“I hate reading! It is so boring. Why do we have to use this stupid book?” Welcome to the world of a seventh and eighth grade teacher. Yet, I understand where they are coming from – I get the message. Books weren’t always a passion for me either, but what a beautiful world text offers. Reading helps make us who we are by promoting creativity, facilitating our well-being, and assisting us to become more moral.
Literature allows for one’s imagination and creativity by exposing the reader to its vast world of selection. “Reading broadens our imagination by stimulating the right side of our brain. It opens our minds to new possibilities and new ideas, helping us experience and analyze the world through others’ lives.” (Literary Works, Mary 20, 2015 Paul Heavenridge). Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist, conducted a study using MRI imaging to observe the brain while subjects were reading. The images showed heightened connectivity in several parts of the brain. The neurological research concluded the improved brain function was similar to muscle memory, thus reading fiction was found to develop imagination. (Brain Connectivity, 2013) (Birkerts, 2012). Young and old can leave their troubles behind and escape into different worlds, and, of this, I am guilty. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a perfect example of a text that stimulates imagination and creativity. As a matter of fact, during a Friday silent reading class, one of the 8th-grade girls threw her Red Queen series book on the floor and shouted, “That’s it! I quit! I won’t be a witness to Mare’s (the main character) stupid decisions!” Everyone looked up from their books, shook their heads, and then went right back to their silent reading world. The young lady’s face turned red, she took several deep breaths, and then retrieved her book and turned the page. Visualizing and interpreting text triggers our creative side. “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss
Written works are an application of language that can improve our well-being personally and professionally. The use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy is called bibliotherapy and dates back to 1916. It received widespread attention after the World Wars when it was prescribed to treat combat stress, depression, mild alcohol abuse, and many other illnesses. Literature can help readers gain insight into personal challenges and help develop coping strategies. In other words, stories provide perspective.
Reading is more than decoding and comprehension. The Atlantic states that it makes us more moral. Stories allow us to empathize with characters and situations. Through the written word, we can evaluate circumstances and witness the experiences of others, not to mention, establish the foundation for our religion. “Literature explains human values. The works of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle (the most famous Greek philosophers) contain virtues that promote perfection to a society.” One of my most heartfelt moments as a promoter of books occurred three years ago when I witnessed an eighth-grade boy quietly wiping tears off his face as he was reading Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Of course, I did the silent victory dance, it had taken four months to get him hooked, but there it was – a connection – empathy! “Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.” ~ P.T. Barnum
Let’s take care of ourselves – read a book!