March 2, 2017
Today is World Book Day 2017. A day which marks when families and schools in the UK and in over 100 other countries across the world will be encouraging generation Z (this time around) to switch off their game consoles, televisions and mobiles. Instead, they will be encouraged to pick up a good old fashioned book. Or in this generations case, maybe a Kindle or tablet.
We’re talking about the UNESCO organised celebration World Book Day. Aimed at getting kids around the world to read books they haven’t yet encountered and more books from authors and series that are already treasured favourites. The celebration occurs yearly and has done so since 1995. In the UK, bookstalls and fancy-dress mark the event in schools across the country. World Book Day is made possible due to the generosity of a number of organisations, making book tokens available to millions of children so they can purchase £1 books from a special selected list of titles.
However, for some members of generation X & Y, picking up a book to read this World Book Day should really be considered. You don’t have to dress up but you should probably know the average reading ability of the UK is at the national level expected of a 9-year-old. If you’re reading this now but haven’t picked up a book in a while, the above infographic can help get you back into reading.
Aimed at adults, the shelves of the infographic can help you choose a book to pick up. It contains a mix of genres, all infamous best sellers, enjoyed by the whole world. If you feel jumping head first into an Agatha Christie murder mystery might be too much of a head spin, there’s beloved fantasy tales from the likes of the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series to choose from – family favourites which transcends age.
So, why do some of us grown ups decide, whether consciously or not, to not pick up a book again after school or college has finished? Many cite bad experiences with “boring” schoolbooks, which ruin the reading experience and forever becoming associated with negative memories.
The Baby Boomers had less diverse options when it came to how to spend their leisurely time. Today, generations X, Y and Z have many available options for entertainment. Everything from digital TV, video streaming, computer and console gaming, unlimited access to music, modern and accessible sports facilities and social hubs such as bars and clubs, which are open all day and night. In a world of unrivalled entertainment and the constant upgrading of technology, for some adults, reading has taken a back-seat.
If you reside in Britain or The USA, it doesn’t help that in the celebrity obsessed culture, icons such as Victoria Beckham have proclaimed ‘they have never read a book,’ apparently simply not having the time. The idea of 1 in 4 adults claiming books aren’t for them is sadly not surprising. Several issues have been highlighted as to why people stop reading; including procrastination, lack of discipline and feelings of disconnection with the storyline. Ever picked up a book, read a few chapters, picked it back up and forgotten what you’ve already read? (this is more about memory than reading ability?) You’re not alone. It is also reported that 1 in 5 of the UK population struggle to read a medicine label or use a chequebook. We aren’t born with a diverse vocabulary; even famed authors develop their skills overtime. Reading books and listening to storytelling is of the most effective way to improve peoples understanding of words. So why does the encouragement to read stop at school when adults can also continue to learn from and enjoy reading.
Humans have identified reading as the being at the core of all education, an essential attribute of the global economy and societies wellbeing. According to research, illiteracy in the UK is costing the UK economy billions each year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending. Ever since Johannes Gutenberg of Germany introduced printing to Europe, the world has operated as a knowledge-based economy. The spread of learning to the masses was the main mechanism to bringing humans into the modern world we inhabit and are thankful for today. Worryingly, some adult’s attitudes held towards reading, and consequently their reading ability, could be having a detrimental affect on other areas of their lives.
The Trades Union Congress has recently identified stress in UK workplaces as the biggest hazard to health, worsening and triggering mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and causing some of us to struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. Thankfully, reading is scientifically proven to help remedy stress and is an antidote to a better night’s sleep. Put down your bright phone, pick up a book and turn on a dim light and you’ll soon drift off.
Studies at Washington University utilised brain scans to determine the effects reading has on our brains. Their research revealed that “readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative”. Our brains combine the content of the book with situations and experiences from own lives, ultimately creating a new mental synthesis resulting in new neural pathways.
Thus, reading can make us more empathetic and raises our awareness levels. We become more conscious of the world around us and have an increased interest in others wellbeing. This effect on our thought process and how we view the world can only occur if we the reader escape the distractions and emotions of the real world temporarily and completely delve into the story. If the reader cannot do this, it may not be the right book for them, or it may also relate back to the aforementioned reasons as to why people stop reading.
Reading is, for many, the beginning of individual journeys of personal development and enjoyment. Books reveal the imaginative and emotional abilities of our minds, creating and reinforcing our sense of self. In reading this article and the supportive infographic, the introspective benefits of reading books in their entirety should now be apparent to you. World Book Day is a celebration of authors, books, publishers, illustrators – and most importantly – it’s a celebration of reading. One that we should all be a part of.