Reading Is Good! (Insert Nerdy Smile Here)

When was the last time any of us picked up a book just to read it for fun? Even though most schools have established a 15 minute READ programme, the majority of students simply sit about, pretending to read while waiting for those 15 dreadful minutes to pass by quickly and painlessly. According to a Jenkins Group survey, 42% of all college graduates will never read another book. As an avid book-reader myself, this came as a massive shock. How can one just willingly give up books? To me, reading one book simply leads to reading another which leads to another and so on. Once you start reading, you never truly stop. There’s just so much we can learn from books, whether they are fictional or non-fiction books.

At this point you would be rolling your eyes, not realising that you’ve actually read a whole paragraph by now (congratulations, by the way), and wondering why I even bother telling you the whole cliché that “reading is good!” (Insert nerdy smile here) since you already knew this. Well, studies have shown that if you read more books, you will increase your vocabulary and mental aptitude. Like that drug in Limitless, reading opens up parts of the brain you didn’t even know you had, helping you reach your full potential. (Actually, if you look closely at the drug in the Limitless trailer, it’s really a contact lens). But anyway, don’t go and check it on YouTube now. FOCUS. Reading stimulates and exercises the brain because it fuels cerebral processes in the brain, increasing your attention and memory span. Basically, in layman’s terms, reading equals you being smarter. It keeps the brain active and healthy, even in old age.

Because of the rise in technology in recent years, studies show that we are using less and less of our brains. Instead of remembering the information we need, we have started remembering less and less and are actually, believe it or not, killing our brain cells. Let’s say you want to find out why the sky is blue. To find the information you’d probably Google it (yes, “Google” is a proper verb in dictionaries) and click on the first link. This link is a whole page of writing, explaining why the sky is blue. If you read on a regular basis, at least 30 minutes a day, you’ll simply skim through it and understand most, if not all of the article. However, people who don’t read as much (no need to take offence, I’m not pointing any fingers) will look at the page, blink once or twice, then think “Too much boring stuff to read. I’ll just bookmark it and read it later. Oh, someone messaged me on Facebook! I’ll just go on their wall and leave a comment. Wait, I need to think of something clever to write. Let me go and Google ‘things to write on someone’s wall’. I wonder if there’s a funny video I can watch on YouTube…”

Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit there, but you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. If you don’t read a lot, you will end up with a small attention span and easily get distracted. In fact, scientists have stated that we use so little of our brains that our brains are not as sharp, and slow to function. At the drop of a hat, we reach for our calculators rather than exert the brain to work out a small mathematical problem or calculation.

The more variety of books you read, the better your vocabulary gets. Using these new words helps the brain function better and increases memory. For example, whenever I’m writing articles, I try to use larger words in an attempt to improve my own vocabulary and understanding as well as the vocabulary of anyone reading them. The first thing we learn in school is how to read. Why? Because a child needs to learn how to read in order to master most, if not all, other subjects. How can you answer a difficult mathematical word problem if you can’t read the question? Reading helps keep our brain thinking and imagining. The words out there staring us in the face as we read help put the brain into action; formulating thoughts, projecting ideas and imagining possibilities.

It’s not just reading which helps the brain get its daily exercise. Recent studies have shown that listening is just as important as reading when it comes to improving one’s vocabulary. You cannot understand a word if you’ve never heard it before in context. You must hear a word before you can say it or read and write it. If you’ve never heard the word “gargantuan” in context, you won’t understand it when it’s time to read or write it.

We all know that music can alter your mood. You watch a sad scene in a movie and you listen to the sombre tone of the song used. Because of the way your brain works, hearing that song will remind you of the emotion you felt when you first heard it. Films have been using musical scores for years to create the right atmosphere for movie scenes. At times you hardly notice the music at all but you are very receptive to the mood being conveyed.

Even listening to music can help boost productivity and increase the brain’s potential. In a trial where 75 out of 256 workers at a large retail company were issued with personal stereos to wear at work for four weeks showed a 10% increase in productivity for the headphone wearers. Other similar research conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois found a 6.3% increase when compared with the no music control group. However, the type of music you listen to can also be an important factor to consider. Listening to music which has a slow/medium pace has been known to increase productivity in students since they are less likely to be distracted by other noises; in this case, music acts as a sort of white noise. Listening to music will not help everyone however, since every person is unique and has his or her own methods of increasing productivity. For example, where most people work better in a secluded environment, I am most productive in a noisy environment because it helps me think clearly.

In conclusion, both reading and listening are very important skills which are beneficial to everyone in day to day life. Just by doing simple things like crossword puzzles, we can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Tiny little things like using the mouse with your other hand or tying your shoelaces with your eyes closed are immensely beneficial to the brain’s attention and memory span. If we just took a few minutes of our day to read a book, magazine or the newspaper (yes, you can get away with reading the comics) it would help us in later life. And finally, I would just like to heartily congratulate all those who managed to read all 1203 words of this article in one go.  Now you can finally go watch that funny video you’ve been itching to see on YouTube. If only you could remember what it was…

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