Knowing how to read is something most of us take for granted.
We spend time each day reading road signs, e-mails, text messages, and sometimes books and newspapers.
Is spending time reading beyond what is absolutely necessary for daily life a waste of time?
Is Reading a Waste of Time? (10 Reasons It’s Not)
Reading can take up quite a bit of time, especially if you’re reading novel-length books.
Reading, however, can include everything from full-length novels and extensive non-fiction books to newspaper articles, magazines, and online blogs.
To answer the question of whether reading is or isn’t a waste of time, it’s important to look at and consider several aspects of reading.
Everything from how reading can improve cognitive functioning and communication skills to reducing stress should be examined.
The following are ten specific reasons reading is not a waste of time.
1. Improves Cognitive Ability
Reading is like exercise for the brain.
The mental effort needed to read even simple material will help strengthen your brain and its ability to function at a higher level.
Reading can especially impact the part of your brain that is responsible for critical thinking and analysis.
Stimulating your brain through reading may even help you learn new things more easily.
Exercising your brain by spending time reading might even help fight off mental decline and dementia as you age.
Neuroscientists have discovered that reading can improve overall brain function in a variety of specific ways.
For starters, a person often uses extensive visualization when reading.
The person who creates the scenes of material they’re reading in their mind is actually flexing their “brain muscles.”
When you’re reading, several changes occur in the left area of the temporal cortex.
This is the area of the brain that is associated with receiving language.
Brain scans have revealed higher levels of connectivity in individuals who have been reading, even on the morning after the reading occurred.
2. Increases Vocabulary
The more you read, the more you’ll almost certainly learn new words.
Learning new words when you’re reading is a whole lot more effective than when you were in school and the teacher wrote a list of vocabulary words on the board which you had to write down and then look up the definitions.
It’s actually much easier to learn new words when you’re reading them in a story or article.
Since you see the words in the context of the story or surrounding text, it’s easier to understand what each word means.
You’ll not only learn the word, but you’ll also see how it’s actually used in the material you’re reading.
Increasing your vocabulary will also improve your ability to communicate with others.
Communication difficulties are a major cause of misunderstandings among different people.
With an increased vocabulary, you’ll have the ability to better express yourself, and others will more easily understand your point of view.
You’ll also be able to develop better listening skills and understand what others are trying to say.
Increased communication skills can help with everything from furthering your career to improving personal relationships.
All that comes from just reading!
3. Develops Empathy
Whether you read fiction or non-fiction, you’ll be reading about other people and the experiences they have.
This will lead to a better understanding of other people’s lives and what they’re going through.
You might be reading about someone who lives in another country or someone who lives on the other side of town.
It’s important to read about people who have gone through things in life that you have never experienced.
Knowing and understanding other individuals and the circumstances they’re struggling with will help make you a more caring and compassionate person.
Promoting reading programs on a wide scale in elementary and middle school would almost certainly improve the next generation’s ability to understand and empathize with each other.
People who are different politically and socially and live in various geographic regions should be encouraged to read about each other’s lives and experiences to improve society’s care and empathy for other individuals.
With so much division in our country, we should encourage people of all ages to read more so we can better understand and empathize with one another.
4. Strengthens Writing Skills
As mentioned earlier, reading will help you develop a stronger and more extensive vocabulary.
This will help build your writing skills.
However, it isn’t just an expanding vocabulary that will help you be a better writer.
Your grammar skills will also improve as you continue to read.
When you’re reading, you’ll see where commas, semi-colons, and other types of punctuation are supposed to be in a sentence.
Sure, most people know to capitalize a sentence and put a period at the end, but some of the other types of punctuation can be a bit trickier.
Good writing skills are not something even many educated people have these days.
Nearly everyone writes at some point when doing their job.
This means quality writing can help you professionally in almost any career.
Whether you’re typing on a keyboard or writing by hand, writing is something many of us do on a daily basis.
Better writing skills can improve almost anyone’s life.
Whenever you’re writing a report for work or a short note for a friend, your writing skills are likely better if you’ve been reading.
5. Reduces Stress
Reading everything from an interesting novel to an online snippet can capture your attention and help you forget about your problems, at least for a while.
Reading forces your mind to shift gears even if you’re having difficulty concentrating.
When reading, you have to put forth the effort to focus on the words, the sentences, and what the author is trying to tell you.
As mentioned earlier, the brain begins to focus, and a chain reaction of cognitive processes begins to occur.
Maybe reading the headlines in the newspaper won’t exactly calm your nerves, but most other types of reading will likely help you relax and stay calm.
It’s important to point out that some scientists believe that stress either causes or contributes to the majority of diseases that humans suffer from.
Conditions such as heart disease and stroke can either be caused or made worse by excessive stress.
Reading something that really captivates your attention goes beyond a mere distraction.
It can cause you to enter into an altered state of consciousness as you get caught up in a good story or a captivating news article.
