Hobbies / Literature / Personal Opinion

Why bother reading?

The benefits of reading cannot be limited to one simple blog post – there are hundreds of reasons to read, whether it be a book, a newspaper, a magazine or any other type of text.

In terms of books – fiction or non-fiction – reading opens your mind to a world of endless possibilities. The simple words on the page turn into so much more once they are formulated in your brain: they become stories, they become lessons, they become valuable information that may not already be known or understood. Not only do these words access our minds, they allow us to access the mind of those who have written them.

Take Sylvia Plath, for example. She is my favourite writer simply because she had the magic to create texts that allow me to connect to her complex, deep and dark mind. The way she used words still enables me to see and understand things in a way that I would not have been able to had I not read her work – complex and exclusive experiences such as mental illness, oppression and suicide.

Over the years, writing has been used in this manner as a tool for opening the eyes of those unaware to issues in the form of protest. Written words are arguably far more powerful than those spoken – written words are permanent: they cannot be rubbed away; spoken words hang in the air temporarily before fading away, reliant on memory. Writing gave women a voice to break through their oppression; it gave the Eastern ‘other’ an outlet to equal themselves with their former Western superiors; it gives anyone who cannot be heard the chance to have a voice and speak up for their rights and beliefs. It is through reading these texts that these gaps can be filled and these bridges can be built.

Reading allows you to become better at communicating. You must be able to communicate effectively in your work life and in your home life to avoid conflict and be successful. Reading enables access to a wider a range of vocabulary, increasing the chances of improved articulation in everyday life. If I had a pound for every time I have tried to coerce one of my students into reading this year I would be very rich – they don’t quite seem to grasp the fact that frequent reading will give them the sophisticated vocabulary they need to gain top marks in their exams and their Controlled Assessments.

Non-fiction texts can improve your intelligence quickly and inexpensively. Rather than wasting time and money going on a course, it is possible to read non-fiction texts such as books, journals, research papers and articles in order to teach yourself what you need to know.

A study from the University of Sussex showed that reading reduces stress levels as it offers the opportunity for relaxation. I struggle to sleep and have found that reading for 30 mins or more before I attempt to go to sleep increases the likelihood of me nodding off successfully. Whereas my laptop, phone or tablet act as a stimulant keep my brain whirring, reading is almost hypnotic. The only catch is when I am reading something enthralling I have to fight to keep my eyes open to ensure I am able to continue.

There are many film adaptations that I have watched and I have enjoyed. However, there are very few that have been anywhere near as entertaining as the book that came before them. Take for example the Harry Potter series: yes, the films are wholly well-made and are very popular but they do not contain nearly as much of the magic as J.K. Rowling manages to weave into in her books (excuse the pun). The subtle links between the books from the first to the seventh cannot be replicated in the films: they require careful use of imagination and analysis. Film adaptations are often limited to a certain running time, meaning that missing out certain part of the plot of the book is inevitable.

With Kindle and other reading apps available on all platforms, there really is no excuse not to read in this day and age. Even if you’re a self-confessed techno-freak and prefer all things computer – these apps allow you to open your mind as explained above. If, for some ridiculous reason, you are worried about the stigma attached to being seen to read a book, you can even read in secret on your devices, just as I read late at night when I was a teenager.

There are millions of books you can pick up and read today – there is no harm in trying.

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