The love of reading is not universal. In fact, if you were to ask those around you how they feel about reading, you would discover a variety of answers. Some are voracious readers, fully absorbed in their current book at all times. Others read in spurts, going months without reading between book obsessions. And then, of course, there are those who stay far away from books if they can. Where do you find yourself? Do you fit one of these categories? Or do you fit somewhere in between?
With all of these various opinions and reading habits across the globe, it begs the question . . . why is reading important? What is the purpose? Why should you become a reader? Why should we work to instill a love of reading in our children and our students? There are innumerable reasons for why reading is important, but here are a few reasons to consider.
Escape from Reality
Stories. Everyone loves a good story. Stories are loved because the offer an escape . . . an escape from one’s present reality. The stories in books allow the reader to travel to destinations both real or pretend. Books allow the reader to live in time periods in the past or the future. Books allow the reader to get to know people just like them. Books allow the reader to experience fantastical events that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Books can offer readers a chance to escape the world around them and live a whole new life for a short time.
Exercise the Imagination
Reading allows the reader to exercise his imagination. Unlike visual stories such as movies or TV shows, the author and the reader have to work together to create the story visually. The author must work to show the reader through their words how to construct a picture or movie in their mind. This takes effort and practice in the mind of the reader, but the more that one reads, the more amazing their imagination becomes.
As a child, reading books gave me ideas for imaginative play. I remember the days where my sisters and I spent hours outside imagining ourselves as the Ingalls family, stuck out on the prairie, looking for ways to survive. We would wash our clothes in large plastic tubs and hang them out to dry. We would look for vegetables that had fallen off the vine in the garden to make our food. We would spray the hose in each other’s faces and pretend we were fighting a horrible storm out on the open prairie. Because of books like Little House on the Praise or Sarah, Plain and Tall, my sisters and I were able to create hours of imaginative play and memories that would last a lifetime . . . all because of a love for reading.
As an educator, it is my goal to create lifelong learners in my students. In order to inspire my students to actually want to learn their whole life, I have to inspire a love of reading. Not only do books offer us stories that allow us to escape, books can also provide us with a wealth of knowledge for us to glean. Often, informational books are being put aside for the ease of a quick search on Google or YouTube. Don’t get me wrong . . . I find Google and YouTube to be great tools to aid in research, but nothing will ever replace a library full of books teaching readers about history, science, cooking, crafts, languages, and more.
Become a Better Writer
I don’t know about you, but when I want to get better at something, I go to an expert. I watch their craft and try to emulate their work in my own life. For example, baking a pie. On my own, I have no idea how to make a pie, so I will find an expert pie maker. I will learn their recipe, and recreate it in my kitchen. I will pour over pictures of the baker weaving thin strips of dough to create a beautiful, braided pie crust. My pie won’t be perfect the first time, but the more information, tips, and tricks I glean from other pie bakers, the better my pie will become.
I get it . . . pie? What does that have to do with reading? Well hang with me as I explain my illustration. The same scenario applies to writing. On our own, many of us are not good writers, therefore we go to the experts . . . authors. Authors have all sorts of writing styles and craft moves. The more we as readers observe these styles and techniques, the more ideas we can get to apply to our own writing.
Not everyone is destined to be become an expert writer. Writing, however, is a life skill that many will benefit from. Students write papers. Teachers teach writing. Entrepreneurs write business plans. Journalists write magazine articles. Realtors write glowing descriptions for their homes for sale. And the list could go on. Writing is a valuable skill, and many writers can improve their skills by reading others’ works through books.
Reading is important for so many reasons, but as you raise or teach or become a reader, keep in mind the importance of what you are doing. Books offer an escape from the real and present reality. Books allow us to exercise our imaginations. Books ensure that we are always learning. And books help us to become better writers. Find a few minutes today to pick up that long, forgotten book and read.