There are more exciting ways to consume stories now. We have endless television and reams of film to watch. They tell us the same stories, but take less time and less effort.
A person’s attention span can hold onto an article at a time, perhaps, but committing to a whole book, or a series of books, is something that fewer and fewer people want to do.
And it’s a shame that people have lost that connection with literature.
Throughout history, people have used stories to teach people things and to share with others. It’s no different now. Sometimes, they are shared in different ways, but ultimately sitting down to read something can have a hugely positive impact on the way you interact with the world.
IT TAKES YOU THROUGH A STORY AT A UNIQUE PERSONAL LEVEL
While film, television, games and a number of other media also convey stories of morality and humanity to the world, reading them in a book will always be the one that most helps you. You get to envision it in your own way. How you imagine things, no matter how precise the writer’s description, will always slightly differ from the way someone else does. That makes every story, in some little way, completely personal to you. If ever you need to stop and digest something you’ve just read, you can. Always. You can’t pause something you’ve gone to watch in a cinema. You get to choose your own pace and make your own decisions about what’s going on in your own time. That intense connection with a book is unique to its format.
IT TEACHES YOU EMPATHY
Every story has a protagonist, a main character you follow from the start of the story to the end. If the story expects to be compelling, the reader has to care about what happens to this character, they have to be relatable to the reader. If you’ve ever caught yourself getting upset about something that hasn’t happened to someone who doesn’t exist, you’re learning empathy. If you cried when Dobby died, you learned empathy. If you can emote over someone who isn’t real, you’re already much better equipped to help real people in trouble.
IT ALLOWS YOU TO LEARN FROM THINGS WITHOUT EXPERIENCING THEM FIRST HAND
While it is famously claimed that all stories boil down to the same handful of general plotlines, there are an infinite number of individual books and stories that are out there to be read. Some tell of things that can never exist in this world, others of things that may well happen to you. But they all have a lesson at their foundation. And reading allows you to learn that lesson, to go on the same moral journey as the protagonist, without having to suffer those hardships in real life.
IT EXERCISES YOUR BRAIN
One of the most obvious benefits of reading is the intellectual one. You are forced to use your power of imagination. You train your ability to focus on one thing despite whatever else might be going on around you, particularly if you make a habit of reading on public transport. As well as learning whatever your protagonist learns from the story, the act of reading in itself generates positive mental skills.
IT DEVELOPS YOUR SENSE OF MORALITY
Most good stories have a moral conundrum at their core. If you have properly engaged with the story, you’ll probably come up with your own ideas about what you think is right and wrong in the situation. From this, you can glean your own views of all kinds of sensitive issues. If a story directly tackles an ethical topic, your thoughts on that particular issue will collect quickly. But any story with any kind of moral dilemma will encourage you to consider your own attitudes towards life as a whole. By pushing you to think about your opinions, it helps you to frame your thoughts for when you need to make any kind of real ethical decision.
IT PREPARES YOU FOR THE IMPERFECTION IN THE WORLD
No good story is happy all the way through. Something happens to disrupt an equilibrium that, if not perfect, is at least stable. The main character has to fight for their happy ending. They spend perhaps the whole story struggling with their central issue and it takes the length of a book to get past it. If you can learn anything from a story, it is that the world is not always on your side. That if you want to live happily ever after, you have to earn it. That some people never get to that blissful Neverland at The End, but that there is always excitement and adventure in the journey.
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