“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light” – Vera Nazarian
I have always loved to read for as far back as I can remember. This is something I am very grateful for. I believe my parents had a lot to do with it because my mum was a teacher who always prioritized learning and my dad was my teacher at home; always making sure I had assignments to do at home and lots of books and newspapers to read. Interestingly, instead of it being burdensome or unlikable I totally enjoyed reading.
Wikipedia defines what reading is so well: “Reading is the complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to derive meaning. It is a form of language processing. Success in this process is measured as reading comprehension. Reading is a means for language acquisition, communication and sharing information and ideas.”
As professionals, reading is imperative to understanding the different processes we interact with and the people we work with since most of the communication is done through written expressions via emails, memos, reports, etc. There are quite a few benefits anyone who has mastered the art of reading can vouch for. Maybe a few of these highlighted below will get you back on track to pursue active reading or the active listening of audiobooks.
- FOR FUN/ RELAXATION
I did not have to look too far for this one. I remember that one thing I enjoyed about reading while growing up was because it was so much fun. It opened me up to other worlds apart from the world I experienced at home. This quote by Mason Cooley which says, “reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are”, resonates so well with me. Reading articles or stories always transported me to other worlds whilst I was seated quietly at my table or lying in bed casually reading a great book. Many others will attest to the fact that books are enjoyable when you find the right one which is also a good read.
- MENTAL EXERCISE
Like other muscles of the body which must be kept in shape through various activities or exercises, the brain needs that stimulation too. Remember, it is part of the body. Most times the focus is more on the muscles we physically exert. Wikipedia already makes us understand that reading is a complex cognitive process. This means that it involves us thinking so that we can make meaning of the symbols which are put together to express and convey thoughts, ideas, instructions and the like. Thinking puts the mind to work and gets it stimulated. Reading does for the brain what physical exercise does for the body’s other muscles. It enhances our imagination or creativity by enriching our thoughts, improving our memory and helping us build stronger analytical thinking skills. Simply put, it makes us more critical thinkers.
It is only logical to say that if you are only acquainted with one area of knowledge concerning a subject matter, you can only reason from that angle compared to someone else who may have an idea of the subject matter in many other areas. Ultimately, the decisions arrived at by these two will reflect the richness or depth of the knowledge one has.
- ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE
Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” For some people, if not most of the people who read, it is basically to acquire knowledge. I agree with Dr. Seuss’ statement because we will not be privy to any other detail(s) possibly if we are not open to learning. That is why Woodrow Wilson boldly states that, “I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it” because ultimately, he would be getting the knowledge he required from speaking with the author directly. However, seeing that it is impossible or almost impossible to meet every single author we may be interested in in our lifetime, our best bet would be to find their books so we can acquaint ourselves with their worldviews or ideas.
- DEVELOPING THE SKILL OF FOCUS / CONCENTRATION
Reading helps us develop the skill of focus. To keep in tune with what we are reading, we must train our minds to stick with the story or article or whatever it is we are reading whether it is in a noisy environment or whether we are by ourselves in a quiet place. Sometimes, the noises in our heads are louder than the noise on the outside. Reading is not beneficial if we lose concentration of what we are reading. “Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting” – Edmund Burke.
- FOR INSPIRATION
“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all” – Abraham Lincoln.
Many people would have to agree with Lincoln. How many times has one thought they had some very unique and bright idea only to do a little research and realise that it has actually been in existence for a while? That kind of bursts our bubble, right? The brighter side to this, though, is that we are able to learn lessons from people who may have experimented with our ‘original’ ideas so we can tackle our project from a different angle and in different ways. Indeed, that is why books are important to research, knowledge, history, etc. “Books train your mind to imagination to think big” – Taylor Swift.
- FOR DEVELOPING FEELINGS WE MAY NOT DEVELOP ANY OTHER WAY
No one person has experienced every feeling there is on this earth and even if we have, probably not the same way another person has. Reading books allows us to experience different scenarios in different settings. Reading, arguably, allows us to get involved to the point where we feel, sometimes, what the different characters may have felt. For example, if we read a book about a civil war and all the atrocities committed against innocent people, we get to empathize (unconsciously sometimes) with the people who actually experienced such and can understand to an appreciable level how these may have affected them till date. George R.R. Martin could not have put it any better – “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
Margaret Fuller made such a profound statement when she said, “today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” Maybe we should mull that over in our minds just a bit (for a bit of brain exercise). I have no doubt that she must have agreed wholeheartedly with Jim Rohn when he said that “reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”
The ultimate goal of reading is learning through the experiences of others. Learning and applying the lessons results in growth. Growth / development or retardation is a consequence of what we feed ourselves with.
It is assumed that these benefits result from engaging with good books because “if you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking” – Haruki Murakami
And so maybe, just maybe, we should consider challenging ourselves with some of these reasons others attest to, by proving them, while observing if there really is something to investing in training our minds while relaxing with a great book. After all, what have we got to lose, right? Considering the ability to read and understand a great gift, should urge us on to exploit it to the fullest. Just in case you fall into the category where sitting to read may be too much to ask, audio books provide an alternative route to experiencing some of these joys.
Remember, “a book is a gift you can open again and again” – Garrisson Keillor.