This is an updated version of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago. I started to write what I wanted to express, and suddenly realized I’d done something like it before. I think in my archives and I found it… A few revisions, and here you are. With everything going on in the world, it always strikes me that if people read more, and more widely, it would be good for everyone.
Plus, to celebrate publication of my first short story, I wanted to give away a Kindle. You’ll find details at the end!
I’ve always been a ‘reader’. I remember, in elementary school, when we finished our work, we were allowed to choose a card from the SRA reading box. It was a box that was on a table in the corner of the room, neatly containing card after card of reading assignments and questions, all color coded.
I don’t remember if anyone else liked them. (That’s a question I should post on my personal Facebook page, now that I think about it). But I confess that I really did like them. You worked your way through the whole box, moving from one color up to the next. I could be wrong, but I think the final color was purple. When you were finished, the teacher let you just read whatever you wanted to read.
I read voraciously in elementary school. I remember the librarian in the school (I think her name was Mrs. Newman) telling me she had gotten some books from the middle school for me because I had read everything in the elementary school library. I confess that, knowing that I am giving my kids ammunition, because they already lovingly tease me for being a ‘nerd.’ (At least I think it’s done lovingly).
For years and years, either my dad would drive me, or my mother would walk me to the local library once a week. I would typically ”take out” 6 books at a time. This library is where I developed an abiding love of American and world history and discovered so many things I otherwise would not have known.
Looking at a picture of the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library still brings back a ton of great memories of hours spent being there, reading there and discovering how much there was to know.
My obsession with books continued and grew through college and beyond. I actually came up with the concept for my college senior thesis after hours spent wandering around the American history section of the University library. After multiple sclerosis caused me to lose the use of my right hand in 2008/2009, I was devastated because I could not hold books and turn the pages anymore. But then my husband bought me my first Kindle in 2012. It was an incredible gift because it allowed me to read again, with ease. I used to love to collect books and had a secret dream to have a library room in my house one day. Disability interfered and I sincerely appreciate the value of electronic books. At the very end of this post I’ll quickly go over the differences between types of e-readers.
I currently have the Kindle App for PC and a Kindle Fire device. I find these work best for me. If you are somebody who loves the feeling of a book in your hand, a plain e-reader might work best for you because it echoes that simplicity. Even if I could still physically handle regular books, I would prefer my electronic versions now because I was constantly trying to figure out how to store books I had read. I adore libraries but was always returning books late and would be frustrated when I wanted to re-read something that had long since gone back to the library. Plus, e-books are less expensive than print versions. Right now, I have about 3200 books on my Kindle. I cannot imagine how I could possibly store that quantity of traditional print books in my house!
I have had a lot of textbooks from my graduate school studies. All but a couple were able to be downloaded electronically. You can even choose to rent electronic textbooks, just as you can do with the print versions.
If you don’t have an e-reader, you can order one online and load up without ever leaving your home. I am even going to be giving a few of them away in the coming weeks. Still not convinced to make time to read? Consider these facts …
- Reading is really good for your brain
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Words of wisdom from Dr. Seuss. Scientific research studies show reading makes you smarter. It is also physically good for your brain. My late father-in-law, a brilliant neuroscientist, almost always had a book at the ready. He and I used to discuss books about history, military strategy and politics. More than once he mentioned that reading increases the blood flow in the brain and keeps the mind sharper for longer.
- Reading improves your verbal and written communication skills
Because reading increases your vocabulary and your knowledge of how to correctly use new words, reading helps you clearly articulate what you want to say. The knowledge you gain from reading also gives you lots to talk about with others. I love talking to people – especially little kids – who read a lot. Their conversation tends to be deep, and it makes me grin when little ones use fancy words they found in a book. When you read, your brain absorbs good writing techniques and vocabulary. In your own writing, you will unconsciously copy the writing styles of books that held your attention. Reading also enhances your vocabulary and spelling. New words appear in their natural context and you can deduce meaning from the surrounding words, while visually imprinting their spelling for accurate recall.
