Want to improve your cognitive health and do something revolutionary at the same time? Read.
I admit it. I’m one of “those” people. You know, one of those people who stays up too late reading. Truthfully, I used to read a lot more because I suffered from insomnia for years. Suffering from insomnia is one of the loneliest things in the world, and reading comforted and distracted me during my sleepless episodes. Maybe the cognitive benefits I got from all that reading will counteract the negative impacts all that sleeplessness has had on my health over the years.
I read because it’s fun, but also because it’s educational. Every time I read, I learn something or at the very least think about something differently. Reading boosts my vocabulary and improves my critical thinking skills. Also, as someone who enjoys writing, I learn a lot about writing from reading. What could be a better way to improve your writing than by seeing how your favorite authors write firsthand?
I read because it emits emotional responses. Sometimes I get angry after reading a news article and very often, things I read make me laugh. Often aloud to myself. Reading may soothe my feelings of loneliness. Or it might bring them up. Speaking of which, some therapists are recommending bibliotherapy as a way to ease depression and anxiety.
I read because I adore books. I’m a little obsessed with the bookmaking process actually — from crafting the content, to choosing the binding and typography and the painstaking act of setting each piece of type.
I like books because they are reminders of who — and where — I’ve been. Recently while unpacking my books that were in storage for three years, I found this treasure from my days of typesetting.
I was instantly transported back to 1998 when I made it. I remembered the smell of ink, the roar and clank of the printing press and the feeling of my hand rolling the ink onto the type. I remember spending lots of time deciding which typeface to use. I thought about how long people have been making things to read, for their right to be heard and fighting for their right to read.
There is a long (ongoing) history in the world of censorship and a history of preventing groups of people from reading. So next time you want to be a rebel, read a banned or challenged book and pass it along to someone who hasn’t read it either. If you’re looking to do something more active than reading, you could help someone learn to read or get involved in the fight for keeping the freedom to read. No one should be read the riot act for reading.
A sampling of my favorite groups, websites or social media channels promoting random acts of reading:
- American Booksellers
- Book Riot
- Electric Literature
- Little Free Library
- Literary Interest
- Paris Review
- Women’s Prison Book Project
- World Book Night
Why do you love reading? What’s your favorite banned or challenged book?
Heidi Wachter is the Community Engagement Specialist for Experience Life.