Why Read Books?

“Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask for anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly.” Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

A very smart, twelfth grade student of mine shocked me by insisting that not only were books boring, taking an English class didn’t make sense to them because they already knew how to read.

I was a bit taken aback, but proceeded to dive into an animated lecture about books, plays, and good films being an important part of our culture, teaching us about other people, places, and times, enriching our vocabulary, making us smarter, more well-rounded individuals. I spoke about the illumination of human nature both good and bad, time-tested truths being revealed, literary experiments that succeeded and failed, and the toying with morals for better or worse. I fear she stopped listening at “books are an important part of our culture”, but maybe not.

“Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.” Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

I have such a deep-rooted love for the written word, I had never stopped to consider before: Just why should we read literature?

According to the article, Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer, by Annie M. Paul, “deep reading” (as the author calls it) is the “immersive” reading of literature, especially the tried and true classics, and fires up the brain in a variety of ways beyond the imagination. Paul says that “deep reading” elicits empathy and a better understanding of others, making us more compassionate, well-rounded individuals.

Your Brain on Books: 10 Things That Happen to our Minds When We Read, informs us that reading books elicits brain activity in the sensory, motor and visual areas, not to mention language. Reading also grows brains and attention spans. Reading really is brain food, but it takes practice and training to read “deeply”. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

My student asked a valid question, and I hope English teachers everywhere will begin to address it.

Meggie Folchart: You’ve been to Persia, then?

Elinor Loredan: Yes, a hundred times. Along with St. Petersburg, Paris, Middle-Earth, distant planets and Shangri-la. And I never had to leave this room. Books are adventure. They contain murder and mayhem and passion. They love anyone who opens them. (Inkheart film)

P.S. The book and film, Inkheart are both fabulous introductions into why books are awesome.


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