The power of reading for fun

Illustration by Aleah Green

Creating successful reading habits at a young age can transform a child’s projected success in the world. As an avid reader, I appreciate and understand the importance of delving into literature. The repercussions of not building a positive relationship with books can be harmful to other aspects of one’s life. 

Technology also threatens a child's reading development. With the recent rise of tablets, television and mobile devices, the allocated time generally used for reading has been cast aside. More now than ever, generations are being introduced to society with an overwhelming lack of love for reading, in addition to a lack of reading comprehension. 

Despite its decrease in popularity, reading can create positive consequences that impact life dramatically. These benefits are only effective if the individual continues to read and exercise their mind throughout their life, so starting the habit young is critical.

Professor Jennifer Duffy of Northcentral University recognizes the overall importance of reading while young.

“Reading is not only essential to a child’s verbal and cognitive development, but it also teaches the child to listen, develop new language and communicate,” Duffy said.

The process of reading requires the brain to interpret one form of communication to another. Our brains work with such high speed and on a scale that is difficult to imagine the performance the brain executes every day. This allows us to forget that it needs to be challenged and that it needs to be taken care of. 

Maryanna Wolf explains in her article published by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism that by reading more often, we help our brain make connections to other facets of life.

“For example, when reading even a single word, the first milliseconds of the reading circuit are largely devoted to decoding the word’s visual information and connecting it to all that we know about the word from its sounds to meanings to syntactic functions,” Wolf said.

In my own life, I have experienced that my love for literature and desire to expand my knowledge has greatly assisted me in college. I have been able to articulate thought-out responses in class and engage in persuasive conversations. Reading for pleasure has allowed me to explore topics and genres that I would not typically be educated about. 

I believe that a great deal of my passion derived from my parents ensuring that I enjoyed reading and participated in it often as a child. They always had books in my room, took me to the library for summer reading programs and led by example by participating in reading along with me. 

According to Guyonne Kalba, author of  “Reading to young children: A head-start in life?,” the most effective way to improve one’s cognitive response is to start reading young. 

“We find that reading to children at age four to five frequently has significant positive effects on the reading skills and cognitive skills of children at least up to an age of 10 to 11. Most likely these positive effects persist over a longer period in the life of the children,” Kalba said.

My copious reading background has expanded my mind to believe that there are endless possibilities for me to strive for. A study, conducted by a group of medical professionals based in California, published about reading and brain development determined that as one’s reading ability improves, the brain networks become stronger, therefore, proving that reading physically strengthens the mind. 

It is easier for me to begin reading a textbook or a philosophy book that has deeper meanings and complex concepts if my brain is familiar with the process of transforming the words on the page to something understandable.

When speaking to my friends and other college students, I have encountered individuals who seemingly do not read. They are shocked that I read for fun and that I enjoy it. When asked why they do not read responses include phrases alluding to the stress and boredom of reading.

The majority of these claims are untrue and can be debunked. A 2009 study, conducted by Denise Rizzolo and her colleagues at Seton Hall University, proved that reading is naturally relaxing.

The results of the study found that, “one 30-minute session of yoga, humor and reading has similar effects in decreasing acute stress and health science students. This finding is important since these interventions resulted in a significant reduction in stress in a relatively short amount of time…”.

Those who do not read are missing out on so much. Books hold so much power. Ink creates words on a page that is then comprehended into a story that creates a range of emotions and feelings. Readers connect to the text based on their interpretations and this type of relationship does not happen with television. This correlation is unique to reading.

Understandably, there are many excuses for why someone does not read. In today's society, many distracting factors lure individuals away from reading, such as schoolwork, video games, social media and other forms of entertainment. 

However, literature spans a plethora of topics and genres to appeal to all audiences. For centuries, literary texts have been a part of society and current generations must appreciate its value. I encourage you to go to your local bookstore and challenge yourself by picking up a new book.