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Last Updated: September 24, 2020

Reading wide is much more than classroom engagement with academic reading material. It is a deliberate effort we undertake to read plenty of fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, and other content. We read wide for linguistic purposes and to acquire theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

Reading wide is important for cultural reasons as well since it allows our cognitive mind to wander around the world while creating mental imagery of the diverse cultural entities we are reading.

Below are a few famous quotes to get your child started on the quest to read wide:

  • In his book I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, Dr. Suess famously wrote, ‘The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
  • When Kate DiCamillo talked about children in relation to reading, she said ‘Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.
  • And according to Barack Obama, the opportunity to read wide allows him ‘to slow down and get perspective’ and ‘get in somebody else’s shoes.

The emerging digital content!

emojis have replaced the reading art to convey our emotions
Emojis have emerged as the prefered medium to convey our emotions. (Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay)

Yes, the writing and reading platforms have evolved tremendously in the 21st Century, as writers and readers shift their trade from traditional book-forms (paperbacks) and print periodicals to digital content. Researchers, reporters, bloggers, and academic portals, now prefer to publish content online.

We now read long-form literature using the kindle, our smartphones, and the ubiquitous computer screen types. We can also use the same devices and smart speakers to listen to podcasts and our favorite audio files because they allow us to multitask. Yes, we can listen to our favorite ebooks while doing dishes and laundry!


Here are the reasons to have your child read wide

read wide for better health and well-being
Reading wide is excellent for health and well being. (Photo by Dan Dumitriu on Unsplash)

1. Reading wide for self discovery in the 21st century

From Socrates and the renaissance right through to the 20th century, great ideas, discoveries, and inventions were done following hours and days of extensive reading. Even today, in the 21st century, we can only develop a sense of enlightenment by reading diverse literature, and not by scouring through data in a haste.

In his book Power of Reading: Socrates to Twitter, Professor Frank Furedi, a professor of social sciences, eulogizes the death of deep and wide reading as it were, in the face of digital multimedia and Twitter. He is concerned about our LACK of ‘absorption of information’ and failure to pay attention to the details in written text.

With so much information going around and so little time to read, a lot is kept hidden under the surface for the modern day child and adult.

Reading wide is important for young generations in the 21st Century because it gives them the opportunity to reflect on the past and the present, in order to cultivate an understanding of the future. They also get to prepare their mindset for the future job markets which continue to evolve as the years go by.

Reading is important for grown-ups too, especially those that want to keep up to speed with the evolving digital ecosystem in the 21st Century. It is a weapon against ignorance and fake news since it sharpens our brains to sort through data misinformation and bias. These ills have become commonplace due to information overload, and the freedom for all to publish.


2. Reading wide for health & subjective well-being

If you have had your share of good reading in the past, you probably know the feeling of getting lost in a good narrative simply because the story is told so well and subconsciously carries you to another world and time.

Like novelist Jean Rhys wrote,

Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.

The feeling of ‘teleportation’ is therapeutic on its own since it allows us to ‘escape’ from sad realities in life which impact our health and overall well-being.

The negative energy in life such as stress, anxiety, anger, pain, and other emotional drawbacks are known to accelerate the risks of illnesses such as stroke and heart diseases. Stress for one, increases the risk of stroke and heart complications by 50 and 40 percent, respectively, according to statistics by The American Institute of Stress. The report goes on to state,

Stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness and disease

.. and typically leads to high mortality rates.

But here is the good news. Deep reading, for even 6 minutes a day of any material, is known to reduce stress levels by 68%. This is according to a 2009 research by scientists at Mindlab International – UK. 

It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. – Dr David Lewis

Other health benefits derived from regular reading:

  • Reading a real book before going to bed is good for sleep
  • Reading improves the quality of  memory and concentration
  • Reading is good for mental wellness because it can slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • When we read wide and specifically about health-related matters, we make informed decisions on nutrition and health matters

Reading is actually more therapeutic than music or a walk down the street and is great for all-round mental, emotional, social and psychological growth. It puts a smile on our faces, which makes us happy. Reading material that makes us happy ultimately improves our subjective wellbeing.

This is how Wikipedia explains subjective well-being (SWB):

SWB … encompasses moods and emotions as well as evaluations of one’s satisfaction with general and specific areas of one’s life.[6] Concepts encompassed by SWB include happiness.


3. We are better communicators when we read wide

Communication in its traditional sense is a medium of verbal interaction between two persons, or a political discourse between a leader and his people. It also includes non-verbal and written engagements between the employer and employees.

