I saw a post on a forum yesterday about why a person should be a reader, and it made me want to add my own arguments. And what's a blog for except to say what I want to say at any given moment?

As an ex-English teacher, I spent years trying, sometimes with success but mostly not, to convince high school students that reading was not only good for them but fun as well. I guess it's something a person has to learn for himself, and it often takes a while. My father didn't begin reading until he was in his fifties, but once he started he was seldom without a book. My husband also became an avid reader in middle age. He enters the world of his books completely, the way any good reader does, and I find myself saying at times, "Put that thing down and listen to me!", the same phrase my parents once used when I was lost in a book.

So why should you read? It's certainly all-around entertainment, with infinitely more variety than any other offering. Books are portable and personal. When interrupted, they go silent and wait calmly until you return to them, then begin their story anywhere you need to, a page back if you've forgotten or right where you left off.

But there's a benefit we don't often think of, although teachers know it well. Reading fosters intelligence. The three skills needed to read: vocabulary, comprehension, and speed, transfer to all areas of thinking and build a more talented brain. As you read, your vocabulary expands automatically, because you guess at the meanings of words you see in context. As you decode words your reading speed builds, allowing you to absorb information more quickly. Comprehension of ideas grows as you follow a plot and make decisions about characters, ideas, and events. You learn about places you will probably never see. You are put into situations that allow you to consider the moral choices you would make. In other words, your brain is tested by reading, exercised, if you will, and it is expanded and strengthened as a result.

Now add to all this that reading is downright fun. As you read you not only get better, but you find worlds that you love, whether they be fantastic, historical, or adventurous. A person can certainly expand her mind by doing algebraic equations, and that's fun for some. But being able to say to a new acquaintance, "I finished The Dancing Wu Li Masters the other day. Have you read that?" is just as impressive. And a conversation about a beloved novel shared with another person is nothing short of heaven on earth.

I guess that's why they say, "Reading is FUNdamental."

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Comment by Don Anderson on September 22, 2007 at 3:23am
Well put. I couldn't agree with you more. I don't go anywhere without a book. On the other hand, I have two college-educated kids in their twenties, and neither reads for pleasure, other than sports pages and MySpace. I'm going to send them a copy of your blog post and keep hoping they'll discover what they're missing.

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