As part of the literate world, it is difficult to escape the act of reading. We are continuously bombarded with written information, be it text messages, emails, advertisements, or random feelings and emotions expressed on social media. We spend most of our time reading on our phones or laptops or other gadgets, but I am sure that hardly any of the information we read is retained by us for any practical purpose. This information influx has given us shorter attention spans and lower productivity.
Reading for Pleasure
This is why reading for pleasure has been championed for years. Researchers, linguists, and communication experts have been extolling the virtues of spending time with printed books. Apart from boosting our imagination, reading improves our comprehension and increases our ability to recall information. Our attention is focused on a particular activity when we read a book. That is an excellent mental workout in the current times of digital juggling.
I have been an avid reader since I was a child, from carrying my book to the dining table to choosing a career as a librarian. I have had the privilege of introducing many children and adults to the world of books. It still gives me a sense of wonder and amazement when I see my students inculcate the characteristics and romanticism of a particular fictional character.
The patience required for reading is a brain-stimulating activity that helps slow down memory loss. Evidence from a 14-year longitudinal study published in the International Psychogeriatrics journal in 2020 shows that people who read more had a reduced risk of cognitive decline throughout the study. Reading is a sedentary habit but a workout for our brain muscles. An article published in The Journal of Neuroscience by researchers from UC Berkeley found that reading could be a preventive measure for people prone to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reading for Intellectual Stimulation
Apart from the intellectual stimulation that reading provides, it also keeps us away from stress and provides us with inner calmness. A study by the University of Sussex showed that stress levels could be reduced by 68% after only six minutes of reading a book compared to other activities, such as listening to music or taking a walk.
Imagine the calmness one can get by reading a book curled up in bed or sitting under a tree. It is a perfect activity to practice mindfulness when you are engrossed in the imaginary world that is only present inside your head. It has happened so often that we are so involved in the turmoils of the characters in our book that we do not realize if the day is over and there is darkness outside the window. Reading a book before bedtime is also recommended as it eases muscle tension and helps the mind de-stress, leading to a sound sleep. Reading a book is an excellent way to detox oneself from too much screen time. Keeping aside some time for reading can help you stay away from mindlessly scrolling through social media posts.
I remember this young girl so fondly after all these years. She was in Grade 6 when I gave her the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone. She was completely hooked on the magical wizarding world and started frequenting the library in pursuit of the next one in the series. Within no time, she finished one after another, and soon, I had to keep the Harry Potter books aside for her. Some students find the library a safe space. They come and find a cozy corner to sit in and read without worrying about the outside world. As a librarian, I have derived much satisfaction from recommending books to students and teachers. It is indeed a feeling of joy when they return and tell you how much they enjoyed the book and request more.
Reading fuels our imagination and is undoubtedly a much more impactful activity than watching a movie. We create the story’s settings and develop feelings for our favourite characters based on our imagination. Most of the time, we are disappointed when we see our favourite story and characters on screen as they do not match our imagination.
It also improves our ability to communicate better as our vocabulary increases and our understanding of other perspectives broadens. There is also a sense of accomplishment when we finish a book, and it is a motivation to start another, and this instils a habit of persevering with things that may seem difficult to accomplish.
The best thing about reading for pleasure is that the reader has no expectations. Still, at the end of the pursuit, the reader has an expanded vocabulary, better reading skills, and imagination.
After the revolutionary invention of the printing press that gave us easy access to printed books, the digital revolution has given us multiple options of reading platforms with an endless number of books to read.
May the ever-endearing charm of leisure reading continue forever!
Rajani Roy, MYP Coordinator & Librarian
“Brain Exercise and Alzheimer’s.” Social Science Matrix, UC Berkeley, 22 Apr. 2021, https://matrix.berkeley.edu/research-article/brain-exercise-and-alzheimers/. Accessed 20 Oct. 22.
Chang, Yu-Hung, et al. “Reading Activity Prevents Long-Term Decline in Cognitive Function in Older People: Evidence from a 14-Year Longitudinal Study.” International Psychogeriatrics, vol. 33, no. 1, 2021, pp. 63–74., doi:10.1017/S1041610220000812. Accessed 20 Oct. 22.
Mansourati, Jessica. “Want to Reduce Your Stress Levels by 68% in 6 Minutes? Read a Book.” Medium, 30 May 2019, https://medium.com/@jessicamansourati/want-to-reduce-stress-levels-by-68-in-6-minutes-read-a-book-17ade265c65d. Accessed 22 Oct. 2022.
“Reading ‘Can Help Reduce Stress’.” The Telegraph, 30 Mar. 2009, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html. Accessed 22 Oct. 2022.
Thomson, Chris. “Reading as a Form of Meditation.” The Conscious Professional, The Conscious Professional Ltd., 1 Apr. 2022, https://cutt.ly/xB7XMhQ. Accesses 20 Oct. 22