset will expand.
Allow me to open this point with a quote from French writer André Maurois:
“The art of reading is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one’s encounter with it in a book.”
In my opinion, this is the ultimate purpose for reading (and why it’s important to have a diverse taste in literature). Reading allows you to experience life from the point-of-view of someone—or something—else. It allows you to, as the great Atticus Finch once said, “Climb into someone else’s skin and walk around in it.”
By viewing the world through a different lens, you will learn new things about life, and yourself, that you were blind to before. You’ll discover beauty in the mundane. You’ll see things not just for what they are, but for what they could be. You’ll live many lives, and still have the opportunity to apply those lives to your own. To quote George R. R. Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
I know that was the third quote in a row, but it will never not be relevant.
If taking my word for it isn’t enough, click here for an excellent TED Talk on the benefits of diversifying what you read.
5. Your creativity will reach new heights.
During my short time on this earth, I’ve sorted every person I’ve met into two categories: those who read, and those who don’t. Every time, I tend to notice the same thing.
I’ve found that people who read are more creative, classy, original, and full of substance. They’re successful in life because they’re visionaries—they’ve read about the world, and what it could be. Reading allows you to think beyond, to bring new ideas into a society that’s becoming increasingly shallow and artificial.
Now, before you get too worked up about this, keep in mind that these are merely my observations. Reading is important, but yes—it’s not for everyone. Just because you don’t read doesn’t mean you lack creativity or depth. I know some truly incredible people who would rather spend their time differently, and I understand that.
My goal here isn’t to bash non-readers. It’s to encourage those who do read, and perhaps bring awareness to those who don’t believe reading is for them.
Because let’s be honest: readers make the world go ‘round.
Tell me in the comments below: what is the main reason you read?