Why Read?

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Reading begins at that magical age when you trundle along behind your father, skipping every fourth step to catch up, all the way to the public library. It is a bewitching place. You are awed into cowering behind your father’s knee by row upon row of novels, the best authors the world has ever seen all packed in under one great roof. You gaze up from your three-and-a-half-foot stature to the shelves that surely extend higher than the clouds themselves. Swallowing a feeling of great insignificance you dash down the hall into the safety of the “Children’s Area”. Great murals are splashed across the walls; parrots, giraffes and lions. Beanbags and cushions litter the floor. The most beautiful array of books with spines of vibrant reds, blues and greens are neatly ordered alphabetically across the back wall. In this technicolour paradise a seed is planted in your mind and your love of reading begins.

As you grow you read more and more, nouns and verbs are introduced to adjectives, adverbs and pronouns. You gradually learn new ways in which to express yourself. You learn that words can not only create an image, but also portray it in vivid colours, not paused but in motion. Reading stretches your mind to accommodate new vocabulary and sentence components. You begin to learn how to convey your interests, emotions and secrets. Reading presents you with the gift of communication; it teaches you how to coherently string words together to get across your point of view.

Through reading we can escape out of our own mundane world. Pick up a book and become absorbed in the words. Words have the power to transport us away from the dreary drizzle of a monotonous, English afternoon to the spellbinding, snow covered world of Narnia with the Pevensies or to hurl us into the bustling vegetable market of Covent Garden with Eliza. Reading allows you to see the wonders of the world from the comfort of your home. Eva Ibbotson has taken me on a boat trip through the Amazon rainforest, she has transposed an image which she, herself, conjured, into my mind’s eye; I’ve seen snakes and butterflies with colours and patterns invented in one of her daydreams. I’ve felt the lulling, rocking motion of the boat that is merely a figment of her imagination. Words have the potential to paint a picture of the blazing sun and the searing desert whilst outside the window the ground is covered with a blanket of snow. They are capable of pricking the hairs on the back of your neck or making you shiver involuntarily.

Through reading you are given the opportunity to mask yourself in a new persona, shrug off your troubles, worries and fears and become engulfed, instead, in the emotions of the character. You can pick up a book in tears and within minutes find yourself smiling over a heart-warming scene; a reunion, miraculous recovery, birth. In this way you can delay reality, for a couple of chapters at least, and spend a blissful hour without worrying about deadlines, relationships or bills. Any good author will make you smile, laugh and cry with their characters. We fall in love with Mr Darcy. We get lost inside the psychotic mind of Kevin Khatchadourian. We are forced to sleep with the light on by Frankenstein’s creation.

By recognising our own characteristics and traits within characters we can learn more about ourselves. Sometimes, a rational conclusion is easier to form if we step back away from direct contact with a dilemma, often, I find, this step back can be provided by reading a novel with a character forced to consider a similar dilemma to one of your own. In Rebecca, Du Maurier teaches us about rivalry through the second Mrs DeWinter. Rebecca’s strengths, even after death, are conveyed by the manner in which she lives on in memories. The reader is in no doubt about the fact that she excelled at everything; beauty, admiration, etiquette, the perfect wife. Rebecca is portrayed as a force to contend with, and through the direct comparison with Rebecca we see how the new Mrs DeWinter is inferior to her in every way. As a reader we feel suffocated, imprisoned, by Rebecca’s perfection and begin to feel irked in a similar manner, no doubt, to how Mrs DeWinter feels. This story teaches us about the cruel nature of jealousy. For the bearer jealousy can be as horrendous as unrequited love, that gutting, hollow feeling inflicted on them through no fault of their own. Jealousy pales the bearer into insignificance; no matter how intent their efforts are they cannot compete.

Reading is not a term limited to the reading of novels. Reading a newspaper facilitates the osmosis of knowledge on recent occurrences, it is important to keep up to date with current affairs that affect your own nation for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that much of what is reported in newspapers may have a direct effect on you; a tax raise, a missing person near you or even just the weather. If for no other reason, reading the newspapers is vital should you ever stumble upon a pub quiz. If you ponder about the more obscure things to read your mind wanders to the reading of music. Written music can be likened to a mysterious language and the ability to read music is like being a member of an exclusive club. It allows you to become at one with the music, it gives you the opportunity to have a world hidden from anyone else, it is one of the most beautiful and tranquil kinds of isolation. Moreover, the term ‘reading’ is not even limited to comprehending written characters and words. The term ‘read’ is used when judging a person’s personality or mood, you are said to read that person through their facial expressions or tone of voice. In my mind, this use of the word conveys it’s absolute power, to be able to read what is not said aloud or written gives you the power to work out when someone is lying or to realise when someone is in need of sympathy or care.

Reading is vital in current times, more than ever words are unrelentingly flooding into our lives. Words are pushed in torrents against us in magazines, labels, adverts and songs. Imagine being submerged in a world where letters swim past you in a distorted haze. Not being able to make sense of the words recklessly strewn across your life; graffiti on your bus shelter, the headlines in bold print screaming at you from the front pages of tabloids, the recycling preferences on your rubbish bags or the method of cooking carefully printed in black ink on the back of your pizza box. Imagine attempting to tread water in an ocean of letters, swirling in whirlpools around your ears, crashing in waves against your head and constantly, constantly being dragged down. Down into the depths of despair, confusion and chaos. Your own lack of ability dragging you down like water-laden clothes; pulse pounding, throat thickening, tear jerking terror.

Above all reading gives you, the adult, who once cowered behind your father’s knee, the confidence to amble into the public library and peruse the rows of books at your leisure. The confidence to reach up to the top shelf at head-height and select a weighty hardback with the title and author’s name etched into the spine in a majestic gold.





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