Reading can change a life - Lifestyles

Reading can change a life - Lifestyles: Published June 3, 2012, Posted: Saturday, June 2, 2012 10:00 pm

You may have noticed my byline ending in an encouragement to read because “you might just change your life.” Really? Can reading really change lives?

Yes. And there are all sorts of non-fiction books out there right now to prove it. One of them that I recently enjoyed is: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas G. Carr, which addressed concerns I have had about wading in “the shallows” (the internet or other screens of choice). The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains Carr’s sources found that the internet affects your intellect by “hard wiring” your brain to shorter attention spans because it is always looking for those quick pulses that tell it in some form or fashion that “you’ve got mail.” A little bit of that is just fine and pleasurable. But Carr concludes that if we get too much of it, and if we don’t counter it with brain food, it will affect us — at work and at play.

Here is the good news according to Carr. Even if you notice that you are addicted to the internet, it doesn’t have to define you or encompass you. Force down time, read a book, get outside and your deep thinking will hum with pleasure. The research cited in The Shallows finds that deep thinking makes us smarter, better at what we do and more empathetic.

So what about reading, right here in Lamar County? I’ll soon be back on board as a committee chair for the Lamar County Coalition’s Reading to the Future program. That program was started as an effort to help raise third grade reading levels here, as that level was low and indicative of a lack of a skilled labor force. For several years now, all second grade classes in Lamar County have been read to each school week by community volunteers. But it can’t stop there. If we want to have and give quality life, we must also take the time for reading and, by doing so, encourage others to read.

Annie Murphy Paul recently reported in The New York Times (“Your Brain on Fiction”) from sources finding that your brain doesn’t make much distinction between reading about an experience and actually encountering it in real life. Reading fiction helps us understand the complexities of social life and relate to others. It hones our real life social skills. It makes our minds keener.

We all want that for our children and community. And summer is the perfect time for it. So, I invite you to make summer plans to engage in some uninterrupted deep reading. Make it a goal to read at least one more book than normal. Show the youngsters in your life that it is not just about points or grades. It’s about life.

But don’t just read. Talk about what you read — brag if you must. Leave a book lying around, buy a book for a friend, go to the Library or a book store with a friend, sign a child up for the Library summer program and join our growing number of area readers on Goodreads. Share with others what you have liked and actively look for ideas on what to read next. It is life changing.

But that’s just my opinion. So turn off your screen and pick up a book. You be the judge — you might just change your life — and the lives of others.

Sydney Young is a Paris resident and an avid reader.


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