Why do we read? The number of words that we are exposed to during our day to day activities is astounding. Netflix, newspapers, novels and conversations to name a few. Unsurprisingly these words have the profound ability to whip up any number of thoughts that eventually map through into our actions and beliefs. They often springboard us to our achievements and console and guide us during hard life lessons. They are invaluable in helping us to be the best version of ourselves, and to continually learn and improve.
Despite the joys in the stories themselves, there are other happy collateral benefits that come from reading. The strengthening of a bond when a parent lovingly reads to a child, for example. We don’t need to look far to start compiling evidence that keen readers and a happy, successful life often go hand in hand. When someone asked the future-thinker and technology entrepreneur Elon Musk how he learned to build rockets he simply stated ‘I read books.’(1) Reading books is a common pattern that we see in ultra-successful people. Without books and writing, we would struggle to assimilate the compounding knowledge of humans and all those who have come before us. Instead, as we build upon ever increasing knowledge base our understanding and innovation as a species continues to astound us.
Through the use of words and books we can learn how to communicate, how to teach children right from wrong, how to express our thoughts and feelings, learn to how to a cook a certain recipe, speak a different language and indeed, learn how to build rockets.
So to revisit my earlier question - why do we read? Because it makes us communicate more efficiently and makes us smarter and happier. It helps us find meaning and healing in life. But most of all, we read because it makes us, our lives, and the lives of those around us, better.