I love books. I’ve always been a bookworm, but I despair at my son who’s never been that keen. Or at least, not keen on reading for himself for pleasure. There are so many benefits to books – they bring so much pleasure, exploration and enjoyment for so many people. I think we should celebrate books more often.
Facts about reading and literacy
While there are so many advantages of books and reading, unfortunately not everyone can read. Although the literacy rate (the ability to read and write) has increased over the years. In 1820 only 12% could read and write. Nowadays only 14% are unable to do so (Source). Generally it’s poorer countries and populations within countries that are illiterate.
In the US approximately 32 million adults can’t read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. In the UK 7.1m adults have very poor literacy skills..
The Annual Literacy Survey in 2021 covering over 34,000 children and young people in the UK suggested that 6% don’t have a single book at home. If you own a book you’re more likely to enjoy reading and obviously more likely to read in your spare time.
A study of over 160,000 adults between 2011-2015 found that having more than 80 books (up to 350) at home increased the levels of literacy, numeracy and IT communication technology (ICT) skills. The US average is 114, but Scandinavians have the highest averages with 13-14% in Swedes and Norwegians having more than 500 (Source) Children living in households with lots of books also positively impacts their educational and ICT skills when older.
Hopefully the numbers of those able to read will continue to increase as they have over the years..
But why are books so amazing? (and within that I include fiction and non fiction). Here’s some of the reasons why we should celebrate books, and their benefits.
Why we should celebrate books
There’s so much choice.
Whatever your preference for topic, theme or author, there’s a book to suit.
They’re relatively easy to access.
Books can be bought cheaply – charity shops and car boot sales always have plenty on offer. While libraries enable people to borrow numerous books for free. There are also other places to look out for books from community hubs and phone box libraries, to book swaps.
They help increase vocabulary.
Think how language has changed over the years. From Chaucer and Shakespeare creating new words to modern day slang and text speak. Each year new words make it into the dictionary, and books open up people’s minds to new language and words.
Helps us articulate better what we want to say.
More vocabulary and better understanding helps improve our speech in variety and use of better language.
They help improve our writing skills.
We learn from other writing, different types of text, different language and formation of words and sentences. As a child at school in the 80s and 90s, I didn’t learn grammar at school like they do today. But I read all the time, so learnt my writing skills through my reading.
They can keep your mind sharp.
Reading about facts, figures and trivia will keep your mind sharp, but all books keep the brain thinking and being challenged. Studies have shown that reading is able to leave physical changes to the brain days after a person reads a book. Subjects showed heightened brain ability even when they weren’t actively reading.
They’re a form of escapism.
Books are an escape from everyday life. They open our eyes to other worlds and beings. Stories of living that we would never be a part of in real life
They lead us to adventures
They may encourage you to try new things and visit new places.
They’re full of education
Books are about education. They provide a breadth of learning from different voice and opinions, and bring depth of knowledge from reading more about a topic.
They don’t just educate on the topic you’re reading about. If you read a lot it will help with other subjects. It peaks your interest in learning about other things. If you want to know about something you can find out through reading about it, researching. But reading is also crucial in most school subjects especially if you want to take it further than a basic education.
People gain a lot of pleasure from books
Books are enjoyable. The act of reading, of choosing a book, of reading, and satisfaction with the ending.
They drive imagination.
Stories can create a picture in your head of characters and places. How often have you watched a film and been disappointed in the characters because you’ve read the book first so have an idea of the characters (Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher!). It develops you imagination in different ways.
They can inspire and provide a world of opportunity
Eyes are opened to what else is out there. Whether it’s careers, people or places to visit. I remember asking my mum to take us to visit the Rollright Stones after I read Whispering Knights by Penelope Lively, and to see the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens after reading a book that mentioned it.
They can change your life
Generally for better. Whether it’s a political viewpoint, cultural understanding, an emotional passage or self help book, books will help you understand more about other people and the world. They can strengthen your beliefs and conviction if you agree with the view, or broaden our perspectives if it’s the opposite to our views.
They can guide us
If we’re confused or searching for some meaning in life, they can provide us options and a route towards the end goal.
They can explain life
How life came about, how it’s changed, and maybe how things may look in the future. Books can explain things happening to us and around us.
Can help us open up, understand ourselves.
Our minds open when reading,giving us new and other things to think about, perspectives from people different to us.
They challenge and answer questions
Books can stimulate our thoughts. It makes use challenge what we thought we knew and liked, but can also answer questions we have.
Books can be a record of time and history.
Personal stories, narrated, or just based in reality with a fictional layer on top. Without them we would know less.
Are you a book lover? What’s your favourite reason to celebrate books?