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 inability to read wide.
We are also poor at absorbing information and interpreting the little details in written content.
Frank cites microblogging platforms and digital multimedia as the major reasons behind this absurdity.
Microblogging platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, Signal, Whatsapp, and Facebook have ensured we read little and write little. We can only read 150 words on average before our focus is distracted by popups and notifications!
Meanwhile, the popularity of Instagram and TikTok photo and video-sharing apps also means we view and watch lots of short 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 and imagination! After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!
The evolution of writing and reading in the 21st century
If truth be told, 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 platforms.
This is best explained by researchers, reporters, bloggers, and academic portals, who 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!
… food for thought
If you know that reading has become a chore in your household, probably now is the time to get your family back to reading ways.
Below are a few famous quotes to get you 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.’
… and here are the beautiful reasons to have your child read wide:
1. Reading wide for self awareness and discovery
When children learn to read wide they go beyond the classic engagement with academic reading material in the classroom.
It is a deliberate effort they undertake to read fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, and other content.
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 wide also facilitates their quest to understand diverse cultural experiences around the world. These define how they will work, associate, and mix with different genres of life all around as they grow up.
Reading is important for grown-ups too, especially those that wish 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 their brains to sort through data bias and misinformation.
These ills have become commonplace due to information overload, and the freedom by all to tweet, publish and share their thought!
2. Reading wide for better health & subjective well-being
If you have done your share of good reading in the past, you probably know the feeling of teleportation derived from 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 well-being.
This is how Wikipedia explains subjective well-being (SWB):
3. We are better communicators when we read wide
Communication entails verbal, non-verbal, and written engagements between two or more persons. It also constitutes engagements with news outlets such as television, newsprint media, and the Internet.
In order to cement these forms of interactions, the individuals involved are better off with improved reading abilities.
Here is what happens when we read wide:
- We enrich our vocabulary
- We learn idiomatic expressions
- We become knowledgeable about extensive subjects
- We develop a better understanding of other people and cultures
- Wide reading stimulates the brain
… ultimately, we develop extensive language competence.
Communication has however evolved considerably in the last few years. It is now centered around numerous digital forms and distributed via ubiquitous electronic devices.
From wearable to numerous other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, information is now shared instantly, and on-demand.
This is good news for children, but probably not entirely! Their ability to appreciate and wade through the new communication 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 and inventions happened following hours and days of extensive reading.
Even today in the 21st century, new ideas and inventions can only come after extensive research and reading. This ensures the future brains and employees are operating at their very best, to maximize productivity.
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 its simplicity, 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.
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.
6. Reading wide makes us knowledgeable
It goes without saying that people who read wide 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 information 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
- sociable and fun
- more at ease
- good in memory retention
7. We write better when we read wide
It is no secret that great writers in history 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 thatOn 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 preparing them to put 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 their 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 it is no reason to hold us back. We must start from somewhere.
For example, we can cultivate the right reading environment by installing a vibrant and extensive library at home. We can then ignite the reading culture when we become passionate about reading ourselves.
Somehow, children will see the reason to read.
On their own, 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 motivated, disciplined, and consistent. The two-hour time frame can be inclusive of the time they spend on academic reading material.