The Glorious Importance of Reading

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If there is one way to travel without moving, it is to read. When we pick up a good book we can be transported into another world as we follow the storyline. Reading is a great way to expand our world and also entertain ourselves.  Literacy is the marker of a nourished mind, a thriving democracy, a well-fed curiosity of people, culture, and discourse.

Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929–March 27, 2012) examined the immeasurable power of reading in her preface to On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966–1978. She said, “The decline in adult literacy means not merely a decline in the capacity to read and write, but a decline in the impulse to puzzle out, brood upon, look up in the dictionary, mutter over, argue about, turn inside-out in verbal euphoria, the “incomparable medium” of language.

And this decline comes, ironically, at the moment in history when women, the majority of the world’s people, have become most aware of our need for real literacy, for our own history.”

It seems our screens are increasingly replacing our need for the weight of a book within the hand. People are more preoccupied with electronic escape than ever before, and it is a sadness, the effects of which should not be overlooked. Reading allows us the capacity to talk, to interpret, to listen, to argue, to share stories, and empathize with the narratives of others. The reliance we have on technological escapism is reflective of the fact we are becoming a culture that favors mental passivity over intellectual exertion.

To read is to be reminded that we should question everything and that we should fiercely remain hungry for knowledge. As poet Mary Ruefle said, “Someone reading a book is a sign of order in the world.”

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