Taylor Hernowitz | 3 min read
Congratulations! You are reading an essay, in a book full of essays and short stories and poems. You are the last of a dying breed. No one reads anymore. Well actually, that’s not true. People read all the time; tweets, Buzzfeed articles, Snapchats. But no one reads books. With so many other options for entertainment in today’s modern culture, those lazy Sundays spent with a good book are quickly and quietly becoming an archaic concept, which is such a shame, because there is nothing on earth like a good book. No movie, video game, tweet, or status update is ever going to give a person the same fluid sense of imagination and gratification that a book does.
Pause for a second and ask yourself: what was the last really good book I read? Maybe you just picked up the latest Stephen King novel and you can’t put it down. Maybe you fell in love with Dickens in your English class. Or maybe you read Goodnight Moon to your kid last night and finally understood the metaphor and motifs buried within the simple language. Whatever the case, books can do things to us that no other medium can. A good story can completely change your mood, and problems that a character is having can seem to jump off the page and become problems that influence your whole day. And, what's more, reading can do wonderful things for your brain.
Studies have shown that 15 minutes of independent reading a day can expose students to over a million words of text in a year (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988). In addition, students who read at home, be it books, magazines, newspapers, or even encyclopedias tend to score higher on standardized tests than those that don’t (The National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). And of course, these statistics don’t even begin to cover the problems that can stem from illiteracy. Illiteracy in businesses around the world costs the taxpayer and various companies nearly $20 billion a year (United Way, “Illiteracy: A National Crisis”) and nearly 50% of the nation's “unemployed youth,” meaning most high school and college students ages 16-21, are functionally illiterate, with little to no prospect of securing decent jobs upon entering the workforce (US Department of Health and Human Services Study, 2008). These statistics seem shocking, even grossly exaggerated, because the idea that so many people around the world can function throughout the day without being able to balance a check book or read a warning label is one that bodes ill for the future, and for the state of education in the world.
In addition to preparing kids for real-life situations and problems, and giving them an advantage over their less well-read counterparts, reading can open up new worlds to people. Books like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, books that inspired generations to read and love it, are timeless and universal. Shakespeare, even 400 years later, is taught in classrooms everywhere because its message and themes are just as intrinsic and rewarding now as they were then. People who read are more learned, more cultured, more knowledgeable about the world. People who read understand the value of a word, the value of a single sentence, placed perfectly to illustrate a point or highlight an opinion. So I ask you, dear reader, to read today. Read more than this essay. Flip through the whole book. Read the number one book on the New York Times best seller list. Go to a bookstore and read the first thing you pick up. Buy a newspaper. Read Corduroy to a little kid. Read today!