Whether it’s a science fiction novel or an article about how beautiful the beaches are in Hawaii, reading can take your mind off your daily problems, at least for a little while!
6. Provides Entertainment
You can travel the world, meet new people, and learn about different cultures just by opening a book.
Reading is one of the most inexpensive ways there is to entertain yourself.
Many people who watch movies often say that the movie was okay, but the book was better.
Even if the movie was pretty good, the movie producers rarely include everything in a movie that was in the book.
There just isn’t enough time when making a two- or even three-hour movie to put every subplot, character, or conversation into the film version.
If you liked a movie that was based on a book, you’ll definitely want to read the book if you haven’t already.
There will almost certainly be information in the book that didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie.
Someone once said, “This book is great. It’s like a TV in your head!”
This is true because reading for entertainment can help you visualize while letting your imagination run wild.
Reading short articles in magazines and newspapers can provide entertainment value as well.
Most publications run human interest sections about people doing things such as traveling, hosting elaborate dinner parties, or remodeling their homes.
If you’re looking for an easy and inexpensive form of entertainment, grab a book and start reading.
7. Develops Problem-Solving Skills
This one may surprise you, but reading can actually help improve your problem-solving skills.
Both fiction and non-fiction books, as well as short articles, can help you figure out new ways to solve problems.
In fiction books, characters find themselves in a variety of difficult situations.
People who read fiction will learn how these characters approach and ultimately solve their problems.
Even reading newspaper articles can help develop the ability to problem-solve and then apply these skills to your own life.
You’ll read about real-life situations that others living in diverse places around the world are dealing with.
As you read, you are likely to anticipate what the outcome of a problem or difficult situation might be before you get to the end of the book or article.
You may even think as you’re reading, “Well, I would have done this or that differently than the character or what really happened to such-and-such a person.”
Thinking through real life or fictional situations that others are going through will help develop your own problem-solving skills for different situations you may face in life.
8. Improves Memory
Fiction books normally include several characters you’ll need to remember throughout the story.
There are often intricate plots and sub-plots you’ll need to keep straight to understand what’s happening.
If you’re enjoying the story, which is likely if you continue reading it, then it will be enjoyable to think about the characters, the plot, and how it all works together in the story.
You’ll need to remember things the characters said and did at the beginning of the story to understand what happens at the end.
Reading, especially fiction novels, can help improve your memory.
Another way reading can improve your memory is when it takes you a long time to read a book.
A busy person may read the first few chapters of a novel or a non-fiction book and not find time to read it again for a few weeks or even longer.
The memory part of your brain will need to focus to bring up the information you read earlier.
Each time you pick up the book and read the next chapter, you’ll be exercising your memory to recall what previously happened.
An improved memory can definitely help each of us live better, more productive lives.
9. Increases Activity Levels
You may be wondering how reading can increase activity since reading is primarily an activity for the eyes and the brain.
Even though a lot of people purchase books online and read at home, the library is still a great place to check out and read books.
The great thing about the library is that it’s free!
It’s also a place where there are often a lot of activities and social events that you can take part in.
Simply going to the library to choose a book may end up increasing your activity level.
Beyond the library, there are other ways that reading can ultimately increase your activity level.
The more people read about things, the more likely they are to want to try new things.
Reading may encourage people to travel more and see new places.
When you read about someone losing weight and meeting new people by taking dance lessons, this may encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone.
You might end up becoming a great ballroom or salsa dancer because you read about it in a book!
10. Increases Knowledge
The person who spends time reading is almost certainly going to know more about the world around them than the person who doesn’t.
You’ll likely learn more by reading books and articles than just listening to information read off a prompter by a newscaster.
Hearing snippets of information on the news can encourage people to get a book to learn more about a person, place, or an event that has occurred.
The types of knowledge you can acquire when reading are almost unlimited.
You can learn academic knowledge that includes everything from mathematics to history.
You can learn about other cultures and the way people live on the other side of the planet.
Learning doesn’t stop when we graduate from high school or college.
Reading is an important part of being a life-long learner.
Now that you have plenty of evidence that reading is not a waste of time, the following information can help you make the most of your reading time.
What Should I Read to Receive the Most Benefits?
The short answer is whatever you find most interesting!
You’ll probably want to get a variety of reading material to start with.
Choose a novel that sounds interesting or a nonfiction book that’s related to your career or a hobby you enjoy.
Where Do I Find New Reading Material?
There are more places than ever to find great items to read.
You can always order books online, read magazine and news articles, and follow blogs that interest you.
If you want to get out of the house, there’s always the library.
Most cities and towns also have old-fashioned privately-owned bookstores that are fun to browse through.
How Can I Become a Better Reader?
Like most anything else, the more time you spend reading, the better you’re likely to get at it.
There are classes you might want to take to improve your reading skills.
For example, some people learn to speed read so they can consume as much information as possible in a short amount of time.