Thursday, March 5, 2015

5 Benefits of Reading

“You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” 
― Ray Bradbury

The partnership between our brains and books is almost like magic. Our brains are able to interpret words on a page and create pictures and events in our minds that deeply impact us. They effect us in astounding ways. They can change our perspective on the world. They can evoke emotions in us. They can teach us about ourselves. Books are very powerful and there are many different reasons to read. Here are 5 of them:

1. To know that your thoughts, struggles, fears, hopes, and dreams are universal
In this life, we will all have struggles. Many will be universal. But we often don't know that our struggles are universal because our deepest struggles are not ones we tend to share with others. But when we read we discover others that struggle with the same things that we do. Screenwriter, playwright, and writer William Nicholson once said “we read to know we're not alone.” Similarly, we learn that our thoughts and fears are not unique but actually usual. And our hopes and dreams are are not custom but common. James Baldwin said it best when he said “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

2. To experience other cultures and understand other people who are much different than us
How incredible would it be to travel the world, taste new foods, meet new people, and see new sights? It would be amazing. The problem is this: I don't have an infinite amount of time or money to do that. Therefore, I read instead. Reading gives us the opportunity to see through a small window intro another world. It even can give us the ability to travel through time. We can go to any place and any time and experience what it would be like to be someone else. When we read, it is almost like we become someone else. George R. R. Martin said it this way: “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one.” When we read we get the opportunity to see life from another's view. This can help a middle class white woman understand the poor Hispanic woman and also help the modern day African American man understand the African American man that lived in Georgia during the Civil War. Through reading we are able to build a better understanding of others and gain greater empathy towards them.

3. To gain more knowledge
Dr. Seuss simply stated “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” No matter what book you read you can always learn something from it. In Gone With the Wind a reader learns about women in 1860s America, men in 1860s America, Civil War conditions, medicine in the 1860s, and much more. Some of the things readers can learn about in To Kill a Mockingbird include the Great Depression, racial inequality in the 1930s, and how court cases are run. Distant Waves is a historical fiction book that touches on the great works of Nikola Tesla and it also talks about The Titanic. And this is just fiction. I didn't even talk about nonfiction. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "if we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads."

4. To escape from the world
When we read we get the opportunity to escape our world and enter one that is entirely different. After an exam gone bad, a rough day at work, or a not-so-fun family gathering, there is nothing better than transporting yourself to Narnia, Hogwarts, Tara, or River Heights. W. Somerset once said “to acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

5. To teach us life lessons
Books can teach us many life lessons. The Great Gatsby teaches readers money cannot buy happiness and you cannot repeat the past. 1984 teaches people that love conquers all. Of Mice and Men shows people that not all stories end “happily ever after”. The Harry Potter series shows readers that the world is not split into good people and bad people, politics corrupt, and people can change. A Wrinkle in Time teaches people to be proud of the individuals they are. The Hunger Games series shows readers to stand up for what they believe in, sacrifice is the foundation of maturity, and hope is stronger than fear. There is so much that a collection of pages can show us about life.

Reading is one of the most powerful and important hobbies to have. It can show us a lot about the world without us every leaving our homes and it can show us things about ourselves too. In the words of John Green "great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood."

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