9th December: Books (& Libraries)

You can get lost in a book, especially if it is one of those that you feel that you are not supposed to be reading aged thirteen years old. Never mind Fifty Shades of Grey* it was Fifty Shades of lustful Silhouette Desire romantic fiction series when I was growing up. In addition to providing an insight into the compelling world of adults, I am so thankful for books for their ability to inspire, educate and for the sheer enjoyment of being absorbed in a brilliant story.

Humans learnt to speak before writing. It is thought that the written word evolved because Plato et al discovered that recording a speech on a stone tablet made it easier for their memories and therefore share with others and achieve longevity. It was not until the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in the Fifteenth Century however, that the general population starting reading. The brain had to adapt to learn how to read and write and suspect that this new technology in the late Middle Ages was met with similar derision that many people in the last decade have felt with the arrival of email, texting and emoticons.

Research has shown that as far as what is happening in the brain is concerned, reading makes us more empathetic, increases white matter (this aids speedy transmission and communication between neurons), allows us to experience other imaginary worlds and views (as the brain does not seem to distinguish between real and fantasy) and increases intelligence.

As I have been known to read over two-hundred books a year**, I am of course delighted at these discoveries! Intuitively, we know that reading is highly beneficial and also relaxing, as it quietens the busy mind. Whilst reading a page-turner book, it is extremely difficult to be thinking of other things. Perhaps, this explains why many people particularly enjoy reading before bed and whilst on holiday.

I am an avid supporter of libraries and encouraging children to read too. As a student, I babysat a child and was saddened to discover that the only reading matter in her home was NHS pamphlets, which my friend and I soon rectified. Such is the importance of reading on the developing brain, that it is anticipated that digital natives (children) who do not read many books will struggle with concentration and attention issues. Indeed, the affects of scanning text on a screen is already taking its toll. Have you found yourself impatiently skimming anything on or offline recently?

The moving video below captures the magic of reading and thank you to comedian, Russell Howard for highlighting why books and libraries matter. Thank you, books.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDtOdTYE2YY

*Surprisingly, I have yet to read this best-seller.

**In case you are wondering that my home is full of bookcases, I only have one, as the majority of books I order from the library. I am extremely grateful to the staff sourcing my diverse requests: as one librarian kindly commented, my book ordering has considerably enhanced the library stock. As much of my reading is work related, I have a strict rule and on holiday, will only read popular fiction or autobiographies.

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