Go Forth And…Read!
So, now that we understand some of the issues (see here) associated with reading—namely No Child Left Behind and reading unchallenging and, at times, bad writing—perhaps understanding why we should read will help incentivize a change in how and what we read. Reading provides many benefits beyond just entertainment although that in itself is not something to ignore. This might seem like a silly topic to you, RedOrbit readers; however, we all know those individuals who insist that a) they don’t like to read; b) reading is stupid; c) reading is a waste of time; or d)they don’t need to read. Of course, all of these reasons, and whatever else they claim, are completely unfounded, but we have to figure out a way to inspire others to read.
Perhaps the best reason people should read is learning. When we read, no matter what we read, we learn. We learn the who, what, when, where, why, and hows of the world simply by reading a book or a story or even a poem. Obviously, when we read nonfiction, be it journalism, biography, educational textbooks, how-tos, dictionaries, encyclopedias, or whatever, we immediately gain knowledge. That is one of the main purposes of nonfiction.
But we can also learn from fiction. Even fantasy and sci-fi, arguably the most fiction of all fiction, teaches us about life, relationships, right and wrong, and Good and Evil. We learn in a more emotional, empathetic way. To some extent poetry also teaches us in this way.
Furthermore, reading, no matter the genre, challenges us. Every time we open a book or magazine or newspaper or pull up a website, we read words that we do not understand, so we should look up their definition and learn about them. This challenge is another reason reading is so beneficial. Not only are we learning new words, but we should also use those words thus reading benefits knowledge and vocabulary.
When we read, we improve how we speak as well as how we write. To be a good writer, one must be a good reader. There is no doubt in that. I tell my college students on a daily basis that if they want to succeed in college and learn, they must read because reading quality works will teach them how to write as well. They may not be able to tell me why they need a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence, but if they read quality works, most will know that automatically.
Why is this, you ask? Well, dear reader, it’s because we mimic what we read. If we only read crap writings (i.e. Facebook posts wrought with misspellings or texts full of abbreviations), then we will write like that. However, if we read challenging works that are well written, we will start to write in that way. Of course, there is a place for using text-ese or ignoring the rules of grammar and punctuation, but those should be minor in comparison to our other writings. When we write reports or essays or letters or even emails, we should respect the words enough to challenge our own abilities.
Beyond the facts that reading helps us learn, improves our vocabulary, and betters our own writing skills, reading is fun. Whether reading nonfiction, fiction, poetry, plays, or whatever, readers have the opportunity to step out of their own lives and responsibilities and demands and just be a part of something else.
A reader is just as important to a story as the characters. Without the readers, the characters stay static. A writer creates the story and the world of that story, but it only has impact if someone reads it. And when we read, we create. We challenge our imaginations to visualize what we read. We connect to the characters, story, plots, conflicts, and everything about what we are reading. Readers bring their experiences to what they read, which affects how we read. This means that no matter the author’s intent, readers influence that.
Reading is fun. Reading is learning. Reading is growing. What other reasons do we need to convince others (and frankly ourselves) that reading is worth the effort? So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and…read!
Image Credit: Chepko Danil Vitalevich / Shutterstock