Blog 365 · Bookish Delights

Why a Reading Mind is a Vibrant Mind

If you know me even just a little bit, you know that I am a reader. In fact, I don’t just “read” books – I love them, I devour them, I marvel at the beauty of the stories and the words within their pages.

I have always been a reader. I don’t remember learning how to read – but I do remember always having a book in my hands, eagerly turning the pages. Not a day goes by without me reading something – be that a magazine, novel, nonfiction, biography or the back of the cereal box. I can’t help it.

But is reading only a “thing” that people who naturally like to read should do? Or is it actually the key to a more vibrant mind? I would tend to argue the latter – from my own personal experience and from the experience of a teacher who constantly sees the benefit of reading in her students.

So before you stop reading this post in protest that you’re too busy to read or that you don’t really like it, maybe take the time to consider the following five reasons why I believe reading makes the mind more active and vibrant.

1. Reading Allows Us Vicarious Experiences
When I open a book, I can be transported to places I’ve never been, immersed in situations I’ve never experienced, and taken to times in which I’ve never lived. Books give us the opportunity to explore that which we can’t always physically explore, thrilling the soul.

There have been times when I’ve been so captivated by a story world that I literally feel like I’m pulling myself out of it when I have to put the book down and come “back into reality.” These experiences aren’t just a “nice escape” from daily life, but actually a way to open doors to places/times/people we might never have considered otherwise.

So much of my knowledge of the world and history is drawn from what I’ve read in books. I might not be able to always pinpoint the exact book I gleaned information from (although it sometimes surprisingly pops into my head when a memory is triggered!), but my mind is a composite of all that I’ve read over the years. I don’t always consciously choose to remember this information, but my brain retains it, constantly refining and growing in ways I would never have expected.

2. Reading Makes Us Consider More Perspectives
When we willingly expose ourselves to many new places/people/time periods, we are then allowing ourselves to consider more than just our own perspective in life. If we choose not to read about people, places, and time periods who are different than us, then we are choosing ignorance about many aspects of life.

As a child, I gravitated toward American and European authors and historical settings, and did not express much interest in African or Asian cultures or history. As a result, I feel that I have a huge lack of understanding in regards to those parts of the world. Since becoming an adult, I have broadened my perspective of the world and tried to read a wider range of books that touch more areas of the world, but I still feel biases and personal preferences creeping in that close off my perspectives.

If we want to effectively reach the world for Christ, we need to be aware of more than our own little corner of it. So if we can’t physically travel to all areas of the world, then we can at least broaden our perspectives by reading about those areas of the world!

3. Reading Grows Our Vocabulary, Imagination, and Writing Abilities
This point is more of an “academic” reason, but it is the truth for all who read. The more you read, the more you will inherently absorb a wider vocabulary, a more vivid imagination, and the ability to mimic the writing styles of those whom we are reading.

Now I’m not saying that if you just read all the time you will automatically become a good writer! There are still explicit craft lessons that one must learn in regard to writing, but it is largely influenced by a more active reading lifestyle. Similarly the growth of one’s imagination is only aided when exposed to many imaginative stories. I am convinced that my childhood imagination was hugely impacted by the fact that we had no television and that I read books constantly. In fact, I would read my favorite stories, then go out into the back yard and act them out with the help of some imaginary friends!

Perhaps you don’t care about growing your vocabulary, imagination or writing skills. Maybe you think those things aren’t actually important in today’s society. In reality, though, most jobs in the world are relying heavily upon writing skills (to communicate clearly, no matter what kind of work it is) and an imagination to help solve problems and come up with creative ideas to shape the future. Additionally, a wider vocabulary generally communicates a higher intelligence, which is something that most people desire to have!

4. Reading Connects Us to Other People
The beauty of books is that it memorializes people’s thoughts from generation to generation. Which means that I can connect with people who lived hundreds of years before me and hundreds of years after (if I get books published). Reading the works of people from other decades and centuries helps us to connect with their lives, identify with their issues, and create a sense of humanity that endures long after they die. We come to see that we are not all that different from one another, regardless of the era in which we live, and we value the contributions that others have made to the world.

Additionally, reading connects us to people in our own day and time. It is a beautiful thing to find someone who has read the same book as you and launch a deep conversation about why you liked or disliked it. Discussing and critiquing books lets us share ideas, delight in common appreciation of them, and once again, connect to what makes us human. I love discussing books with my fellow “bibliophiles” (don’t worry, it just means someone who loves books!), exchanging recommendations and extracting our thoughts about the books we’ve read, for there is great joy in sharing in what makes our minds come alive.

5. Reading Helps Us to Think More Critically
Finally, the actual act of reading causes our minds to think more deeply and critically. The process of reading requires us to make sense out of written symbols – to recognize that each letter stands for a sound, which when put together with other letters, makes a word which creates meaning. Then when you put words together in sentences and paragraphs, it creates even more meaning (yes, this is the result of my major in Reading in college – bet you didn’t know there was such a major!).

It’s a process that most adults have mastered to the point of not cognitively being aware of it, but which strengthens the brain’s critical thinking skills. Once you’ve read something, you have to digest it and think about what it means overall. You have to consider whether or not you agree with it. You have to break it down into parts and then analyze what those parts mean. The more you engage in reading, the better you become at this process (if you dislike reading, it could be because there was a breakdown in this process somewhere in school, causing you to want to push it away. But hey! You’re reading this, so you’re already overcoming that dislike!).

Once again, critical thinking is a vastly important skill in today’s world. It’s necessary on pretty much every job, it’s necessary in maintaining relationships with other people, and it’s necessary for solving problems. It’s a skill that we have to teach explicitly in school because it’s not necessarily innate. However, the more one reads – the stronger those critical thinking skills become.

So what do you do if you still feel like you’re a person that dislikes reading? I say that you simply haven’t found the right kinds of books to be reading (that’s not an original thought, by the way – it’s from multiple teaching experts).

The great thing is that there are so many resources out there to find the right books. Goodreads.com is a free website that recommends many books based on your interests. Additionally, if you know you like certain genres (mystery, historical, nonfiction, etc.), you can type into Google “best ____________ books” and it will also pull up lists of recommendations. Sometimes I just like to wander into the library (*gasp* – they do still exist!) and just look at the covers of books till I find one that I like, then I’ll read the back of it – and if it convinces me, I’ll check it out.

I also read 47 books last year, and blogged about all of them (see the complete list in this post), so you can get ideas from that list as well.

The key is to never stop reading. If one book doesn’t work out, abandon it and try a new one till you find one that you just can’t put down. It will be worth it, I promise! Then tell me about it so I can add it to my never-ending list of books to read.

Here’s to cultivating more vibrant minds one book at a time!

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