- Reading can broaden your perspective
When you read a book with an attitude or approach that echoes your own, it can strengthen your convictions. A book with an opposing worldview can broaden your perspective and open your eyes to other ideas and opinions. You need not change your opinion in order to flex your empathy, compassion or understanding ‘muscles.’ In our modern, interconnected world, understanding of other people is crucial.
- Reading improves focus
Today, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips all the time. The digital age and social media are wonderful. Their effect on our attention span and focus … not so much. Our ‘Twitter-ized’ attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Reading a book, unlike glancing at a web page or social media feed, makes you have to focus. When reading fiction in particular, you must pay attention to the plot of the story and finish the book.
- Reading increases your understanding of the past and its connection to the future
I have always had an interest in history – All different time periods, all different locations, history has always fascinated me. Studying history gives us information that allow us to develop greater understanding of the world in which we live. Building knowledge and understanding of historical events and trends enables us to develop broader perspectives on current events today.
I like to read factual history, and historical fiction as well, although I have little patience for authors that write historical fiction but clearly never did any research about the time period in which they set their stories. Reading factual history and well researched historical fiction can teach you about the social norms and customs, culture, lives, hobbies, expectations, politics, laws, habits and difficulties of a time period. Just remember that even the best historical fiction is still fiction; if something stated in it interests you, look it up to find out more about it.
- Reading increases cultural knowledge – no travel required
Reading books set in cultures different from our own provides knowledge of those cultures and the lives of the people who live there. I have learned a lot about subcultures within the United States, and a wide variety of cultures around the world. Books open international gateways to the world.
- Reading can inspire and encourage us
The written word has inspired faith, revolution, courage, and invention. We can read things that will bring us to tears or elicit laughter, renew our faith, make us brave, make us afraid, bring forth love and offer solace in sad memories. How can all that not inspire you to want to read?
- Reading can help you relax
It’s no mystery why many people like to read before they go to sleep. When you read, sometimes you can actually feel the tension in your body ease. You can open your mind to new ideas, learn to meditate, acquire a skill. Lose yourself in a place that is not your own, perhaps in a time that is not your own.
More about e-readers
An e-reader, also known as an e-book reader, is a portable electronic device designed primarily for the purpose of reading e-books, newspapers and magazines. E-readers look similar to a tablet device. They have longer battery life when compared to a tablet. An e-reader’s battery will typically last for multiple weeks. The biggest brands are Kindle, Nook and Kobo. For anybody not familiar with these devices, I’m going to take a moment to go over a couple of the differences.
A Kindle e-reader is dedicated to reading e-books. It has a black-and-white screen that doesn’t cause eye strain, so you can read books for hours without risking discomfort. The display used in the Kindle – e-ink (electronic ink), called also “e-paper” – doesn’t need a backlight to display the image. And it’s the backlight in LCD displays that causes eye strain. The Kindle is pretty much limited to letting you read books. Kindle has definite limitations. Its small, black and white only display, and lack of audio, make it pretty useless for digital publications that include pictures, graphs, sound or animated elements. If what you like to read are primarily novels and other publications that contain just text, Kindle e-readers are a solid choice.
By comparison, Kindle Fire is a relatively affordable tablet with a color LCD screen. On it you can read e-books, watch movies, play games, or listen to music. You can also use it to browse the web, answer emails, take pictures, or check out social media. If you want to take a second away from your book to watch Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift work their magic, you can do it right on the same device. Newspapers and magazines are full of colorful pictures. Their digital editions include animations, videos, and interactive elements. The size of every page is too large to entirely fit on the screen and keep the body text readable. Navigating through pages, zooming in and out, jumping from one article to another – all this is essential to make reading a magazine or newspaper possible and enjoyable. The tablet is much better for this task.
You can download books from Amazon for Kindle, from Barnes & Noble for Nook, or add from other platforms. Interested in entering to win a Kindle Fire? Just e-mail me at email@example.com, the name of a book you’d read if you receive one. For additional entries, look for the contest graphic on my social media and like, comment, and share. Make sure to check out www.frominhere.com and www.denisedemarco.com to keep up with more!