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The Power of Reading in Today’s Digital World

In today’s digital world the power of reading is misunderstood and neglected. The reason for this is reading requires concentration and engagement. It requires a systemic and concerted effort on the part of the reader and therefore it often seems daunting for the reader. Digital media on the other hand is easy to imbibe since it is interspersed with photographs and illustrations which make it easy on the eye and requires little concentration.

However, we should remember, that reading has infinite possibilities. Firstly reading expands our knowledge tremendously. Even if we are reading fiction like short stories and novels, they give us an insight into human nature or information about other countries, foreign lands and people. They also dwell upon customs, traditions and norms of people living in far away lands. We also realised their values. It helps us to understand human behaviour and reaction. It casts a spotlight on why people react in the way they do. Novels and short stories often portray individuals based on real people and we get a ready insight into human nature by reading them. How people deal with their day to day problems and tackle tricky or difficult situations can help us to deal with our problems as well. As we know, we can see things only from a single point of view and our experience can only be limited to our doings but by reading novels we are exposed to a hitherto unknown panorama which in turn makes us richer in the end.

Reading expands our imagination as well. Characters and situations in books are often imagined and fantasised. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities we may have never thought of before. As children we are exposed to fairy tales by our mothers and fathers. Children are often read stories by parents and grandparents which not only entertain them by leading them into a world which they have not known but they open new vistas. We enter a wondrous world of fairies and elves, goblins and wizards which are undoubtedly fantasy but they open up our imagination and hence our creativity as well. When fantastic characters emerge from the pages of a book we dwell upon their extraordinary characteristics and this leads us to expand our imagination which in turn leads to making the impossible possible. In recent times Harry Potter books have become popular amongst not only youngsters but even adults. The probably reason is not only the interesting story line but the flight of imagination it gives the reader. This kind of imaginative artistry is next to impossible with digital media.

The obvious benefit of reading is of course expanding and strengthening one’s language skills. Many persons ask me, “How can we write like you?” Or “How can we become writers?” My answer is simple:“Read, read, read. Only reading can make you a writer. The next question then is “What should we read?” “Read anything that you enjoy,” is my answer. Yes, literally read anything, be it a newspapers, magazines, fairy tales, fantasy novels, hard bound biographies or histories or even comics.

Reading will open up several opportunities to expand one’s language skills. You will come across new and exciting words and phrases. It’s not really necessary to use a dictionary when reading. You will begin to understand the new words and phrases as you read when the context is clear. New words will make you coin new phrases when you communicate. Almost all professions require skilled communication and this is possible when you command a diverse and rich vocabulary so that you can not only express yourself with clarity but with creativity as well.

An important skill imparted with reading is using the right phrase or word. The possibilities of language are infinite. How can we choose the right words to express ourselves? How can this become second nature? This is possible only by reading. Words will cling to you as you read, you will begin to understand the musicality of some, the solid dependability of others and also ruminate on the sound of some. When you read ‘classics’ that is, books which are read and reread even hundreds of years after they have been written you will begin to enjoy the sheer joy of new and unknown vocabulary. The cadence will in turn lead you to enjoy the turn of phrase and the sheer beauty of the writer’s expression. Most of us will turn to classics when possible versus ‘pulp’ or fast fiction which undoubtedly entertains but doesn’t leave us with a lasting impression. The classics provide a lasting foundation and hone our language skills without us even knowing that it is happening.

However, reading critically is equally important. What is critical reading? Critical reading is dissecting what you are reading and mentally noting what is important for you in what you have read. Good criticism requires concentration and purpose: to keep what is relevant and to discard what is not. To be able to distill knowledge and remember it is a passion we need to create. If you have it, you will be a polished communicator and even a leader. Anyone who can express themselves well are an asset in every company or job. They are sought after and command higher positions. Hence the obvious benefit.

I also hear youngsters complaining quite often, “But there is no time to read”. This is an obvious exaggeration. Even the busiest person can find time to read, be it while commuting or drinking a cup of coffee. Reading cannot be sacrificed at the altar of a needlessly busy life. We have to find time for reading and ruminating on what we have read. Only then will it be possible to grow as an individual and a professional. Every bit of knowledge gleaned will lead to fruitier pastures and you can then reap the benefits in the long run.

Whatever you read, enjoy it. Choose that which keeps you enthralled and engrossed, the topic can be any: As you know there is no dearth of what you can read: novellas, novels, short stories, histories, biographies, travel, leisure, hospitality, medicine, politics, geography, nature, animals, science, space, fantasy, futurology, cookery, tradition, art and craft et al. This list is not exhaustive. Choose wisely because with time you will realize that you do not have sufficient time to read all that you want. Spend on buying books which give you immense pleasure and which you can dip into any time. They will endure the test of time. Reading can give us infinite pleasure and unending joy and we should never by pass the tremendous benefits we can get from reading even in this fast paced digital world where images and photos abound but the lure of it should be minimized and more weight should be given to literary and wholesome reading.

Dr. Sushama Kasbekar
Dr. Sushama Kasbekar
Dr. Sushama Kasbekar is an author, journalist, educator and content writer. She has recently published two children’s books on Amazon and is going to publish her second novel soon. As Associate Professor at Assumption University, Bangkok from 2000-2018 and Reader at the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Indore University from 1986-2000 she had an illustrious academic career.
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