Benefits of Reading: Revisited

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I believe this topic to be important, so I wish to revisit it again.

I have previously written about the happiness of reading, a pleasure I hope everyone, or at least, most people experience. As I wrote before, I consider reading to be one of the main joys of life.  Reading is one of the most essential and, at the same time, the most sublime of pleasures.  Reading can take us places we have never been, tell us stories we have not known, and let us experience the lives of many other people.

In addition to the pleasures of reading, I also want to consider the benefits of reading. I think the first, and perhaps most obvious, value is that of education. Regardless of where the reading is done, or if it is for class or for self, all reading informs the reader in some way. As a Professor of English Literature, I teach many books in my courses at Lehigh University and the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College–and for me, this is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life, to share books and explore them with students.

While there are a myriad of ways to learn in life, reading still stands out as the primary, and most efficient, way of gaining information. (I am not in any way discounting the importance of learning through experience.) Readers can learn about areas of study that exist far outside of their particular areas of understanding or expertise. For example, I am a student of English literature, but I love reading books about quantum mechanics and the extraordinarily esoteric world of String Theory. I do not understand these ideas the way a physicist would, but I can still appreciate the ideas from books aimed at intelligent, non-specialist readers. Such reading allows the book lover to explore an almost unlimited range of ideas.

In addition to education, I think there is a second and equally important value to reading. I have read numerous articles recently about studies suggesting that people, who read, especially fiction, develop more empathy than those who do not read (Chiaet). The overall point of the results of this study, as well as others, is that people who read fiction tend to learn to identify with other human beings and their problems. This is what many of our parents taught to us when they said that we needed to learn to walk in the shoes of other people. It is the basic idea of trying to understand how other people think and feel. Even without these scientific studies, I would assert that fiction helps us to develop empathy.

What do you think about this? Do any of you have other suggestions about the benefits of reading? I would enjoy seeing your ideas.

Works Cited

Chiaet, Julianne. “Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy.” Scientific
American.Com. October 4, 2013. Web.

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46 thoughts on “Benefits of Reading: Revisited

  1. A lovely post, Charles. I think you have a good point about empathy. Reading helps you with everything in life as the basis of all things is communication whether it is instructing staff, providing information to clients or preparing reports. If you can’t read and interpret you cannot do complex maths or any other subject.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great subject and one with which I completely agree. Not only empathy but perspective. I’ve mostly read non-fiction though I do read fiction for lighter moments. I am still moved by the memoir David Pelzer wrote in 1995. It rocked me to my core. Books change lives.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I love the way it makes you feel to read a good story…It’s like that moment when you come out of a movie theater and feel blinded by daylight, disheveled and windblown, disoriented because you left so much of yourself in that story… It is like waking to a new day, where anything is possible…

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  4. Makes perfect sense to me. Reading good fiction, or maybe any kind of fiction, puts you inside the head of the characters, and allows you to see things through their perspective. This allows fiction to transcend time, place, and culture, and leads to empathy instead of blind ignorance.

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  5. I deeply share the importance of literature and always make sure there is another book ready when I finish one. They teach, take you places you might never experience, teach you about long lost cultures. Then there is philosophy and known thinkers….more than I will ever be able to consume.

    Yes, they are enriching. Music has the same strength of moving us but on a different level.

    Miriam

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I was a reader from the time I was three, but then after years of teaching college English courses, I stopped loving the act of reading. After retiring, it took me several years to get the love back after. What a relief.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I disliked reading when I was young. For book reports, I would copy what was on the back cover
    of a book and leave it at that.
    My love of books began during my training as a Holistic Health Practitioner. I could not read enough on the subjects for which I was studying. After certification, I continued with this thirst for reading.
    While holding a book, the four corners of the earth and everything in between was revealed to me in black and white, page after page of antiquity, ancient cultures, traditions, history, alternative therapies that countries have preserved from time immemorial.
    I have never studied literature, writing or anything of this sort.
    Today I write poetry, I have no training in this material.
    Writing from my heart I learn as I go along.
    Constantly reading and discovering the soul that inhabits us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I read a book, I add it to my shelf where my other ‘trophies’ (books I’ve read) proudly stand. I tend tri enjoy non fiction, or historical fiction, especially about US history. But I just finished Shindler’s List and it left me speechless. Thanks for your wonderful post b

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  9. Like your writing very much, Charles. One thing I like a lot about it is that it is not overkill, and not repeat either. Great job. I wonder if you have a way to go on the blog, A Teacher’s Reflections and somehow send her this particular blog on reading since she writes beautifully about that and often features the writing of others who write about the benefits of reading. She is a dear person and worth reading and so is Good Time Stories. Thank you most kindly.

    Liked by 1 person

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