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got books?

Pen. Paper. Books. Newspapers. Magazines. They all sound like things of the past with our culture today.

Computers. Email. Kindles. E-zines. Television. That sounds better, right? Or at least more familiar.  With so many bright and shiny things to choose from, it’s no wonder we are bringing about a more fast-paced, technology-driven generation than ever before.  We are a generation that thrives on FAST information: news websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, email. Any way we can get information, the better.  Social media has propelled us the quickest into becoming a culture that shares anything and everything. It doesn’t matter how insignificant it is, we want to share it with everyone we know.

While the Internet has surely revolutionized our communication, it has also set us back a few hundred years at the same time. As we wholeheartedly begin to embrace our culture of e-news, we find ourselves leaving behind the rich, deep art of reading.  Surely, there have been people who argue about the relevance of reading books in this day and age, when we can do everything we need to do in a blog-sized portion.   But finding the value of reading has nothing to do with your chosen book being ink and paper, or e-ink on a Kindle. It’s about choosing to exercise your mind.

Confucius, a Chinese thinker and social philosopher said it well, when he said “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

As an avid read, I often find myself cringing when people tell me they hate reading or they just don’t have time.  When they say they hate reading, it’s probably because they haven’t found something they feel is worthy of their reading.  At least that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better. I personally love the ability to escape into someone else’s story, and to learn something I may otherwise never understand. I love that someone spent their valuable time in writing a story that they wanted ME to read. ME! I have fond memories of walking into my grandmother’s bedroom and seeing piles and piles of her mystery novels that she’d read before she lost her vision. She loved books, and so do I.

Like our teachers told us, there are a ton of benefits that come from reading. Aside from being the expert on the New York Times Best Seller List, it’s been found that individuals who commit their free time to reading have:

  1. A better vocabulary and can spell better
  2. An improved memory
  3. Less stress
  4. Enhanced writing skills and imaginations
  5. Better communication and conversational skills
  6. Appreciation for other cultures
  7. A more nourished brain ready for aging

The list goes on. But what does reading do for our health? Lauren Duzbow, a writer for O Magazine writes “Just like muscles, the brain benefits from a good workout. And reading is more neurobiologically demanding than processing images or speech” (June 2008 issue).  That means that our brains get a better return for our money when we read, as opposed to watching television or listening to books on tape.

In the same article, Ken Pugh, PhD, President and Director of Research of Haskins Laboratories further tells us that “parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging.  A sentence is shorthand for a lot of information that must be inferred by the brain.” In laymen’s terms, we have to use our intelligence and concentration to understand what we are reading, thus stretching our brains.

We live in an era very demanding of our time, and technology is there for us to lean on when we need it. However, it shouldn’t be used as a tool to discourage us from reading but as a means to give us more access and ease than ever before. Just as we commit ourselves to taking care of our bodies physically, we also should plan on taking care of our minds intellectually. There is always time to be found for reading. Read a chapter every night before going to bed or relaxing in the tub. Keep a book in your purse and whip it out when you’re waiting at the DMV (we all know there is PLENTY of time to read there!). Become a member of your local library. However busy you find yourself, find time for a book.

Your brain will thank you.

 

Want more reading?

O Magazine

 

Author: Karly Wood

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