Why do we read?

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Recently i’ve been wondering about why people read, what draws some people to be avid readers and others to maybe never pick up a book after leaving school? And ultimately why do i have a love affair with reading?

Reason 1 – A means of escape

I don’t remember the first book i ever read, but i do remember the first one that cemented my love for books and the written word. It was an illustrated copy of Redwall by Brian Jacques, a series that went on to span 22 novels, which i utterly fell in love with, both as a child and as an adult.

I have copies of all 22 stories on my bookshelf and whilst i haven’t reread them in a long time, i still remember the joy of discovering the fantasy world of warrior mice and badger lords.

As a kid those stories (and others) provided a means of escape from a complex world, a need still replicated today as a means of coping with day to day life.

Reason 2 – The pursuit of knowledge or understanding

Ever since i was a teenager i’ve struggled when it comes to interacting with other humans, it doesn’t come naturally to me – my twin brother definitely got that gene, yet despite that i still managed to enjoy my time at school. I discovered that i loved to learn and i was good at it.

All this to say, that one of the reasons i love to read is to learn new things and develop a deeper understanding of the world around us. There are obviously numerous academic and non fiction works that purely serve the purpose of imparting knowledge, but often fiction novels can be thought provoking in ways that aren’t as obvious. Stories often provide a way to learn and explore new things and perhaps to interchange your own perspective with that of another.

Own voice fiction or non-fiction lived experiences can offer a way for a deeper understanding to be born out of the telling of stories. Not everyone in their day to day life will know a person of colour or someone who identifies as non-binary for example, and whilst real life learning and relationship building can never truly be replicated by a story, there is deeper understanding and compassion to be found in the stories of others.

Reason 3 – The physical process of reading

In a world that is often fast paced and chaotic, the physical process of reading can be both absorbing and soothing to an overloaded messy brain. By physical process (and i’m no neuro expert), i’m referring to both the bodily left to right reading of words with our eyes and the mental absorption and processing of those words to compute a feeling, thought or image.

For me this extends to any form of reading, whether that’s an instruction manual, a leaflet or a full length novel there is something inherently stimulating and relaxing to be found in the process that is reading.

Reason 4 – A feeling of home

Reading stories written by and for the community we identify with, can create a feeling of home and provide a sense of belonging that some people might have searched their entire lives for. Never underestimate the power of words and the sharing of stories – you never know who might be reading.

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