People who love reading have major advantages over those who don’t. Once you look at the information, you’ll understand that reading is a serious business.
In fact, not many people love reading. 50% of US adults are unable to read a grade 8 level book, 42% of college graduates will never read another book following graduation, and 70% of adults haven’t stepped foot into a bookstore in the last 5 years.
More telling still, it’s estimated that 85 percent of prison inmates in the US are illiterate and that two-thirds of students who can’t read proficiently will end up in jail or on welfare.
Moreover, a direct correlation between lower literacy levels and poverty in the US has been found, with the average literacy level of people living below the poverty line being 205. For people living just above the poverty line it was 222. The middle group had a literacy level of 224, the second wealthiest group had a level of 231, and the wealthiest people had an average literacy level of 261.
Knowledge is wealth, literally.
According to UNICEF, nearly a billion people would enter the 21st century unable to sign their names or read a book. Consider that in relation to the prison and poverty statistics.
On the positive side, Statistics Brain tells us that if a person reads for just 15 minutes a day they will read 1 million words annually. Moreover, reading helps prevent Alzheimer’s and disorders associated with brain ageing.
But these are not the only advantages people who love reading have over people who don’t – consider the following:
1. They have interesting things to talk about
Reading a book is second only to having real-life experiences in teaching you things and giving you things to think and talk about. As a single human being, your ability to have experiences is limited by geographical location, time and commitments, as well as financial status. Those who love reading gather experiences by reading about them. In fact, reading can also help us make sense of real-life experiences that we live through but don’t understand.
2. Their opinions are backed up by the wisdom of those who proceeded them
To a person who loves reading, some of the opinions that people entertain seem stunningly stupid. Without books, generations of people would endlessly make the same mistakes that come from the way our mind naturally makes connections.
Consider how superstitious thinking dominates in illiterate societies and how dangerous it is. Children are denied life-saving operations in some places because of superstition and ill-informed thinking. Those who love reading, by exposure to the information provided by the wisest and best minds, can avoid falling into the trap of thinking they understand things that they don’t.
3. They never feel alone
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
~ James Baldwin
Those who love reading know better than people who don’t read that their experiences of life are shared by others. When you don’t read books, you only have what you see around you to judge by. Well, think about it: if you just looked at Facebook all day or saw the people you went to work with, life would seem very simple. It would seem as if everyone around you was having a great time. Books go beyond the world of appearances into the world of genuine life experience.
4. They challenge their own assumptions and view of reality
“Despite the enormous quantity of books, how few people read! And if one reads profitably, one would realize how much stupid stuff the vulgar herd is content to swallow every day.”
When rulers attempt to oppress peoples or manipulate them, one of the first things they do is to try and control what they read, or discourage them from reading. Reading is considered one of the most politically subversive acts, because by reading we are exposed to ideas which in turn expose the injustice of our own society at the hands of the powerful.
Preventing or discouraging certain sections of a society from reading is a method of keeping them in their place. It’s also used as a means of trying to maintain moral control over a society, and many great pieces of literature have been banned for being supposedly immoral. For this reason, even in the most progressive nations, there are still constant attempts to suppress reading material.
The American Library Association has the following statement on its website:
“The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label “controversial” views, to distribute lists of “objectionable” books or authors, and to purge libraries.”
5. They can see more possibilities
Books describe things that you could never have heard about or seen with your own eyes. Think of what life would be like if you could only see the examples of your family and friends and had nothing else to go by. You’d have a very limited idea of what a human being can do, and what their life can be like. Countless people have been inspired by books to do extraordinary things with their lives.
6. They have a healthy means of escaping reality
“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”
Reality is harsh and everybody needs to escape now and again. Some means of escape are healthier than others, and reading is just about as healthy as you can get. Instead of losing hours of your life to a drug or drink-induced stupor, you can transport yourself to faraway land (a) without doing any neurological or liver damage, and (b) while making direct personal gains during your leisure time.
7. Their thinking is more refined
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
~ Joseph Addison
Reading keeps the mind sharp and vigorous, refreshing it with new ideas, and putting it to work with new challenges. Luckily, like exercise, it’s something that you can benefit from at any time in your life. Moreover, it’s superior to exercise in that it can be achieved without leaving the comfort of your sofa and can be accompanied by a cup of coffee.
8. They express themselves with greater style
Not only do people who love reading learn new words constantly, but they also learn how to use them in context. Good grammar also comes naturally to them, in both speech and writing, as a result of repeated exposure to it. Reading an author whose style you admire can help you emulate him/her and transfer their style to your own speech and writing.
9. They are more self-aware
Whether reading books that are directly related to self-knowledge or simply reading fiction, those who love reading can understand their own minds better. When you read fiction you can identify with characters and draw similarities between them and yourself. Reading about a character that is similar to your own can be very instructive, as it can point out blind-spots you have in relation to your own personality and make you more aware.
10. Knowledge is power
“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”
If you look at animals, one of the ways in which they learn to survive better is by learning from their elders, particularly in the case of primates, where tool-making and other specific non-instinctual skills are passed down from one generation to the next. Our ability to pass on knowledge in writing has been the reason why our society and technology has evolved so quickly.
It’s well known that intelligence is superior to physical strength in terms of what it can achieve and how many people it can influence. If it weren’t, then human beings wouldn’t have gained such dominion over the planet.
Do you love reading, or, are you perhaps new to reading? Do you think reading is overestimated? Tell us about your experiences.