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In his book Power of Reading: Socrates to Twitter, Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of social sciences at the University of Kent bemoans the death of deep reading and our overall inability to read wide.

He is concerned about the LACK of ‘absorption of information and OUR failure to pay attention to the little details in written content.

Frank cites digital multimedia and microblogging platforms as the driving forces behind this absurdity.

Microblogging apps such as Twitter, Pinterest, Signal, WhatsApp, and Facebook have ensured we write little and read little. We can only write or read an average of 150 words before our focus shifts to other micro-content and notifications!

The popularity of Instagram photo-sharing and the TikTok video-sharing apps also means we view and watch lots of multimedia clips at the expense of reading.

While at it, we supplement our short attention spans with emoticons and emojis in order to engage our emotions! After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!

The big reasons to have your child read wide

Below are a few famous quotes to get all of us 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.
read wide for better health and well-being
(Photo by Dan Dumitriu on Unsplash)

1. Reading wide for self awareness and discovery

When children learn to read widethey go beyond the classic engagement with academic reading material in the classroom. It is a deliberate effort they undertake to read plenty of fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, and other content.

Here is the simple truth:

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.

Reading wide also facilitates their quest to understand diverse cultural experiences around the world, to allow them to mingle in other than becoming cultural misfits!

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 wish to keep up to speed with the evolving digital landscape in the 21st Century.

It is a weapon against ignorance and fake news since it sharpens their brains to sort through data misinformation and bias. These ills have become commonplace due to information overload, and the freedom by all to tweet, publish and share!

2. Reading wide for better health & subjective well-being

If you have had your share of good reading in the past, you probably know the feeling of teleportation derived in a good narrative. This happens when the story is told so well and subconsciously carries you to another world and time.

Like novelist Jean Rhys writes,

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’ and contextual imagery is therapeutic on its own since it allows us to ‘escape’ from the sad realities of life that impact our health and overall well-being.

The negative energies such as stress, anxiety, anger, and pain, are known to accelerate the risks of illnesses such as stroke and heart failure.

Stress for one, increases the risk of stroke and heart complications by 50 and 40 percent respectively, according to data 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 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 stroll down the street and is great for all-around mental, emotional, social, and psychological growth. At the end of the day, it puts a smile on our faces and 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 entails verbal and non-verbal and written engagements between two or more persons. It also constitutes engagements with news outlets such as the television, newsprint media, and the Internet.

In order to cement these forms of interactions, the individuals involved are better off with improved reading skills.

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 the digital transportation of information via ubiquitous electronic forms. From wearable devices to online bots, and the Internet of Things (IoT), information is now shared instantly, and on-demand.

This is good news for children, but probably not entirely! 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

From Socrates and the renaissance right through to the 20th century, great ideas, discoveries, and inventions became realities following hours and days of extensive reading.

Even today in the 21st century, new ideas, inventions, and productivity can only come after extensive research and reading.

With this in mind, it is important to ensure that future brains and employees are operating at their very best in order to maximize productivity.

Apart from the obvious factors of remuneration and the environment, the need to have workers keeping tabs on professional trends is quite important.

The input of employees which is derived through extensive research and reading will contribute to the success or failure of any business entity.

A persistent reader will become productive in more ways than one:

  • A reader who is experiencing a heightened sense of subjective well-being 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

While it is true microblogging is going nowhere any time soon, because we have come to love it for simplicity and immediacy, there are negatives that come with extreme simplicity.

Topmost is our inability to stay focused for extended hours on professional assignments and tasks. Our brains continuously shift from one task to another without actually completing any task as required.

By reading wide and long, our brains learn the basics of internalizing individual tasks and prioritizing them even in the context of multitasking.

The goal here is to accept the simplicity in micro-content while reading wide for academic and professional accomplishments.

And yes, we can harness the positives in technology.

The truth is, 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 screens.

We 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!

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 – jack of all trades you may say.

Besides garnering lots of theoretical information, readaholics actually become practical in various skill areas. After all the more you read, the more you know and 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, are sociable, eat better, communicate better and understand fast.

They can also tell a lie from the truth faster than the rest in a pack!

This is very important today given the extent of fake news and misinformation online. 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 today 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 definitely setting them on the road to putting words to paper or tablet without difficulties.

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 proficient writers.

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, but this is no reason to hold us back.

We must start by cultivating the right reading environment at home. For example, we need to have a vibrant and extensive library and engage in family reading sessions. We can ignite the reading culture when we as parents are passionate about reading.

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 provided they are disciplined and consistent. The two-hour time frame can be inclusive of the time they spend reading at school, and at home.

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