It’s awakening to realize how integral and central in our lives reading actually is. Ever since you were born you’ve been reading. You were able to learn a language with the help of reading. Everything you’ve learnt and studied in school, university was initiated and furthered because of reading. Remember the chits you would pass your friends when you were in a classroom? You read them and wrote back! Or when you would talk to your classmate by writing on the last page of your textbook?

Your professional communication on this day depends on reading messages, memos, mails, websites, etc. To take your medicine, you have to read the prescription or the medicine’s name, to start/fix a machine you read its manual, you read a menu to order at a restaurant or an app. Reading influences our communication so heavily that not only did we learn it with reading’s help but these days, texting has become our major form of communicating with others!

So much would be impossible without the ability to read. Imagine how it would be like to not be able to read? It would be a world without words, without art. It would be a hollow existence, an empty life. Such a lifeless existence is illustrated in Fahrenheit 451, a novel by Ray Bradbury about a dystopian world where books are banned and burned. There’s about 25.63% of India’s population that’s actually illiterate as of 2018, and the world’s illiteracy rate is 13.7% (2018, UNESCO). Maybe after imagining this and looking at the reality, you may be able to appreciate the significance of reading as well as help encourage and create awareness. On 23 April, World Book Day is celebrated where awareness, importance of reading, copyright and publishing is highlighted; and a love for reading & writing is shared & celebrated. For World Book Day 2020 the idea was to share as many books as possible during COVID-19, the four themes being: ‘reading in all its forms, development of the book industry infrastructure, inclusiveness and digital accessibility, and empowerment of children through reading.’

Reading can challenge our own understanding and help in making us more open-minded. It makes us inclusive of different perspectives that wouldn’t even occur to us. This can be better understood through the novel, The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, which is a reimagining of the Hindi Mahabharata told from the perspective of Draupadi. 

The feeling of losing yourself in a book, getting so engrossed in the text and enjoying it that you don’t even notice how much time has passed is an experience that will make you feel very whole and at peace. But the reality is that for so many people, reading has been reduced to clicking on that occasional article, WhatsApp messages and emails, sometimes the newspapers and so on. The more you grow older the more you notice how less of time you actually have to yourself. Even many people who used to read a lot when they were younger have seemingly lost their touch with it.

However, while the fact that you’re occasionally picking up the newspaper and reading articles on your phone is great, there still exists a need to inculcate a habit of reading. 

why do i need to make a habit out of reading?

There are a lot of reasons why reading is an important habit, majorly it is good for your cognition, well-being, personal and professional life. 

We all know that reading will increase your vocabulary and consequently, your ability to communicate and write in that language. Reading is a stress management tool as well and it is known to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s (as supported by researches) and also does wonders for your memory

 It enhances you professionally by helping build your empathy, how you put your point across, your self-image and how you deal with things under pressure. Imagining different scenarios, analyzing complex sub-plots and characters doesn’t just increase your analytical skills but it also helps you become more understanding and inclusive of differences in people and cultures (according to a research in 2013, reading fiction can make you more empathetic as compared to reading non-fiction). For instance, reading a book by Khaled Hosseini (author of Kite Runner & A Thousand Splendid Suns) will make you fully experience a range of emotions, is captivating and thought-provoking as it opens your own personal barriers. When you take into consideration different views and become introspective, you can more easily work in a team as well as become better at making decisions, which gives you a professional edge. 

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