A Healthy Reading Reminder

There was an article in USA Today the other day that discussed several recent studies about the benefits of reading books.

We probably all are familiar with the general findings. Reading books makes you smarter. Reading books gives you a larger vocabulary. Reading books makes you more empathetic. Reading certain books can help with certain ailments. (Although there is some debate about that one.)

Nothing in the article is actually all that new, except maybe for the fact that reading fiction books is actually “better” for you than nonfiction books. And at least the suggestion that reading printed books has healthier effects than listening to audiobooks or reading eBooks.

What makes the article important in my mind is just its appearance in a major publication. I get the feeling that people are reading books less and less. I know they are in the community we serve.

Libraries are doing a lot of different things these days to remain relevant. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this. I understand the need to change with the times, to be on the cutting edge, to be able to survive in a world with Amazon and Apple and Facebook, to try to keep giving people a reason to come back.

But I think our most important responsibility sometimes gets lost among the attempt to keep up with the flashy. We need to be promoting the importance of reading books. People need to read for all of the reasons mentioned above. People need to read books so we are not stuck with a Presidential election like this year. People need to read books to make the world a better place.

And if libraries do not promote reading books, who will?

Chris Owens
Blandford Public Library

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1 Comment

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One response to “A Healthy Reading Reminder

  1. Chris, I agree that we need to be promoting reading. And, it can be a daunting mission with all the choices readers have for finding information and books in different formats.

    I also believe that there is a transitioning taking place around the country. I see it when I visit my grandchildren in Houston. I see it at our library. I overhear it at the grocery store. Parents and caregivers are seeing the importance of including in their child’s busy schedules, a visit to their library or Bookmobile. The transition is a shift from all things electronic and towards to the traditional book… ink on paper with a cover and a spine.

    Programs for new caregivers and their babies are thriving across the country. Books for babies and children are published in great numbers with extraordinary illustrations and story lines. Children are still begging to be read “one more book” before they go to sleep.

    I have even written a few children’s books to share with my grandchildren (with the main characters being those precious children).

    Perhaps it is a longing for a simpler time, perhaps a recognition of the potential dangers of staring at a computer screen, albeit a small one, all day. I choose to believe books have always been popular, but were not the loudest horn in the parade when eBooks, digital books, electronic readers, etc. joined the parade.

    Books are still our library’s number one format. We keep our collection fresh, weeded, current, relevant and authoritative. It is a living organism which means it is constantly moving, changing, being displayed, etc.

    A microcosm of a library can be seen on any bookmobile. The books remain fresh to each stop as items are borrowed and returned from multiple places in the county. There is always something new on the bookmobile (where shelf-space which we call “real estate” is in demand and each item must earn its place and justify its existence.)

    So, yes, yes, yes, continue pushing reading through all the avenues we have to do so. Start new book clubs, Talk about books to everyone. As I said in library school in the early 1990s, I firmly believe the traditional book will never go away. It is the librarians’ job to keep our shelves filled while at the same time offering alternative and up and coming formats.

    Happy Reading!

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