7 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading Books

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The last paper I wrote in college was a 20-something page piece on the reading brain and why it matters. I did 12 weeks of research only to barely cover the surface of a subject that I grew to love more as the term progressed.  I’ve always been a bookworm and writing a paper on why it’s so important to read was extremely fun ( I know, really nerdy).

This blog is hardly the place for such a long paper but I do want to share some things I found out while researching this project. So, lister that I am, I came up with 7 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading Books.

7 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading Books

1. Reading strengthens your brain.

According to Rita Carter, science writer and presenter of BBC’s documentary, Why Reading Matters, the brain doesn’t have a central reading system. Reading happens in, what she calls, a “cerebral internet”.  In other words, it takes several regions in different areas of the brain to make reading possible. Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squidsays that, unlike all other human behaviors such as vision or speech, reading has no direct genetic program that is passed from parent to child. We’re not born with neurological ‘reading tools’. Our brains form connections between regions designed to perform other functions in order to process and understand written language. Rita Carter interviewed Dr. Cathy Price of University College in London who gave a simplified explanation of how this works:
“There are no areas of the brain that only respond to reading. All the areas that are involved in reading are also involved in recognizing objects, in speaking. In order to read, it’s the connections between the visual inputs and the component sounds that need to be linked together. So this doesn’t involve any new brain regions. What it involves is stronger and more efficient links.”
Our brains possess what is called neuroplasticity, which means it is capable of learning new things and forming new habits by making and strengthening new connections. Reading is one of the best examples of this. The more you read and deepen those connections, the more you’re exercising and strengthening your brain.

2. Reading boosts your empathy.

BBC’s Rita Carter also brought up the fact that stories can help us become more empathetic. According to an article in Psychology Today, we were meant to tell stories, they provide order, and they connect us with others. Stories give us space to exercise our emotional responses to other people’s situations. John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns talks about this in an episode of Crash Course

“By understanding language, you will, 1). have a fuller understanding of lives other than your own, 2). will help you be more empathetic…Reading critically and attentively can give you the linguistic tools to share your own story with more precision. Reading critically gives us better tools to explain corporate profits and broken hearts and it also connects us to each other.”

3. Reading increases your vocabulary.

I especially like this one cause I love trying out new words that I find in books.  It is true that we pick up words from television and conversation but the truth is, we don’t speak the way we write. Written word is much richer lexically than spoken word. In other words, we use better and more varied words when we write than when we speak. The same goes for syntax–we structure sentences better when we write.  A great study done by Anne E. Cunningham and Keith Stanovich explains that children who read will have a richer vocabulary and better grasp of syntactical structure than their peers who watch television.  Reading enhances their ability to process language, both written and spoken. And because our brains are plastic, it doesn’t matter what your performance was like in school, the same can be true for adults as well. 

4. Reading makes you a better communicator.

This is points 2 & 3 at their best. A rich vocabulary isn’t the only pre-requisite of good communication. Effective communication is a two way street where both parties must take turns at being sender and receiver. Understanding and sympathizing with another person’s situation (empathy) and the ability to effectively express yourself verbally makes for a great communicator. Why? Because it’s not only about having something to say but also ensuring that what you’re saying is of value and how you’re saying it is thoughtful and appropriate. Because there is order, logic, brain connectivity, and emotion at play when we read, we are strengthening those areas that make us effective communicators.     

5. Reading actual books is a unique experience.

This isn’t something I was able to add to my final paper but I still find it important so I’ll include it here.

I have a Kindle and I think it’s a great way to consume material on the go but there is something about reading an actual book that is unique and beneficial in ways that cannot be recreated by any other medium.  An article in Medical Daily says that the tactile experience of holding a book, turning the pages, and moving from left to right aids in the ability to comprehend and remember the text. E-books, with often fragmented text and links to the net also disrupt focus and concentration. Your brain is going through a very complicated process in order to read and actual books facilitate this process better than e-readers.   

