Last August, I wrote a guest post for Melissa at Press Play. It was one of my favorite posts and I meant to share it in full on here sooner but never got around to it! Oops. So I thought I would share it now. I hope you enjoy!
The Benefits of Being a Reader From Childhood to Adulthood (& some of my favorite books)
“The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” Elizabeth Hardwick
There have been many times in my life that my path has diverged slightly from the trail…from when I was 6 and had my first thoughts of wanting to be an artist, to when I was in middle school and first dreamed of making a career out of the written work, then high school when I fell in love with visual art with such a passion I could think of doing nothing else and my writing, my poetry exploded and took over. My passions and creativity at this point were immense. Then my struggle through 1 year of art school, realizing my passion has dissipated and the journey to find “me” (still haven’t managed that one) after I left art school…
The path is never clear but even though all the changes and the doubt, there has been one constant in my life. The written word, books, literature, poetry, fiction. Reading is that tangible that is always there for me, whenever I need it, that fills any and all voids, that helps heal any hurts and is a friend when I need it most. That thing is and always has been reading.
There are so many benefits to reading, I wanted to share a few (random thoughts, personal experiences and opinions galore):
-As a parent, having your child read is one of the most beneficial things you can do for them in their young life, in my opinion. It helps children become creative, analytic thinkers. They grow up loving the written word, escaping to other worlds that don’t really exist and becoming more for that. Reading helps children learn to think for themselves and spend time away from technology. It can help them find friends with similar interests who are often times better influences to them, friends who encourage their creativity and their passions.
When I was little, I would fall asleep reading, each member of my family always always carried a book with them no matter where they went. We made trips to the bookstore for fun, I would go home form the library with 10 books for the week and finish all of them ahead of time. It wasn’t – and still isn’t – an unusual scene for my family to be seen in front of the TV with it on to some show and all of us with books in our hands instead.
“A home without books is a body without soul.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
– When I was in middle school, at the time, it was the hardest few years of my young life. I was dealing for the first time as my clinical depression surged and I realized what it meant. While I felt utterly alone in the world, reading gave me an escape (in a good way), the books I read became my friends, I read them over and over again to the point that many fell apart in my hands. The books I read through those years are some of my most cherished now that I’m older, some that I know I will hand down to my own children. They helped me overcome many obstacles those 3 years and they showed me the love and enjoyment out in the world. (as a side note: being such an avid reader during those years was a significant – if not the direct reason – I met the man that is now my soon to be husband!)
-As I read my way through the beginning years of high school, I began to learn how to deal with my depression. Since I had always read, I had always had an appreciation for the written word. In middle school, I had begun to write. Small stories, nothing noteworthy but as I entered high school and got more practice through several creative writing courses, independent studies as well as opening my eyes to the depth of books and discovering the worlds of Shakespeare, Nabokov, Calvino, Faulkner and others…I began to write more. I read poetry until I couldn’t stop and I wrote as I walked through the halls between classes. Even as visual arts became my main focus, I thrived in the world of writing…all because I began to read and read and read when I was little.
This is a pretty personal benefit, but a significant one I think. Writers read. It’s just a fact. If you want to be a good writer, you have to write to be sure, but most of all you must read. As most writers or artists know, I had no choice but to write. I learned so many things about who I was and what was important to me as my poetry thrived and as I wrote on a daily basis, each time I put a word down on paper or my hands stroked the keyboard, I felt happy. I wanted to share my words, just as the writers I had read for years had shared with me.
“We read to know we are not alone.” C.S. Lewis
-Reading and writing came hand in hand for me, and even if you don’t want to be a published author, reading may still leave you with a drive to write. Reading makes you think, about life and who you are as a person (if you’re reading the right books, that is). You become more for being a reader.
-As a reader, you will always have something to talk about. (unless, of course, you come in contact with one of the people who don’t read. Don’t even get me started on that subject.) Whether it be what book you last read, or talking about a book you both loved, hated, were indifferent to. You can talk about the plot, the characters, the syntax, the diction until your voice goes hoarse. You will learn to connect with people on a deeper level because you can discuss books, theories and analyze anything and everything. They will have different views on the book than you, and you will have to re-read to see if their point is valid. It won’t matter, you are a reader, you read.
“No two persons ever read the same book.” Edmund Wilson
-I could go on and on: your vocabulary will improve, you will learn and live in other cultures, you will learn to be more accepting of people and what they go through in life (from mental to physical illness, to cultural and social issues to learning it’s okay to be different.), you won’t be bored, you will be more creative, it can reduce stress, it can change who you are, it will improve your writing, it can help your memory, it will give you new friends (fictional and real life), it will become a constant in your life that never changes.
You will enjoy it, dream about it, do anything to get your hands on the next book and you will have 9 bookshelves full of books with no more space but you will keep buying them (true story. we have no more room, but keep buying.) , you will love and learn and hope and dream and cry when the characters get hurt or when the books ends, your eyes will open and you will read because you have to, because once you start (as a child), you will have no choice as an adult you will be so hooked. Don’t worry, it’s a good addiction to have (except maybe for your wallet).
“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” Victor Hugo
Since we’re talking about reading, I thought I would share a few of my favorite books (it was really hard to narrow this down!). From when I was a child, to middle school, high school to today:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Serendipity Books by Stephen Crosgrove
Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Sweep Series by Cate Tiernan
Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
Hamlet by Shakespeare
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Widdershins by Charles de Lint
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Now tell me: How has reading benefited you?