Benefits of Reading–Revisited

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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.

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. 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 don’t 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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24 thoughts on “Benefits of Reading–Revisited

  1. Excellent points! I’d add that reading is especially important for writers. After all, if you don’t read (especially books within the genre you’re writing), then how are you going to have any idea what a good book of that type looks like?

    Furthermore, and more importantly, learning to read is critical for young children, as numerous studies show that a proficient reader will have an easier time in school than other kids who don’t read as well. So I read with my children a lot, and get them to read.

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  2. I’m trying to think of a clever comment about audible books. One person I know hates reading, but loves for someone to read books to him. I guess that counts as reading too. He can read, but enjoys it more when someone reads aloud to him.

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  3. I read fiction to experience the world in new ways. Plot and characterization aside, how another person uses language can change perception in and of itself. Reading poetry gives voice and meaning to my own experiences that I haven’t found the language for. The other advantage of reading, which I can’t stress strongly enough, is that it’s necessary for being able to write well.

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  4. Nice article, Charles. The education point is self explanatory to me but your second point about empathy is very interesting. Many people have no idea or experience of life outside of their own sphere of existence so they can’t really imagine a different situation unless they learn about it through books where someone else gives them the emotional and descriptive input required to understand and appreciate the experience. That makes perfect sense to me.

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  5. Thank you for more reasons to be book-obsessed. Seriously though, I don’t even want to think about what my life would look like without books. That is a terrifying thought. Books are as important as food to me, and I even classify reading material like food, from five-star gormet dining down to knock-off Dollar Store candy (pretty delicious, all the same).

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  6. Reading fiction definitely helps develop empathy. I consider this to be the most important thing I do with and for young children. From picture books such as Library Lion to chapter reading books such as Charlotte’s Web, reading fiction builds empathy. Thank you for an excellent post, Charles!

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  7. Yes, I totally agree, Charles. Education, empathy, and so much more. It may well help us see life from a variety of perspectives, so helping us not to pre-judge people, and to see the shades of grey in any situation. So it can help us become wiser and more considering towards our fellow humans with a richer depth to our relationship with our own humanity. Wow, that was a bit of a mouthful!

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  8. I grew up with books. I remember one of the very first books that captivated me was “The Enchanted Wood” and then “The Magic Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton. Then things like “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and “The Hobbit”. It was these true magical fantasies that inspired a love of reading in me. I did a lot more reading when I was younger. When I was growing up kids had torches to continue reading when the lights were turned off. I was in book clubs when I was younger and loved getting fresh new books every month and picking which ones to order. It was exciting. It was another world really. It was part of the magic of childhood.

    I still have stacks of books to read today. I would agree that reading is highly educational and beneficial and develops empathy yes. I remember as a child being so sad and crying at books like “Charlottes Web”. There were so many books where animals were the central characters. And I believe humans should be kind to animals and empathise with them just as we do with humans. And perhaps stories where animals are the characters helps people view them as living and sentient beings to be treated with compassion. I also read “Mans Search for Meaning” a few years ago and you feel his experiences and you are inside his thoughts seeing his world. The same with books like “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”.

    I discovered a Supernatural author called Christopher Pike many years ago now because my brother was reading his books. And I read so many of them like back to back. Like you would watch different seasons of a TV Show. He was an amazing author. He wrote a book called “Spellbound” which was a fantastic book, so unusual.

    When they turn books into movies they rarely capture the real magic of the books. So if someone just watches films and never reads books I think they are missing out. Books harness the imagination and reading is a world that stands in it’s own. I am glad I grew up with books and saw the world from many different angles and viewpoints. It was reading I think that also brought the most magic in childhood. I am naturally empathetic. I think that’s a quality I would have had anyway but reading does broaden your concept of the world and introduce you to characters with very different experiences than your own so it’s truly beneficial for everyone to read. And for pleasure not just for school, university or education. So that it’s a lifelong activity.

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