Reading for pleasure is often viewed as a waste of time. Most people read books or any material on a need to know basis. Unless you’re an academic, naturally curious, reading on a need to know is often boring and difficult for many people.
The number of people who read for pleasure has always been small in-spite of the belief that people read less and have fragmented attention today. A small proportion of people who read for pleasure purchase books, an even smaller number purchase difficult books. Yet reading comes with many benefits , l will highlight a few.
Benefits of reading for pleasure
As human-being we’re naturally drawn to stories. Fiction books offer diversified narratives. Through reading for pleasure we’re able to tap into the mind of another, exploring worlds beyond our own imagination. A book is like a portrait, its layered allowing the reader to think and re-think. Some of the many benefits of reading fiction books are;
- Expanding Imagination – reading allows for increased imagination and creativity.
- Improves memory – the brain is a muscle that requires ‘exercise’ The more you read the more you stimulate your brain, improving memory, increasing critical thinking as well as reducing or preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
- Engages curiosity – We’re born curious but as we get older most of us lose or significantly became less curious as we experience the vicissitudes of life. I believe staying curious allows for a more enriching and fulfilling life experience. Books are filled with stories that inspire as well as ignite our child-like curiosity.
- Nurtures Empathy – Stepping into the narratives and stories in books fosters empathy towards others lived experiences fiction or not. It is often difficult to relate to others or improve in social relations if you’re lacking in empathy. Reading books allows expansion of knowledge beyond one’s own world view that makes it easier step into the other’s shoes to try and view the world from their point without judgement.
- Improves mental health – If you’re like me, reading for pleasure definitely releases the chemical dopamine as my mood greatly improves with a good book in my hand. Its been researched and found that for some people who struggle with mental illnesses like depression reading fiction books helps in coping and improves a depressive mood.
- Its pleasurable and fun! – You sometimes laugh, cry, scream, get angry or sad , a whole rollercoaster of emotions as you delve deep into the narratives and the book characters come ‘alive’. You can expand your experiences by living vicariously through characters in the books you read!
How to nurture a culture of reading?
I believe reading like most things is a skill one learns and masters over time. Most of us do not have enough hours in the day so reading books for pleasure is one of the first casualties, who has the time..right??
And yet people often kill hundreds of hours either frustrated in traffic or scrolling aimlessly on various social media platforms. Just 30 mins of that unfocused attention, diverted to reading a few pages a day can lead to you reading and completing a whole book and many more.
They’re various ways of creating a culture of reading in yourself or those close to you. Below I’ll list of a few;
- Join or start a Book Club – books clubs are a good way of taking ‘boring’ out of reading books. It’s a fun way of consuming content in books as it allows for engagement and discussion as well as promoting and buying books from authors/publishers.
- Learn a new language or read in your mother tongue – I’ve found learning a new language is a great way to reading. In South Africa organisation like Nal’bali encourage children to read in native tongues through stories. They’ve great resources on their website that if willing to commit a little time you could acquire knowledge as well as consume content reading in your native language. I’m having fun learning South Africans languages reading or listening to children’s stories!
- Listen to audio books or podcasts – In that rush hour traffic, at the gym or whilst washing your dishes or whatever other activity that does not need focused attention, listening to an audio book or podcast can be a great use of time, hence killing two birds with one stone as the saying goes. They’re many platforms both free and paid like LibriVox, Audible, Scribd among many others where one can listen to great books or podcasts.
- Teach children to read from an early age – Children have a vivid imagination and indelible impression when still young. Teaching them to read from an early age helps in forming and mastering the habit of reading that can carry them through into adulthood. Parents should also teach by example, that is reading themselves! We’re social beings and tend to learn more through what we observe than what we’re told. So if you’re a parent or primary guardian be an example, read as you teach your child/children to read from as early as possible.
I leave you with the below quote from James Baldwin an Author, Playwright, Poet and Activist who inspires me;
” READ, READ, READ,never stop reading. And when you can’t read anymore…WRITE! “