Whys of Reading

Everyone says reading is so important! But, hardly anyone ever explains.

Whys of Reading
- illustration by: BABA SHAKEEL - Copyright ©: Readout

Can you recall any childhood incidence, where you were told to read books besides your curriculum? We can. I bet you can also!

No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.
~ Confucius

You might wonder, why?!

We celebrate the idea of reading, but seldom practice it. Reading apparently looks like an idle activity to most of us. When in fact, it is a mental roller coaster giving adrenaline rush to our brain. It energizes the reader psychologically and physically by generating feel good hormones.

It’s a world of its own, full of expressions, imaginations, knowledge and time travelling. You can open a book and jump into another era instantaneously.

If you are a reader or planning to become one; Here are some of the “whys of reading” for you!

Reading makes us grow and strengthens memory

By reading, we are exposed to alien ideas, people, places and concepts. Slowly, we grow out of our comfort zone and begin to understand foreign ideas.

Harry potter has been a hot seller in 2000’s first two decades. Children practically grew reading Harry Potter. It has a legacy of grabbing children attention and mesmerizing them with new concepts for over two decades. A study has shown that Harry Potter series have evolved its readers to be less prejudiced, inclusive towards minorities like LGBT, immigrants and harry potter fans happen to be less prone to bigotry.

With bigotry and extremism on rise, even a children book can trigger a major shift in our society’s welfare.

Reading and intelligence: A Symbiotic Relationship

Very few people doubt importance of reading and its impact, but recent scientific findings consider the relationship between reading and intelligence to be rather interdependent.

This is huge! It means, we evolve as the story progresses. It sharpens our memory and core intelligence. If any of you is tired of people lamenting him/her over his poor memory and low IQ. Start reading!

Reading can be a savior by putting our brain to work. It amplifies all the three meanings of intelligence known to psychologist i.e. cognitive intelligence, fluid intelligence and emotional intelligence.

Cognitive intelligence involves reasoning, solving problems, thinking abstractly, understanding complex ideas and learning from experience. Reading helps the brain by flexing the muscles of cognitive intelligence. It supports the data we use to survive and thrive in the world.

On the other hand, fluid memory is the ability to solve unfamiliar problems and detect a pattern, without prior acquired knowledge. Reading helps you to train your brain to look for patterns and devise solutions as the situation proceeds. Working on fluid memory also enhances reading comprehension ability. This benefit trajectory is two-way street.

On the whole reading involves absorption of a plethora of information, comprehension of ideas, stories and characters, practice to retain information and recollection of the lessons learnt. This whole mental exercise warms up the neurons for better memory and cognitive performance.

Reading puts us in other shoes

Reading can help us live other people’s realities, fantasies and experiences. Besides living our own reality, we get to experience someone else’s story.

Reading has a compelling power to attract reader to get absorbed in the characters and their story inhabiting their emotions, people, places, points of view. A team of researcher from Netherlands recognizes this immersive power as the reason of increasing empathy amongst avid fictional readers. A 2013 study result shows that students assigned to read Conan Doyle mystery novel for a week showed prominent increase in empathy as compared to the students assigned to read news articles.

The third intelligence is highly in vogue these days, is “Emotional intelligence”. It is the ability to detect and respond aptly to emotions and feelings of your own as well as others. A study shows that reading literary fiction can improve people's theory of mind (ToM) – their ability to understand others' mental states. David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, from New School for Social Research in New York carried out tests by making the participants to read non-fiction, popular fiction and literary fiction. Results showed that reading literary fiction enhances cognitive and ToM as compared to non and popular fiction or even reading nothing at all.

Please note, we have to be rational and keep in mind that reading a single passage won’t build our capacity for empathy.

In one of the studies, “Author Recognition Test” was carried out. Their paper says; "The most plausible link between reading fiction and theory of mind is either that individuals with strong theory of mind are drawn to fiction and/or that a lifetime of reading gradually strengthens theory of mind".

By experiencing situations from another’s outlook, we start to view life with panoramic understanding. Skilled writers inspire the reader to empathize with their characters and understand their viewpoints. At first, it can feel unsettling and difficult to absorb for the reader. Later on, this uncomfortable feeling makes him/her mature and tolerant. The reader might agree or disagree with the character’s perspectives and progression, but he/she cannot skip the familiarity whenever similar situation crosses reader’s path.

Reading lets us break out of our mold. We become less judgmental and more compassionate towards others.

Readings makes us creative

Reading polishes our creative streak. It makes us imaginative, tolerant and progressive. If you are creative soul yourself, you can imagine that focusing is an issue for artists and creative people as they tend to day dream.

Reading can help you realign your focus. As lonely as it seems, reading helps you focus on one task and learning. By reading words, interpreting it, building mental images, and critical thinking, our brain girds up for clear and logical thinking. This mental drill practically fuels our creative tank.

University of Toronto led a research in which they found out that fiction readers experience far less need for "cognitive closure" due to their skill to think about abstract ideas to analyze possibilities instead of mere factual knowledge available to non-fiction readers. Fiction readers become open minded and are able to think out of the box in case of anomaly.

Reading is a stress reliever

With all the gadgets and social distractions, stress often fools us in rushing. When instead we need to slow down, take a deep breath and center ourselves.

Study shows that six minutes read at night ease tension in muscles and slows heart rate. More over its says; "More than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness".

Most people feel energetic, optimistic and clear headed after reading. Book lovers can vouch for the fact that reading a book gives them a renewed perspective, refreshes their inner eco-system and brightens their mood.

So, why not just grab a book to decompress!

Next time, when you are stressed try reading a book that interests you in order to unwind. Unplug from your distractions and worries to get an intellectual massage for your exhausted brain cells.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
~ Groucho Marx

Reading is transformative

Reading changes everything! Be it reader, his beliefs, world view, behavior, thinking, decisions etc. Everything!

No wise person, who has a broad-based knowledge can be a non-reader. Charlie Munger says that one thing that unites successful people and scientists is that, they read a LOT.

Warren Buffet, a voracious reader himself once said, “I just sit in my office and read all day." It sums up the transformative effect of reading. He allocates up to 80% of his time reading and thinking. He says that reading as many as hundreds of pages build his knowledge much like compound interest builds up.

There are plenty of other whys of reading. The point here is to take the initiative to figure out your own “WHY” of reading!

Reading is a skill which helps you steer your way in practical life. It is also a weapon which you can deploy when needed. It is armed with awareness and knowledge. Nobody can deprive you from your unique reading experiences. It can only be complemented with practical exercise.

Read! So that you do not have to Recede from your true potential.

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