What is it about reading that is so important? Growing up, I never thought twice about my choice to sit in front of a television and just watch whatever was on. The cartoons and shows were exciting and as an easily impressed youngster the “storylines” they presented captured my fleeting attention and did not make me think too hard. It was a perfect way to be entertained, at least my younger self-thought so. And ever since I cracked open my first fantasy I have been making up for lost time reading everything I can.
And now that I have an eight-year-old daughter I keep coming to a realization that my first fantasy book brought me to how pleasurable reading can be. But now, beyond the enjoyment, I pull from the pages I have come to realize the importance of reading all over again. Children are told by parents (myself included), their teachers and even society that reading is important. I do not want my little one to grow up without learning how important and how much fun reading actually is. But just like me, she would much rather watch TV or a movie than actually read a good book. And with the busy lives we lead, we rarely get to have even thirty minutes just to dedicate to reading together.
But what makes reading so important? Is it the spark it gives to our imagination, the access to history it provides or is it simply the use in our everyday lives? In short, it is all of these things and more.
There are many different reasons to read but the first that jumps to my mind is the spark reading can provide to our imaginations. That feeling we get when we explore the world created by an author of a book of fiction is indescribable. It does not matter if the world is of their own making or if the story was set in the real world. There is always a setup that the author has to lay down, and it is that setup that lets our minds explore the world in their story. Books can take us anywhere the author wants and the words they use enable us to create those landscapes in our minds. That use of our imaginations is something that helps us grow, and that growth is crucial for a well-developed mind.
One of the most memorable quotes I have ever heard is those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. It is a slight variation on the original quote, but its truth is still relevant. There are multiple ways to learn history: we can be told about our history, examine the civilizations of the past by their ruins or we can read about our history. And I’m not just speaking about the ancient past. The printed word, the internet or newspapers all contain a written account of what people say and do and we need to be able to learn and grow seeking to be better than those who came before us.
Beyond growing as a person or sparking our imagination, writing is everywhere in our lives. From driving down the highway or reading a list of ingredients, the printed word is everywhere and we need to be able to function in our day to day lives. Now not being able to read the signs on the highway will not cripple us nor will not be able to read a list of ingredients on a box of cereal. But we will be crippled when we cannot read contracts, memos or various other work-related papers. Now there are professions that limit this requirement but it is not completely removed from those professions. The requirement to read is going to be ever present in our lives.
And the best way to develop our minds and prepare ourselves for life is to read. And I will be the first to admit that reading something you don’t enjoy can be trying but sometimes necessary. But there are plenty of genres to explore so that one will be able to capture your imagination.