Communication also constitutes engagements with news outlets such as the television, newsprint media and the Internet. In its original sense communication is boosted tremendously through reading in the following ways:

  • We enrich our vocabulary, learn idiomatic expressions, and develop language competence
  • We become knowledgeable about extensive subjects in order to communicate from an informed point of view
  • We develop a better understanding of other people and cultures for better interactions
  • Wide reading stimulates the brain which sharpens our communication skills

Communication has however evolved considerably in the last few years. It is now centered around digital transportation of information via ubiquitous electronic forms. From wearable devices to online bots, and the Internet of Things (IoT), we now share information instantly, and on-demand.

This is good news for our children, but probably not enough! Their ability to appreciate and master the emerging realities is dependent on the knowledge they acquire through extensive reading.


4. Reading wide makes us more productive

The workforce is definitely the most important asset any business possesses. The input of employees will lead to the success or failure of the business entity. With this in mind, it is important to ensure the employees are operating at their very best.

Apart from the obvious factors of remuneration and environment, the need to have workers keeping tabs on professional trends is quite important. One way this can be achieved is through extensive reading because it keeps us relevant and provides motivation for increased output.

A persistent reader will become productive in different ways:

  • A reader who is experiencing a heightened sense of subjective well-being which happens as a result of reading is motivated to perform better at work.
  • A lifelong learner (reader) who is a teacher, is better placed to provide relevant information and learning experience to learners.
  • A leader that reads wide is more articulate in communication and falls back to past experiences to make informed decisions.
  • An executive that reads plenty of relevant books collaborates with and handles his team better based on habits mastered from the stories of previous executives.
  • Reading increases the likelihood that co-workers and peers collaborate better since they have information to share and books to pass around.
  • Reading makes us more creative and focused in our vocations

5. Reading wide improves our focus

The shift towards digital content has also given fame to short forms of writing, which is interfering with our ability to read deep and stay focused. Micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, WhatsApp, and Facebook have ensured we write little and read little.

We can only read an average of 150 words, before our focus shifts to other micro-content and notifications! While at it, we supplement our short attention spans with emojis in order to engage our emotions!

The popularity of the Instagram photo-sharing app also means we view and watch lots of multimedia content at the expense of reading. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!

While it is true micro blogging is going nowhere and we have come to love it for simplicity and effective communication, there are negatives that come with extreme simplicity and informality.

Topmost is our inability to stay focused for extended hours and stay focused on professional assignments and tasks.

The goal here is to accept the simplicity in micro content while reading wide for academics and professional responsibilities.

6. Reading wide makes us knowledgeable

It goes without saying that people who read wide tend to have a deeper grasp of general information. They always have something to say about many things: a jack of all trades you may say.

Besides garnering lots of theoretical information, many readaholics actually become practical in various skill areas. After all the more you know and read, the more you yearn to learn and do! And like Dr. Suess correctly says,

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Good readers contextually observe a lot in life and choose to respond to various challenges and stimuli by connecting dots here and there. They co-exist better in multicultural settings, they are sociable, eat better, communicate better and understand fast. They quickly tell a lie from the truth!

This is very important today given that information online has fallen victim to adulteration and fake news. There is a growing pile of lies and incomplete data, which is affecting our overall well-being.

Ultimately a wide reader is

  • resourceful
  • creative
  • sociable and fun
  • empathic
  • inspirational
  • respectful
  • more at ease
  • good in memory retention

7. We write better when we read wide

It is no secret that great writers from the past and aspiring writers of our times have always been ardent readers. They spend countless hours going through books, journals, periodicals, experiences, and inner thoughts in order to write compelling work.

There is no way we can write without reading!

Author Stephen King wrote,

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that

On Writing

If we want our children to write better when they grow up, now is probably the time to get them started. We are not necessarily preparing them to become great writers such as Stephen King, but setting them on the road to putting words to paper or tablet without struggling.

Witing is perhaps one of the most neglected skills today and continues to affect businesses worldwide.

In a study carried out by the American CollegeBoard, technology companies spend $3 billion on training its employees on how to write effectively. The implication is that many youths who graduate from Universities and Colleges are not well prepared to write proficiently.

Effective literacy in reading and writing skills will

  • make us communicate more effectively
  • allow us to write better emails, reports, records, etc
  • make us write better researches
  • make us better readers too

Writing is ultimately an opportunity for us to communicate our inner thoughts, according to novelist Natalie Goldberg:

Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open. 

Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft

Below is how reading helps you achieve writing excellence:

  • Reading lets you learn from other writers
  • It sharpens your language for better writing
  • It gives you the inspiration to write

Get your child to read wide

‘Enforcing’ the reading culture is no mean fit. We can only ignite the reading culture when we are passionate about reading and have cultivated the right reading environment at home. For example, we need to have a vibrant and extensive library and engage in family reading sessions.

Children should be encouraged to read upward of 2 hours a day, in order to develop a voluntary reading culture. They may not achieve this time-frame at the start but will get along soon enough with consistency on our part. The two-hour time frame should be inclusive of the time they spend reading at school, and at home.