“The person who won't read has no advantage over the one who can't read.” — Mark Twain.
It is surprising that some people say they don’t like to read.
For those of us who enjoy reading, books are a welcome escape. Books give us a chance to transport into another world, go on adventures and experience other people’s thoughts and realities without actually moving from our seat.
A good book can make you laugh, smile, cry and think. It can make you wiser and more knowledgeable. When reading, you feel as though you are one with the characters; like the world within the pages is one with the real world around you.
That is only part of the many delights and benefits of reading. There are many more reasons why you need to read widely.
Top Reasons & Benefits of Reading Widely
For writers, reading is central to improving our craft. However, even if you’re not a "writer" per se, reading widely is very beneficial and highly recommended. Here’s why...
1. Reading widely informs how writing should be done.
There are two basic ways writers improve their craft: practice and study. Writing regularly is good practice, while reading widely is good for study and getting a sense for how writing should be done.
As author Roz Morris says, “You can learn from textbooks about the writing craft, but there’s no substitute for discovering for yourself how a writer pulls off a trick. Then that becomes part of your experience."
2. Reading widely grows vocabulary.
This is a no-brainer. As you read more, your vocabulary grows and your language and communication skills become more developed. You consciously (or unconsciously) learn new words and new ways of using those words. This enhances your vocabulary and overall writing capacity.
And vocabulary is not just for those who want to impress others with big, fancy words. It is for anyone who wants to fill their arsenal with the tools for expressing ideas clearly and concisely in writing without being boring.
3. Reading widely brings inspiration.
During such times, picking up a book to read can provide all the inspiration you need to get your creative juices flowing again.
By reading widely, you see the creative miracle of what other writers have done in their writings with just mere words, and that nudges and inspires you to do the same or better.
4. Reading widely boosts creativity.
When you read widely you explore different topics from different angles, you link different actions to many possible outcomes and you discover new solution to problems.
Through reading, you break the barriers and delve into a world where everything is possible. From talking frogs to flying horses and fairytale worlds, the possibilities are endless. This stirs up your creative mind and the end result is greater creativity and less rigid thinking.
5. Reading widely improves understanding.
The more you read, the more you understand how different things work and how you and others fit in the grand scheme of things. Through reading you learn about different people, places, cultures, beliefs, and ways of life. You understand the intricacies of human behavior, actions, and experiences. This makes you a better thinker and decision maker.
The more you read, the more your knowledge of people and life becomes richer and wholesome. This effect is similar to the Mathew effect, where "the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”
6. Reading widely enhances research.
All knowledge known to humankind has been recorded in books and other written texts, including business books, newspapers, magazines, and historical accounts of people, places, and events. No matter what information you are seeking, the answers can be found in reading.
Don't just read one book and that's it. Read many books and sources to enrich your research. Even reading blogs and websites can greatly enhance your research and quench your thirst for knowledge and information.
Reading widely will not only provide all the information and background details you need to form new ideas, but also support and reinforce your existing knowledge.
7. Reading widely builds empathy and emotional intelligence.
A study reported in The New York Times found that reading widely leads to better performance on tests of empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence.
Apparently, we understand stories and relate with characters in literature in a way that is similar to how we understand people in the real world. You feel what a character is feeling when reading and can relate with both their struggles and victories. By so doing, your sensitivity to the human experience is heightened and your awareness and empathy awakened.
This heightened awareness and empathy leads to greater social perception and emotional intelligence. This means you are able to function better in the real world when you read widely.
8. Reading widely enables learning from other people.
You don’t have to repeat the same mistakes other people made on the path to success or when pursuing your goals. Just pick up a book and read the personal anecdotes and advice of people who’ve done it and even made it.
Read extensively and learn what other people did right (and wrong) to get to where they are today. Use that knowledge to inform your decisions and to hasten your own path to success. What took someone 10 years to learn, you can learn in a few days and avoid costly mistakes when you read their book or an account of their journey.
Life is short. Why would you want to make the same mistakes others made when you can just pick up a book, read their story, and learn a lifetime of tips and trick from people with a wealth of knowledge and experience who’ve been there and done that?
9. Reading widely improves brain function.
Reading is a complex task that requires different regions of the brain to connect and work together for comprehension to take place.
Neuroscientists at Emory University in Atlanta have determined that the simple act of reading, say, a gripping novel makes significant changes in the way the brain connects with different circuits, and those brain enhancing changes last for at least five days.
While the positive changes to the brain may not be permanent, they suggest this reading benefit of enhanced brain "connectivity” (which results in enhanced brain function) lasts longer than the actual act of reading itself.
Yup, reading improves your memory function and brain power by giving your brain a workout.
10. Reading widely boosts concentration.
Reading engages the brain directly and you do it in silence. When reading in silence, your brain is more focused and you boost your ability to pay full attention. You also increase your capacity to handle even the most complex ideas and tasks by reading more.
That might explain why you are likely to write better after you've finished reading a book, and generally tend to get things done when they ought to if you are a reader.
11. Reading widely allows healthy emotional release.
Reading can help you work through feelings. The words you read can uplift, entertain and elevate your mood, making you feel happier. This is especially important in our fast-paced world today where the hustle and bustle of everyday life is stressful and often tires the mind. Reading quietly to yourself can relax your body and calm the mind.
And since reading the black print on a white page is much less stressful for your eyes and brain than staring at the TV or computer screen all day, reading liberates you from anxiety, stress and helps you achieve healthy emotional release and realignment.
12. Reading widely kills boredom—it's fun.
Reading wouldn’t be such a nourishing and wholesome activity if it wasn’t fun. Reading is pleasant and you can take it anywhere, so you won’t be lonely or bored. You can read your book while relaxing at the park; read a magazine while waiting in a queue, or pick up a newspaper while riding in a train.
Admittedly, if you are new to reading, you might not enjoy it at first, especially if you are still trying to figure out your reading preferences. But it gets better with time as you learn the type of texts you love and discover the pure joy of devouring those books and reading material that interest you.
So, pick up good books, set yourself up properly to read, and start developing a reading habit today!