By Patrick Muldoon, Branch Supervisor, Warkworth Library
With the coming of the new year, we often look to habits that we wish we could break, but resolving to start a new healthy habit is actually easier and potentially more positive! This year, I would like you to consider trying to read for 30 minutes a day. Just a half hour of “me time” with a great book can make some huge differences in your outlook on life, your health, and even your social life.
One of the remarkable aspects of reading is that do so increases our capacity for understanding of others – something that our world certainly could use a bit more of these days. In one of my favourite novels, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch suggests, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This wisdom, applied to the act of reading, underscores the importance seeing a story from the perspective of a character. Be they from another time, another culture, a different political or economic reality, a book’s characters provide us eyes other than our own to see the world. They broaden our experience, and allow us to gain understanding of and empathy for others. In a social climate that seems to be polarizing on any number of issues, a broader world view available through reading could just be the first step in what we need to understand each other.
Reading for just a half hour a day can also provide some definite and very real health benefits. As we become accustomed to the connectivity of the digital age, taking a break from technology can be a vital part of our daily routine. Books don’t disturb you with notifications, pop up advertisements or status updates and the very nature of books are beneficial to brain functions. Since we read a book linearly, instead of jumping from tab to tab or through imbedded video, reading allows us time to process ideas, think at our own pace and make connections. This activity increases our capacity for longer attention spans and helps our minds remain sharp. Staying mentally stimulated can slow and reduce the risks of age related brain disorders. Your brain is a “use it or lose it” machine. As we age, we risk the chance of a phenomenon known as “synaptic pruning” where unused neural transmitters become less able to function. You may be unknowingly contributing to your brain’s decline by not challenging it. Reading is a workout for your brain for which you don’t need a gym membership – just a library card!
My favourite aspect of reading is social. While many people think of reading as a solitary pursuit, reading opens the doors to many social opportunities. You don’t have to be a member of a book club to discuss what you are reading, and readers aren’t limited to just great stories. Great non-fiction books, such biographies and books that explore history, travel, art, music and crafts give you knowledge that helps you connect with others. Reading is contagious. Meeting people at the library, sharing your opinions, making recommendations to your friends and teaching your children to read through example are all ways that books can foster connections with others.
So resolve to read. Find your comfiest chair, disconnect, and cosy up with a new book. You’ll thank yourself for the moments you share with a book and the moments you’ll share with others having read one. Drop by your Warkworth Library soon, we would be thrilled to help you develop the habit of reading!