Have you read a book recently? Whether you prefer to listen to eBooks, use your Kindle, or embrace a physical paper-and-ink printed novel, have you finished even one book within the past year?
Now, would you be surprised if I stated that only 43% of Americans have read at least ONE book in the past year? That means that about 57% of those polled have not finished (or, for some, even started) reading a piece of literature in over 365 days.
So why is this statistic worthy of contemplation, to the point of meriting its own blog post (one that is noticeably different in format than my others)? Let’s consider what we gain from partaking in various forms of literature.
For one, reading, in general, is fundamental to functioning in society today. Think of how many times we need to read something each day, just to accomplish mundane, necessary tasks: recipes or ingredients on food items, road signs and directions, important documents and bills, and instructions for taking and administering medicines, just to name a few. The list could ramble on and on. If we are not proficient in reading, at least to the point of comprehending basic language skills, commonplace tasks could become a source of frustration- or, in some cases, even worse. And, just imagine not being able to enjoy blog posts… 😉
Similarly, reading enables us to become well-rounded individuals, no matter our current situation or upbringing. How so? When reading from a certain perspective, we are able to put ourselves “in the shoes” of that character and take on his or her emotions, fears, or insecurities. Adopting the mindset of “someone” whose age, gender, or culture differs from ours aids in the development of sympathy and compassion for other humans.
No matter what genre we may enjoy, reading contributes bits of information on vast amounts of topics to our personal knowledge “bank”, from science to history and beyond. This empowers us to engage in meaningful, educated discussions with individuals whom we may have thought to not have anything in common! Pro tip: have you ever found yourself struggling to keep a conversation from going dull? Bringing up a thought-provoking point from a book you’ve read can incite a lively exchange.
Perhaps most obvious is the clear fact that reading improves your mental faculties- in other words, reading makes you smarter. Following along in a book requires the reader to remember plot details, character traits, and/or an overall synopsis of the message; over time, using your memory in this way will bolster it, similar to how a muscle becomes stronger with continual use. Researchers have even concluded that this type of cognitive stimulation can slow the advances of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, relating your brain to the old adage: “use it or lose it”. The same thought is applied towards training your concentration. Differing from the fast-paced programs on TV, coming to the completion of a book requires- and can train- your ability to focus.
One more mental aspect that reading improves is vocabulary. Remember in school when the teacher would encourage the students to use the context of the sentence in order to figure out the meaning of an unknown word? The same applies to adults today. Reading expands your vocabulary, which helps you become a more articulate speaker, which then can result in many additional benefits.
Enjoying a book is a great way to calm down after a long, busy day. Watching the news or a movie often highlights crime, violence, and other unsettling topics, and combined with the flashy advertisements and materialistic commercials, can often lead to even more stress. On the contrary, quietly reading a book on a topic of your choosing has been proven to reduce stress, which can contribute to better overall health.
According to the statistic at the outset of this post, 57% of adults are missing out on all of these wonderful benefits.
Are you one of them?
If the answer is a hesitant “yes”, try and encourage yourself to pick up something and give it a try. Determining exactly why you don’t read can then lead you to identify new ways of incorporating reading into your lifestyle.
Here are some tips that have helped others get back into the good habit of reading:
- Choose a topic that you enjoy. In school and college, we were forced to read certain books, no matter our interest level in the theme. On your own, though, you can choose whatever makes you happy- there are books written about everything, fiction and non-fiction. Enjoying the topic matter will help you stay interested in the literature and make you want to keep reading all the way to the end!
- Power down and log-off of electronics (unless you are reading from a tablet, then, well, don’t turn it off). Watching TV or movies, browsing the internet, and scrolling through social media are just three examples of “time-vacuums”; in other words, they seem to ‘suck up’ time, and before you know it, you have used up all of your free-time! Try setting a limit of how much time you want to spend on each activity every night, and stick to it! You’ll find you get more accomplished and feel better relaxed this way, too!
- Download an audiobook to listen on-the-go! This is convenient for those who enjoy to multi-task, like me! Listening to a book without the need to be stationary allows for “reading” while cleaning the house, exercising, or driving to and fro.
- Always have your reading material easily accessible. That way, during any unexpected downtime (waiting at a doctor’s office, bathroom break, an appointment that is running late to begin) you can just pull out your book and read for awhile instead of counting the beams of the ceiling. Don’t want to lug around an awkward, heavy book? Download yours on a phone or tablet! Then, where ever your device goes, there your book will be as well. And, really, don’t we all take our phones everywhere nowadays?
- Start or join a book club! This doesn’t have to be formal or require a lot of effort (but it can if you want!) Grab a few friends, choose a book, and arrange a date to discuss it! You could meet up at a cafe, have someone host for wine and desserts, or just hook-up over Skype when everyone has some free time! However you choose to arrange it, having set plans creates a sense of accountability; you will be more likely to finish a book if you know you have some friends waiting to swap opinions on it!
- Make it a pattern. You know what ‘they’ say: it takes approximately 21 days to make or break a habit. So attempt for three weeks to read for a small amount each day. Before you know it, you’ll dread missing a day of reading!
- Vary your genres. Choosing books from different categories helps to widen your range of interests. By venturing out of your comfort zone and selecting different types of books to read, you might just find yourself interested in something you never thought you would be!
Reading allows your mind to venture off into the wonderful, expansive world of literature. So endeavor to read. Read something.
My current read: All In Good Taste by Kate Spade New York. This is a light-hearted guide to all things entertaining and throwing the perfect soiree.
My next read: ???? Let me know what you are into right now! Anything you can’t wait to get started on? Any suggestions would be appreciated 😉