6. Reading is the best way to relax.

I didn’t include this in my paper either but I think it’s also important. One article I came across in my research explained that a study showed that reading is a more effective stress reliever than taking a walk, listening to music, or drinking a hot cup of tea. Subjects of the research experienced lowered heart rate and decreased muscle tension.  Reading helps us relax, and takes our minds off the day’s commotion which makes it the perfect thing to do before going to sleep. 

7. Reading is super attractive.  

Lastly, this also didn’t make it my paper but as much as this is my nerdy opinion, I’m not the only one who thinks this. You’ve heard it said intelligence is sexy? It’s so true. Why? Because readers are more emotionally and cognitively intelligent.  A well-read person bolsters their knowledge base and that makes them better conversationalists. When you read broadly and smartly, you have more to offer in your relationships, your families, your careers, and your communities making you more interesting, useful, and, well yeah, sexy.

If you don’t consider yourself much of a reader, then I challenge you to change that. Reading is a privilege and something we shouldn’t take for granted. History tells us that the number one way people kept control of others was by keeping back the written word (think Dark Ages and American slavery). We know knowledge is power; take advantage of it.

In my opinion, I think a good percentage of the mischief people get into would vanish if they would just read good books. And while I’m all for good literature, I’m also an advocate for great non-fiction. If you currently read mostly novels, re-consider your book list and add a healthy dose of spiritual growth, history, social science, biographies, art, business and other subjects that will give you insight and help shape a healthy, well-informed worldview. It’s a part of good maturity which this generation could use more of.

There’s a lot to learn and even more books to learn from. Pick up a book and see what wonderful things you’ll discover within the pages!

Happy reading!
 
 

May To Do List

MAY TO DO LIST

Here so soon, May?

I cannot believe it’s already May!!! That means that I’m almost done with college! Aghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! I don’t think my brain even knows how to process that thought. Everything I’ve worked so hard for is coming to an end and it’s crunch time FOR REAL. Which means I shouldn’t try to load the next 4 weeks with a heavy to do list. Here’s what I’ve got on the schedule:

1. Survive Finals – That’s pretty self explanatory. If I can just stay alive with my sanity at least partially intact for the next 4 weeks I will do well!

2. Apply for Graduation  – Also self explanatory. I’m finishing too late to have applied for spring graduation so the whole diploma loveliness won’t happen till the fall and I need to apply for all of that. But no sweat, I’ll just be happy to be done!

3. Read 3 Books – I’m pretty sure I can manage this even with my study load. I’m a booknerd, yeah? We find ways.

4. Get new photos taken – I need new profile, social media shots for this site. What I’ve got up now is just a screenshot from a video project I was working on and it’s got to go. 

5. 31 Days of Prayer – This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. May is going to be intensely tough and busy – all the more reason to be intentional about my prayer life like I’ve never been before. And as I open up into this new phase of my life, I need God’s wisdom and direction and the grounding of the Word. Sooooooo, to kind of help me out, I bought this book:

31 Days of Prayer for the dreamer and doer

I’ve had my eye on it for a bit and decided to give it a go this month. For more information on this book, check out The Well Studio.

Recurring Goals (I have to keep up with these):

  1. Work out daily, M-F
  2. Blog M-W-F
  3. Practice piano for at least 30 minutes a day

Spring is in full swing! What do you have on your to do list this month?

April Report Card

April Report Card

1. Establish a Sleep Schedule and Morning Routine – B-.

I don’t have this down perfectly yet but I have made some really great progress. I’ve been going to bed at a decent hour more consistently and waking up at a decent hour more consistently. My worst bedtime habit was listening to podcasts & audiobooks while falling asleep. I’ve had a reeeeeeally hard time admitting that this was not doing me any good because I was not letting my brain shut down properly. I FINALLY nipped that in the bud and downloaded an app that plays nature and ambient sounds to help me fall asleep. One of the best decisions I’ve made this month. I sleep better and I’m not as groggy in the morning. Old habits die hard for real, but it was a necessary death and I’m glad I finally sucked it up and made the change.

