Wrapped in a blue fleece blanket, my infant arms and legs swayed in my mother’s lap as she read me a bedtime story.
This illustration was my life during my first few months on this planet.
Beginning before I could even talk, my parents read to me every night. They read me stories crafted by the hands of great prophets such as Dr. Seuss, the Grimm brothers, Shel Silverstein, and many others. Every single night, we read a new book and explored a new world. Our reading sessions became, in a way, a ritualistic necessity imperative to my development.
Our nightly reading practice only gained momentum as I grew older, building up to the moment I could finally read on my own. I quickly began reading short chapter books, then long chapter books, and finally graduated to EVEN LONGER chapter books. Eventually, I became enthralled with reading. I found that by reading, I became a more thoughtful, creative, and understanding individual.
Reading teaches people a lot about the world around them, but even more importantly it teaches people about themselves. We live in a world dictated by technology; a world where appearance is more important than being yourself. Reading has, in a sense, gone by the wayside in exchange for things such as video games, phone apps, and computers. Now, before you all yell at me, I’m not saying that all technology is bad. In fact, I’m a big supporter of technology. I’m typing this article on a computer for crying out loud!
I believe technology is extremely important to advancing society and making the lives of people easier. Technology has enabled us to do magical things like replace missing limbs, cure disastrous diseases, and communicate with people on the other side of the globe. But I also believe that useful skills such as writing, communication, and storytelling, all derived from reading, are necessary for the survival of humanity.
Okay, yes “the survival of humanity” sounds a bit morbid, but it’s reality. A world without reading would continue to take away the creative autonomy humanity prides itself on. We are already on our way to this point with the continued decrease in funding for the arts. Reading acts as a bridge between people. It’s a way to interact and connect on a deeper level with others. It harbors a mutual understanding between people from immensely different backgrounds. If we continue on a path to defund the arts, individualization will continue to decrease. Therefore, we can’t, as a society, lose these quintessential functions.
This brings me to the reason I read.
I read because it allows me to take a break from technology, the ever-changing world around me, and ultimately myself. When I dig into a book, I escape and end up walking alongside the characters on each page. I become a part of their world; I feel their pain and understand their predicament. It’s as if I’m not contained by the restrictions of reality and its freeing. Actually, it’s more than freeing; it’s otherworldly.
Reading has impacted my life in only positive ways. It has encouraged me to write, sing, act, laugh, communicate, and of course, read. But even more importantly it has taught me to understand the viewpoint of others. Reading has enabled me to feel compassion and it has ultimately made me the person I am today: a strong, creative, and loving individual capable of accomplishing anything I put my mind to.
The written word can have this same impact on everyone. It’s our fault the written word is falling victim to our ever-changing world. Books aren’t like VHS, CDs, or even DVDs. They can’t be replaced with a new technology. The written word still has worth in this ever-changing society and it is imperative society keeps it relevant.
Reading is an incubator for creativity, sympathy, and ultimately success. It’s the job of adults to make reading “cool” again! So, I have a few words of parting advice…
Parents, take a break and read to your children. They will thank you later for it.
Teachers, assign interesting books. Don’t force feed children the brilliantly written prose of Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and Charles Dickens. You’ll only be disappointed with their response. Save that for later. Give them Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan. They, again, will thank you later for it.
Everyone, take a break and read that book that’s been on the New York Times Bestseller list for fifty weeks in a row. “I’m too busy” is not a real excuse. You can make time. Be patient and you’ll be surprised what you might find.
My hope is that you, YES YOU, will continue to have the opportunity to experience the positivity that comes from reading. It really can change a person’s life. It changed mine.