The Importance of Reading

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The Importance of Reading for Pleasure

Many believe that the pinnacle of relaxation is sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea, or reading before going to bed. However, only a small percentage of the population (even in developed countries) read for pleasure. The importance of reading is often given little attention to, especially with the lack of libraries in South Africa. I agree that, “if you don’t like reading, you’re not doing it right” and that reading for pleasure should be cultivated. Many are ignorant of the enormous variety of genres and authors available today.

While people can be told that reading is important, the true importance of reading – and reading widely – is much too often overlooked. Reading is not simply staring at a page with letters on it; it is a window into another world, into the minds of others, into stories you would otherwise never know of. For this reason it is important to read various genres and authors to find which type of stories you personally enjoy. The freedom to choose what you want to read will ensure that you enjoy reading, simply because it’s stories you truly care about and fires up your imagination. Brandon Sanderson wrote: “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon” and this encapsulate why reading will improve a person’s reasoning, empathy and knowledge. Reading a story puts you in another person’s shoes, showing not only how others live or think, but why they live or think in that way. It gives you the chance to “Open your eyes and then open your eyes again” (Terry Pratchett).

Neil Gaiman said that by reading fiction “You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed”. Reading also gives you an escape from everyday drudgery and problems. “Escapism” is often used as a way to say “you should only focus on the here and now, not dreaming about change, not finding out if the world can be made a better place, not realizing that you can escape the crab bucket”, but I, like many, see it as one of the most positive things about reading and exactly why reading must be encouraged. JRR Tolkien said: “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape? If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”. And that, I believe is of the greatest importance; giving each who use books to go on adventures, to read about the past or to think about the future the freedom to dream of a better world and use the knowledge and understanding they receive through reading to change the world for the better. That is why reading for pleasure should be imperative in each life and why it is so extremely important to make books and libraries available to all. That is why the importance of reading must not be underestimated.


This article originally posted on and re-posted here with permission.