The morning routine still has some bugs but it’s almost there.

2. Read/Finish at Least 5 Books – A. 

Finished 1 book I started last month and started and finished 4 this month. YAAAASSSSS!!!!

3. Try 4 New Juice Recipes – D-

We did juice but I didn’t try any new recipes.

4. Establish Writing/Blogging Schedule – D+

Sooooooooo I’ve decided on a M-W-F schedule. Implementing that has been a whole other challenge. I’ve just been writing whenever I can find the time.

5. Catch Up on Book ReviewsC-

I wrote one and have others that are started but not completed…………

6. Recipe Binder – D-

Yeah, nope, didn’t happen.

7. Update My Resume – A+

I did update my resume and it looks beautiful if I do say so myself. Aaaaaand I updated my Monster and LinkedIn profiles so those are bonus points ^.^

8. Get New Calling Cards Printed – B-

I designed them but didn’t get them printed because my budget is tight and I’m trying to space out my expenditures if you know what I mean. Maaaaybe next month cause I really need to get this done.

9. Spring Clean and Organize My Bedroom – D-

Yeah, nope, didn’t happen.

Overall Grade = C+

Not great at all but better than I anticipated!

Now onto May!

The Stuff of a Successful Life

When you hear or see the word ‘success’, what comes to mind?  Money?  Your byline on the front page?  A happy family?  A rise on the corporate ladder?  Success means different things to each of us and there are a myriad different roads to that success.  And while I’m not an expert in this area, I have learned a thing or two based on the little victories in my life and various pieces of advice I’ve received.  Tucked into the pocket of my adulthood are 5 things I think are woven into the tapestry of a successful life.

There are things you have to do or be in order to be a writer.  And there are things you have to do or be in order to realize success in your life.  These 5 life tips are written in terms of being a writer cause it’s my niche and I think the principles are all the same no matter what you’re pursuing in life.

Success-Writer

 1. In order to be a writer, you have to be a reader.

A writer who doesn’t read, is like a cook who doesn’t eat or a musician who doesn’t listen to music.  If you want to be a writer, a composer of sentences, you’ve got to read.  And not just read but read well.  Don’t just read one kind of book, read broadly and outside of your comfort zone.  Allow yourself to mature, learn and grow as a reader and that’s one of the ways you’ll mature, learn, and grow as a writer.  Get to know style, structure, and voice.  Stretch your brain with subjects that you may not be naturally in to.  Challenge yourself with topics that you’ve always been interested in but didn’t think you were ‘smart’ enough to understand.  This takes some work but it’s worth it.

While I think that reading is important not matter who you are, the principle also holds true when it comes to your actual life’s work.  Submerge yourself in those things that will enhance your talents.  The more you engage in your talents and passions, the better you understand what it means to be whatever you want to be.  No matter what kind of work you do, don’t be satisfied to know just what your job requires.  Familiarize yourself with the context in which you work.  It will help you do your job better, you’ll become a better conversationalist and you’ll set yourself up for upward mobility in your organization.  Just remember: cooks eat, musicians listen to music, and writer’s read.  What do you do?

2. In order to be a writer, you have to write.

So, if you’re going to be a writer, you have to write.  Well, DUUUUHHH!

Lol.

Sometimes it’s not that simple.  Writing is hard and there are times when it’s more simple not to write.  But the desire doesn’t go away–so you have to do it!  Saying ‘you have to write’ means that you do it even when it’s hard.  Just because you’ve got a passion for something, doesn’t mean it’s going to come easily.  Having a passion for something means that even when it’s hard, you keep doing it.  

Same goes for anything else in life.  If you want to succeed at something, you have to do it.  You don’t wait around for ideal circumstances, you don’t wait until you know better, you just do it.  And you do it when it’s hard and you don’t want to. The BF once told me that this is what separates the boys from the men – the ability to keep doing something when it’s hard or you feel like it’s not worth it anymore.  The stuff of success is doing the hard things no matter what.

