When was the last time you read a book for fun? I mean a book that hasn’t been assigned by a professor and forced upon you with threats of future quizzes and tests. Most people wouldn’t be able to remember the last time they had, if ever, read a book for pure entertainment. Some people only pick up a free-read book if it is being turned into a movie in the near future, and many skip reading the book in the first place and just see the film. Now, in a world full of technology, there are so many other diversions, that books seem like they are becoming an outdated activity.
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents that read to me all the time. Every night before bed they would pull out the book we had been working on and proceed with the next installment in the story. I loved it and would look forward to these sessions every evening so I could lie under my covers and let the words paint a picture in front of me. I was one of those kids that was only ever allowed to watch television occasionally. My sisters and I were limited to TV once a week and therefore had to find other things to occupy our time. If I wasn’t playing with my sisters or my toys, I was reading. I didn’t grow up around the screen of a phone, computer or television. I grew up around books.
I attribute much of my creativity, knowledge and spelling skills as a child to reading books. They are such wonderful tools for learning, because you are absorbing so much information without even realizing it.
However, even if you did read as a child, it can be hard to hold onto the habit as you get older and busier. As more and more homework is assigned to you in high school and college, reading becomes more of a chore. It’s easy to put it on the backburner and give your time to other activities.
Reading’s lack of popularity today can be associated, in my opinion, with the way children are brought up. Today, children pass the time with various forms of electronic entertainment, whether they have an iPad, tablet, phone, portable video game, movie, etc. The sad thing is that these children don’t know any different and learn to expect constant stimulation in the form of electronic entertainment — they don’t know a world without it.
I remember a particularly shocking story my friend told me about her one-year-old nephew: The child was handed a book and he immediately tried to swipe it like an iPad. He was only one year old and was already so used to electronics that he assumed anything rectangular was an iPad.
Don’t get me wrong, electronics and the technology of today are wonderful and can be an enormous aid in the growth of children’s education; however, they should not replace reading. The simple act of reading a book has enormous benefits for the development of the brain: expanding of vocabulary, advancement of literacy and growth of the imagination. When watching TV, you don’t have to be completely paying attention — you don’t need your brain to be constantly working to keep up with the story on the screen. Oftentimes, (at least for me) you are doing a million other things while watching: texting, eating, doing homework, etc. However, books require the full engagement of your brain. They require your imagination to create the story in your mind. They are a way of relaxing that fully immerses you in another place and time and allows an escape from reality.
Reading opens our minds to different experiences, people, cultures and opinions that we would never get to know in our own lives. Books allow you to live from thousands of other peoples’ perspectives and to see life how they see it. Reading about these different experiences creates an empathy and respect for other cultures and people that would never be understood if their words were not shared. Words are a powerful way to spread information and to combat ignorance. They are so much more than just a homework assignment. While reading a book, you are not only being entertained, you are also improving yourself in so many ways.
With this in mind, the next time you go to watch “Friends” on Netflix, consider opening a book instead. It might surprise you.
Katherine Anderson binge-watched season three of “Friends” as soon as she finished writing this article.