Why Reading is ‘Doing Something’

Do you ever get the feeling that people assume if you’re reading, you’re not ‘doing’ anything?

Readablejoelrobison

Photo by Joel Robison

I spend most of my time reading. Reading subtitles, reading books, articles and blog posts, reading signs, reading captions at the theatre – pretty much everything I do is connected to reading. My life is text. My second language might be BSL (British Sign Language), but my first language is English. Though I speak, I prefer to read and write – this is my natural language. I express myself far better in writing than I do in person, or at least it feels that way. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I respect other people’s attempts to express themselves in writing.

Quite apart from the benefits and pleasures of reading (expanding your knowledge, making connections, using your imagination), reading is also something that is ‘doing’. I don’t take it for granted and I understand that many people don’t have the same access to books and language. Perhaps being deaf has made me conscious of how my own grasp of language is important. I’ve thought a lot about why my first language is English and not BSL. One reason is because I was diagnosed with severe to profound progressive sensorineural hearing loss at 6, and by then I was already drinking up books and excited about words and language.

My Mum learnt BSL level 1 once it was discovered my sister and I were both deaf, but we rejected BSL through preference at the time. My childhood was saturated with books. My eyes drank them in. I feel that the earlier a child has access to language – either sign language or a mother-tongue, the better equipped they will be. Perhaps the disconnect comes when a language is not picked up until later – when there is a disruption in language acquisition. Many children are deprived of early language – and I mean either sign or spoken. If a child is completely deaf, and they don’t learn any kind of language until later on, it may hinder their language development.

Why do I feel reading is such an important and valid activity? I’m not going to be a snob and say that people who don’t read are missing out (but I do kind of think that, sorry people!), but I am going to say that books have given me many things. They have developed my empathy, intuition and sensitivity to others. The wider you read, the more you will learn about other people, the more you will understand there are many different ways of being.

Dreamjoelrobison

Photo by Joel Robison

When I was a child, reading often saved me – from the pain of being rejected by friends in the playground, from boredom on days where time stretched out into infinity, from the fear of being an outsider (Matilda). As an adult, reading gives me ideas, introduces me to complex feelings and a deeper understanding of myself and others, comforts me in times when I don’t have the words myself. Then there are the eureka, ‘yes, that’s it!’ moments that come when you read something that perfectly describes a thought, feeling, or way of being that you simply couldn’t find anywhere else.

I feel that it’s disrespectful to say to someone ‘stop reading and go out there and experience reality’ – because there is just as much reality in books as there is out in the world (can you tell I’ve been on the receiving end of this before?). In fact, so many people who read also have a thirst for life – for experience. They want to see things and feel things. They want to support people and exchange stories. Books and articles are other people’s experiences and imagination – a sharing – and they give you the need to share too. Your brain needs to be kept on its toes and to use its imagination – and these skills can be applied to everything else in life.

Books (and longer feature articles) are also one answer to a 21st century problem – the problem of focus and distraction. It means you have the opportunity to switch off your computer, put your feet up and ignore the world of social media. It gives your brain incentive to focus on one thing at a time, to give your full attention to something. When I’m panicking about not being able to focus on my writing or on life in general, I switch everything off, pick up my Kindle or a paperback, and give myself some focusing time. It will switch my attention from the cry of many voices, to one voice, one focus – therefore centring my attention.

This is why the answer to the question – ‘why aren’t you doing anything?’ – is ‘I am, I’m reading.’

‘People might tell you that reading is a way to hide from the world, and sometimes it can be, but in my experience, people who love books are also interested in myriad other things. They love music and movies and travel food and (gasp!) even television. As a friend of mine says, books make you a glutton for life. They show you how much there is to be experienced in the world. So let them do that. Let them make you curious. Let them make you hungry. Let them give you more questions than answers.’ – Rebecca Schinsky, 5 Reading Rules For Book Lovers Of All Ages.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. swo8 says:

    I agree. Reading is very important. It takes one away on a journey into another world. It helps you understand why some people do what they do. It is a time for reflection and thought. We don’t seem to have enough time for that now.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindapano says:

    I completely agree with you! Great post:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Liz Ward says:

      Thank you 🙂

      Like

  3. Wonderful post. Reading is certainly not nothing. It excites my mind in a way that nothing else does.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sammy D. says:

    Absolutely. Books are my world. I am not an audio person; i am a textual, visual person. I live in my books.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. saedt says:

    Reading is music for your eyes ^ ^ I am a music hobbyist and I think that is a perfect description of it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. cardamone5 says:

    Reading has always been my salvation. I read for hours before I go to bed, and that quiet time is essential for my mental and physical well being. When my depression and anxiety got out of control, I stopped sleeping and was unable to concentrate on anything, let alone books. It was so hard to give up that reprieve. It worsened my symptoms. I am so glad you wrote this post because it expressed beautifully how I feel about reading, and broadened my understanding of its essentialness.. Thank you.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  7. andreablythe says:

    I agree with this one hundred percent. I love to read and don’t feel like it’s a waste of time. It’s been valuable to me ever since I first picked up a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful post! “I’m not going to be a snob and say that people who don’t read are missing out (but I do kind of think that, sorry people!)” — hehe, I agree 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kat Dullum says:

    Loved the passion that came through so crystal clear for your love of books. If reading is a waste of time it is the best waste you can have. My Kindle goes everywhere with me. Not reading, to me, is a waste of time. Wonderful post and very well written.
    P.S. Props to Joel Robison for his great photographs! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. benzeknees says:

    I developed my love for reading very early in my life. It was my escape from an abusive home. I could pretend I was somewhere else when I was reading. My love for it has stayed with my all my life. My hubby is not a reader & doesn’t understand my need to read. It does feel like a need & I absolutely cannot fall asleep unless I read something.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. qrparker says:

    Oh man, I was recently diagnosed as having some significant hearing loss. This may be weird coming out of nowhere, but how do you cope? Is it something you think about a lot, or do have you gotten used to it?

    Like

  12. lisajagger1 says:

    I totaly agree. As a child I was constantly being told to ‘put your book down whilst we are eating’ (probably had a point there!). I chose to read in a corner at school break-times, I wasn’t a popular kid, my mum was a teacher at our school…. Books gave me friends, adventures and a bit of escapism sometimes. Books gave me knowledge, company, and a way to understand the world. They still do!
    I’m just beginning to understand that writing can give me all this too to an extent, but sometimes reading is much easier!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. love the picture ❤

    Like

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