Note: I have to add a caveat – this doesn’t mean that you do things thoughtlessly or recklessly, without consideration.  But sometimes, we sit around and daydream about what we could be doing, despairing that we’ll never get a chance to do this, or be good enough to do that.  Sometimes opportunity doesn’t knock, you have to find it yourself.  Be prayerful and considerate of your options but don’t sit around and wait for easy – be purposeful and just do it!  

3. In order to be a writer, you have to be vulnerable.

Writing is putting your heart on the page and hoping no one steps on it or rips it to shreds.  It takes a lot of nerve to be that transparent with your thoughts.  And it takes a lot of guts to be okay when someone doesn’t like what you have to say.  A writer has to care more about writing and what she’s writing and less about what people think about it.  The ability to be that vulnerable is tough but it’s necessary.

There are times in life when you just have to be vulnerable in order to get anywhere.  Asking someone out, going on a job interview, striking up a conversation with someone who probably wouldn’t normally talk to you.  That first step, that first move – these are moments of vulnerability cause you don’t know what’s going to happen and your feelings may take a hit as a result of your actions.  But let me tell you something. Risking your pride and your feelings is a part of maturing and growing as a human being.  There’s no growth where there’s no risk and where there’s no risk, there’s no success. Care enough about your goal to take chances and be vulnerable.

4. In order to be a writer, you have to be willing to listen.

Confession – I struggle with this.  As a word lover, I’m too quick to speak and even slower to listen.  It’s really not cool and I have removed my foot from my big mouth on many, many occasions in my short life.  But listening is an important quality in a writer.  And not just when it’s your turn to listen in a conversation, but just in general.  Be aware of what’s going on around you.  It could spark your next blog post or start an interesting conversation.  You never know!

The same holds true in life.  Sometimes you really don’t have to talk.  If you’re like me, you have a zillion thoughts going on at once, multiple tabs open and comments on the ready.  But just because you have something to say, doesn’t mean you have to say it.  Practice listening.  Wait for people to finish their sentence before you respond and think about what you’re going to say (my parents just heard the hallelujah chorus in their heads and have no idea why!).  Maybe this isn’t an issue for you, but for all y’all fast talkers out there, be slow to speak and quick to listen.  Believe me, people will appreciate it!

5. In order to be a writer, you have to love it.

A writer doesn’t write for the sake of being a writer, a writer writes because she can’t help but write.  This quote says it best:

If you can quit, then quit.

In order to be a success in any area of you’re life, you have to want it enough.  If you you’re going to invest your time and effort doing something, make sure you love it.  This doesn’t mean quitting your day job, abandoning your responsibilities, or ditching your commitments simply because you don’t love them.  Life comes in seasons and everyone has to pay their dues or do things simply as the means to an end. Whatever you’re working towards, love it enough to use those things that you may not love, or even like, as learning opportunities and stepping stones along the way.


Success, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.  One may look at the family who drives a old van and always seems to be struggling financially as not successful until they see the joy of the children, the contentment on the wife’s face and the spring in the husband’s step – that is priceless.  

You’re not here to please everybody else, just One Person.  When God looks at you, you want to be sure He likes what He sees you spending your life on.  He created you with a specific purpose in mind.  That purpose doesn’t necessarily mean something seemingly grandiose like mission work in a foreign country, leadership in a far reaching ministry organization, or a best selling book.  Sometimes that purpose looks more like faithful service in your local church, witnessing on the job, or raising children that love the Lord.  The stuff of a successful life is deciding to do whatever it is that God placed you on this earth to do no matter how hard it is or how much it costs you.

The stuff of a successful life is


I don’t know what challenges you’re facing this week, but I do know one thing – God’s got your back.  He has a beautiful, unique purpose for your life, better than anything you could ever hope for or dream of.  Don’t chase the world’s standard of success.  Embrace God’s great plan for your life and work diligently to become all that He created you to be!

Have a blessed week, y’all!

Elyssa

 #goodmorningmonday small