Reading to the mind = Exercise to the body?

Joseph Addison, an English author once said: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”, but is that true? 

According to the experts, being able to read and enjoy a wide range of books throughout our lifetime can be a life changing daily routine (Moody, 1984; Bennett, 1993; Narvaez, 2002; O’Sullivan, 2004; Duffy, 2005; Norfolk & Norfolk, 2006; Wang, 2012; Almerico, 2014; Baena, 2021). This may derive from the fact that reading is a thing that cannot really be separated from the worlds of fun, education, or lifelong learning.  Reading is a complex activity which involves many things beyond processing and understanding the written format, also entailing visual activities, creative thinking, psycholinguistics, and metacognitive awareness (Kurniaman & Sismulyasih, 2019).

reading to the mind is what exercise to the body

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In addition, reading activities can develop reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge, and contribute to language and literacy development (Wasik & Bond, 2001). However, getting started may not be easy, and it can take real work to get youngsters to the point that they truly love reading. In the early stages parents and teachers both have a vital role to show and pass on to the next generation the benefits and joys of reading (Almerico, 2014; Prior et al., 2012; Helterbran, 2009; Fitriyah et al., 2022; Rahmi, 2018). 

So how and where to start?

From bedtime stories to world peace 

Since ancient times good stories and storytelling have had a central function in human life. Today we can meet with nearly countless forms of storytellers especially thanks to the entertainment industry; from the early versions in written format like books or magazines to more digital reincarnations such as (video) games, videos, and films.

Man in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially is a story-telling animal … I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ … the telling of stories has a key part in educating us into the virtues (Macintyre, 1981, p. 201)

To grow up to today’s challenging environment it has become increasingly important to find a way to integrate character education and learning into free time “home” activities as well, especially in the early life stages, during our most formative years when we are most open to new stimuli and learning which can serve as a base for later times (Crossan et al., 2016; Gunawan, 2017; Rahmi, 2018; Griszbacher et al., 2022).  As also once Gandhi said: “If we are to reach real peace in this world . . . we shall have to begin with the children.

A 'page' a day keeps the problems away?

TOP quotes about reading (own compilation)

Due to the rapid evolution of the ICT sector information is now available for nearly everyone for close to zero cost, making it difficult for fresh eyes to distinguish between good and true information (see also here) (Fitriyah et al., 2022). In contrast to digital sources, books offer a whole new experience where we become co-creators of the stories through the engagement of our imagination. Hence, literature serves as a basis for many discussions today – for example, we can recall how many people and what atmosphere welcomed the very last chapter of the Harry Potter book series by J. K. Rowling a few years ago. However, the overall picture is not so positive, as since the boom of the technological era we have experienced a strong decrease in fondness for reading among youngsters (which will negatively impact other generations as well), a phenomenon which is strongly connected to their personality and educational development (Segundo Marcos et al., 2020).  

Instilling character values can be done in many forms and ways, one of which is through reading. Character basically refers to the set of cognitive knowledge, attitudes, motivations, and skills  (read more here). At this point comes to the picture the stories (from others) which are powerful teaching tools as literary works frequently contain strong values of character education (a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes, right?). Regular reading time, a habit usually rooted at the early learning years (first the parent telling stories to children, then reading goodnight stories, finally youngsters finding their own favourites to read by themselves) can accelerate the development of a positive character by instilling character values little by little to children (Rahmi, 2018; Fitriyah et al., 2022), allocating time to read different genres of books gives virtue to the reader. For all of this to happen, it is important to introduce high quality children’s, adolescent, and young adult literature to the interested parties at a time which can provide “engaging, authentic examples of individuals who work, live, play, survive, and thrive in large part due to the values they possess” (Almerico, 2014, p. 4).

So how can books and reading boost my character?

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Griszbacher Norbert

Article Writer & Content Contributor

Norbert Griszbacher article writer at GiLE

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