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Did you know that reading is not a natural ability, but an acquired ability of the human brain?
Scientists have found that the human brain was not cut out for reading, the way it was for other things like talking, sleeping, eating and figuring out solutions to problems. According to Maryanne Wolf at the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tutts University and author of 'Proust and the Squid: The story and Science of the Reading Brain,' 'human beings were never born to read.'
Unlike the ability to comprehend and create spoken language, which in normal circumstances will develop according to a program dictated by our genes, the ability to read needs to be conscientiously acquired by each individual.
The 'reading circuits' we build are engaged from the structures in the brain that evolved for other purposes - and these circuits can be weak or they can be robust, depending on how often and how vigorously we use them.
The human brain has modified and created new connections to fathom letters and texts. Our brain reads by creating a mental picture of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page. This is an acquired skill that one can enhance only as much as one reads.
An acquired skill therefore, reading is essential for our intellectual and emotional development.
And if this hasn't gotten you rooting for books already, here are the top 5 interesting reasons why it makes perfect sense to indulge in a book -
1. Increased vocabulary: When we read, we come across new words that may not be part of our routine. This introduces us to a whole new world of words, their meanings and usage; thereby enhancing our vocabulary.
2. Clarity of thought and speech: Gradually, we start using the new words we read, in our everyday language. This helps us express ourselves better and in precise words. It also makes us a better listener as we really understand what someone else is trying to say. We learn to really listen and not just hear them, in turn helping us become better human beings.
3. Increased flow of knowledge: The more we read, the more we get to know about things. A book tells you about far off places and things that you would never otherwise know about unless you visit them all.
4. Increased ability at abstract thinking and problem solving: Reading increases the ability of abstract thinking by increasing one's power of imagination. This can help when looking for solutions to problems or by trying to understand a situation from someone else's perspective.
5. Reading improves memory and the perception of sensory detail: We create a new memory every time we read; of what we have read. This basically helps as a good exercise for our memory muscles. With every such new memory, our brain creates new synapses, reinforces current ones, and helps in sharpening our memory. Also, when someone reads slowly, immersing themselves in the story at hand, their experiences are rich in sensory detail and engage the brain in emotional and moral questioning. This immersion is buoyed by the way the brain manages to understand the language rich in detail, insinuation and metaphor: by creating a mental image that draws on the same regions of the brain that would be active if the act were actually unfolding in real life.
There are several more advantages to reading that become evident the more one explores the many facets of reading. But suffice it so say, that just as the body requires regular exercise to stay fit, so does the brain require the regular exercise of reading to sustain mental health.
So go ahead, and indulge in a book! It is good for your child; and it is good for you too!