From the beginning of education, children are assigned reading materials to complete over the summer in preparation for the next term’s classes. Most children find that doing summer reading in elementary school isn’t difficult, but as they get older, a social stigma develops and it becomes less convenient to read over the summer. In college, it is almost unheard of for students to purchase text books early and begin reading the material for the classes. Teachers at upper levels don’t require summer reading, because with age come more responsibilities that leave little time for reading.
Most sources agree that the biggest benefit that comes from reading is a higher intelligence and greater general knowledge than those who don’t read regularly. Fellow blogger Glen Stansberry at LifeDev.net had this to say about the wealth of knowledge open to anyone with a library card:
The public library is a phenomena that to this day I still can’t get over. Free knowledge, for anyone. Literally, anyone. I can’t think of an equivalent other than going to a clothing store, “checking out” an outfit, wearing the outfit and returning it in four weeks, free of charge.
This is certainly true, but with an Internet age and a growing proficiency among the younger generations in finding what they want to know online, the assumption that libraries alone provide this “free knowledge” is proving more and more false. YouTube has many channels that provide brief videos describing educational topics (us included) that require minimal effort by the viewers to understand.
So, if you can’t say that reading is the only way to achieve large amounts of general knowledge (and can be argued to be less efficient than just “Google-ing” something), what are the benefits that only reading can provide, and why should we read between school years and semesters?
Anne E. Cunningham wrote a brilliant article entitled What Reading Does For The Mind (read here), that says those who read have higher vocabularies, better GPA’s and are able to better put into words their own feelings. Reading is also known for increasing proficiency in writing, a skill necessary in almost every field of work as well as schools.
Reading improves memory functions, as it requires more effort to process than watching images flash across a screen. That effort is generally what turns people away from reading, but the difficulty factor is what creates new and strengthens existing connections in our minds.
Along with strengthening memory, reading can protect against the onsets of dementia or Alzheimer’s, as well as simply relieving general stress.
These are all very relevant benefits of reading that go beyond what YouTube is able to provide, but more than anything, the satisfaction that comes from reading is a singular experience:
Opening a book and the smell of the pages, the way your mind creates the images for you and creates feelings more real than a movie. You can literally see what the characters are thinking, and learn about the smallest details. The language in books is much more beautiful than the way we speak, and exposes the reader to different ways of thinking about situations.
Keep your mind fresh, and read during the summer. The books that are assigned during summer and school years aren’t just random stories of no significance. The only way they can become materials for educational purposes is if they have literary merit and something to say to the world. Some of your favorite books might later turn out to be the ones you were assigned for school.
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