Editor’s Note: I enjoyed reading my 16 year-old granddaughter Christa’s oped assignment and thought it perfect for July. We don’t have room for the complete citations but they are available upon request. Christa Plamondon will be a senior in the fall and is a voracious reader.(She reads books made of paper—real books!)
WHY WE SHOULD READ MORE
We have the illusion that reading at a young age is absolutely crucial to the development of our children’s brains. But what about now, as adults? In today’s society, we are accustomed to getting home from a long day of either work or school and unwinding with one of “our shows”. Of course it’s easy to slump on the couch and merely stare at a screen, especially opposed to reading a book. Watching television can be much more appealing to the thousands of students who read countless of textbooks and articles daily; reading more than enough to grow tired of it.
But if you look at the statistics of reading, perhaps the next time you sit down for your daily dose of Friends reruns, you’ll feel more compelled to pick up a book. According to Anne E. Cunningham of the University of California, Berkeley, frequent readers tend to be more intelligent than those who are not because “reading increases their vocabulary, memory skills, and abilities to spot and comprehend all kinds of patterns” (Kosciejew). Readers know up to over one thousand more words than the average nonreader.
Not only that, but highly successful people all have one characteristic in common: they love to read. According to The Huffington Post, Warren Buffett, one of history’s most successful investors, read approximately 600 to 1,000 words per day at the start of his investing career. Bill Gates reads about fifty books a year, and Elon Musk even believes reading books is what led him to make billions of dollars. In fact, the majority of affluent people enjoy reading as their most common pastime (Merle).
In a research done by The Reading Agency of England, studies show that reading provides stress relief, and even has “a dramatic impact on life outcomes” (The Reading). Steady, frequent readers tend to be happier, healthier, and more intelligent.
But we shouldn’t be reading books just because we feel obligated to “stimulate our brains” or “expand our vocabulary”; we should be doing it because we want to. Books are engrossing and in turn, broaden our imaginations and can even increase empathy. By reading books from a different perspective, a reader imagine what it’s like to be that character and enables them to better understand people. Books can even improve concentration and focus: two essential qualities to one’s character.
To clarify, I am not here to criticize those who have spent hundreds of hours, perhaps even thousands, binge watching Netflix. I, too, am guilty of doing so. But the accomplishment of finishing a book series versus twelve seasons of Grey’s Anatomy? Unsurpassable. We should be reading for pleasure; not because we feel compelled to. Reading is not a chore.
So read fiction. Read nonfiction. Read memoirs. Read mysteries. Read poetry. Just find a way to incorporate books into your life. And maybe the next time you finish a series on Netflix, desperate for a new show to make your next binge watching victim, make a stop at the library instead. Find some novels that pique your interest and read each night for a few minutes. Make a habit out of it, and you’ll see a difference in the long run.
UPDATE ON LAST MONTH’S EDITORIAL
Last month my editorial discussed a derogatory comment about Muskegon an entertainer made at an event my husband and I attended in Manistee. The main focus of the editorial however was about appreciating, instead of competing, all the charms of the different communities in west Michigan.
Right after the magazine went to print but before it was distributed, we received a letter of apology from the entertainer who made the disparaging remark. It was not a forced letter—it was thoughtful and sincere. It was obvious that our criticism caused him some sleepless nights. It takes courage to admit you made a mistake –and this man showed courage. In the end, he showed the best of being human. He learned a life lesson and he asked for our forgiveness which we give fully. As humans, we are all evolving — and recognizing mistakes we make—and we all make them—and learning the lesson those mistakes teach us is part of the process.