As a kid, I was exposed to a strong reading culture. Although my parents were not well educated, they clearly understood the importance of reading and our house was full of books. I remember visiting friends’ houses and being amazed at how little books they had around!
The benefits of reading are enormous, and we could probably come up with hundreds, but for me, there are a few benefits that really stand out.Let’s talk about the benefits and then I’ll discuss how to fit reading into your busy, non-stop life.
- Reading broadens your horizon – it gives you access to new perspectives and ideas. It can give you a whole new way of seeing things.
- Reading is an active mental process. You have to be intellectually engaged when you read, and this can keep your mind sharp and alert. Your brain, like a muscle, will develop with greater use. There is even research suggesting that people who are more mentally active have a lower chance of developing certain degenerative brain diseases in later life.
- Reading builds discipline. Like any habit, it can be hard to build the habit of reading. But by setting aside a time each day to read and sticking to it, you are disciplining yourself. This discipline will ripple out and affect other areas of you life – if you can read regularly, then you can also exercise, write, or do anything else you would like to do on a more regular basis.
- Reading builds focus. When you read, you have to concentrate. Reading, for me, is a form of meditation. If you read regularly, you are more likely to be able to focus on other things.
- Perhaps most importantly, you learn new things through reading. Of course, you need to put what you read into action, but reading the right things can give you amazing new ideas. You can tap into the minds of all kinds of people. Books are a way of communicating with the world. They can change your life.
I suppose most of us would agree that reading is a beneficial thing, but making time for reading can be a real challenge. Here are a few things I’ve found useful in trying to build this rewarding habit.
- Switch off the computer
Like so many other people, I spend a lot of time ‘reading’ on the Internet. The benefit of the Internet is that I have access to an enormous amount of information and can access it with an ease which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But there is a downside, of course – there is so much information that I easily get distracted, and end up flicking from one site to another, never really reading anything in detail.
So the first bit of advice I would give for really getting into a serious reading habit is – switch off the computer! Pick up a real book, sit down and start to read.
- Go to bed a little earlier
I keep several books by my bedside and I usually read a chapter before I turn out the lights. This can be a really good way to end the day – it distracts you from any problems you might have had during the day so that your mind can settle down, and can make you feel sleepy.
- Throw a book into your bag
Carry a light paperback around with you. When you find yourself waiting for something, on the train or bus, or just bored, you can get the book out. Reading will alleviate your boredom and can make your journey fly.
- Join a library
Yes, they’re still out there! Libraries have changed a lot in recent years and are now hubs of information. But the main activity of the library is still to provide books, and there is little more enjoyable than spending a couple of hours perusing the shelves, delving into the pages and choosing a few really good reads.
- Choose the right books
It’s important that reading is not a chore: it should be a real pleasure – something to look forward to! I remember, as a teacher in the UK, witnessing the endless initiatives to get kids to read. They almost never met with much success. And then, suddenly, everyone was reading – kids, adults, old people – sitting in cafes and on railway stations and airports, sitting on benches and walls and even on the floor – just reading. Why? Harry Potter had somehow managed to inspire a huge chunk of the population. People found that reading the Harry Potter books was enjoyable, and so they were busily turning page after page while the world went by.
It’s a shame that our education systems so often turn kids off books, but if you’re enjoying reading, then you’re likely to keep doing it, so go and find a book you love!.