Why Reading is Still Fundamental

I find it ironic that by most standards literacy rates are at a world-wide high, but that interest in reading for pleasure or self-improvement still seems to be unpopular. I get it, so much of social media is visually oriented. Need to learn a new skill? Go to YouTube. Want to see pictures of cats? Instagram. Ideas to decorate your living room? Pinterest. Looking to waste an afternoon on mindless videos? Tik Tok. And so on and so forth. Heck, I haven’t even gotten to more traditional forms of entertainment like movies and television (cable, streaming, or otherwise).

I think that in a world with so many options for entertainment and information it’s easy to forget that reading is still fundamental. But I think it’s more crucial than ever and that our collective success depends on it. Here are a few reasons why…

Reading is Active

Read for pleasure.

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With visual mediums you are essentially a passive observer to the action. You sit there and take it all in. No effort is made on your part but to react. With reading you need to use your imagination. There are no sets, no drawings, no one showing you how it’s done. You have to create all the images in your head. And, bonus, reading fiction in particular makes you a kinder person by developing your ability to empathize and identify with other people.

Reading is Personalized

Unlike other mediums you read at your own pace. If you come across a passage that confuses you it’s okay. You can put the book, tablet, phone, or whatever down and think about what you’ve just read. You have time to think without affecting the overall experience. Pause a video too many times and you actually lose track of what’s going because pacing is part of the experience.

Reading Makes You Healthier

Read for others.

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Type in “advantages of reading” or “benefits of reading” into your favorite web search engine and you’ll find that various studies show there are actual physical and mental health benefits to reading, including but not limited to:

  • improving brain connectivity.
  • reducing stress.
  • lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
  • fighting depression symptoms.
  • preventing cognitive decline as you age.

And, bonus, reading makes you smarter too!

Reading Will Help You Get Ahead Professionally

Read to learn.

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It’s true that you might find how to do some specific task through videos – I myself have used YouTube to get a quick refresher on how to create an Excel spreadsheet formula for example – but if you want ideas I think you want to read. Trade magazines, articles on subjects that interest you, books about a wide variety of topics, even fiction. You never know where that next brilliant idea is going to come from. My bookshelf is full or books that are business and customer service oriented.

One of my bookshelves – the black bar is a shelf support, not a book that’s blotted out.

What Should You Read?

The simple answer to this question is read whatever strikes your fancy at the moment. The beauty of reading is that it really doesn’t matter what you read. As I mention in the paragraph above, I personally think that everyone should read a wide variety of items. Currently in my “to read pile” I have a mixture of fiction, non-fiction, religious, comic, and professional development books.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer paper, which is my medium of choice, or a tablet. It doesn’t matter if you buy the book or get it from the library (one of our greatest underutilized resources). Just pick a few things out that interest you and get to reading!

My current read pile. Since taking this picture last week I have finished Jungle, The Anthropocene Reviewed, and Podcasting for Dummies.

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted.
Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr