By Reon Janse van Rensburg
“Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.” – Aldous Huxley
In a world of TV screens, laptops, tablets and smartphones, we all spend time watching one programme or video after another, taking in very small chunks of information at a time, and then it is easy to forget how nice it is to curl up and really lose ourselves in a good book.
According to a survey conducted by the Jenkins Group in the USA, 42% of university graduates never read another book after completing their studies, and 33% of people who finish high school never read another book for the rest of their lives.
Society’s views and tastes with regard to the reading of books have changed a lot in the last decade, and with just a few clicks technological innovations give us quick online access to the information we want.
However, this kind of behaviour has not only damaged the need to read and digest longer pieces for personal development or just for the fun of reading something; it also shortened our attention span and hampered our language skills.
Literacy is not just about reading and writing; it also aims to help people understand the complexities of the world and life in general and to improve the way you think, communicate and act, in order to make you a better and smarter person.
Benefits of reading
Critical literacy and improving text comprehension
Sometimes writers (often without their knowledge) are prejudiced when they write and therefore not all articles, books etc. should be taken equally seriously. It can also happen that when you read about topics of which you have little or no knowledge, the text makes no sense, and you may have to reread a piece to understand what the author means. However, the more one reads, the easier it becomes to learn new words and expand one’s language skills.
When you read, you also increase your attention span by being more focused on the book you are reading and by paying less attention to what is going on around you.
Improve your vocabulary
You need not be a linguist to communicate properly. There is no point in changing the way you speak or write just to impress your friends, but when you use the right words in the right context, your writing and speaking skills become more professional.
Reading not only improves your vocabulary; it also helps you to learn new dialects.
How do you improve your vocabulary?
- Read as much as you can. You do not have to read a book that you struggle with to the point of boredom. Start with a book on a topic that interests you, or lose yourself in a novel written by your favourite author. Do not read in a place where you are likely to be disturbed, and avoid your cell phone or the television while paying attention to what you are reading.
- Make notes. Whenever you come across a new word while reading, write down the word. If you are uncertain about the meaning, consult an explanatory dictionary that explains the meaning of the word.
- In the workplace, it sometimes happens that we have to speak in front of people. We have to explain new concepts, products and services to our colleagues. This means that we should be able to use words with ease to convey the right message. The best advice for expanding your vocabulary and getting comfortable with the use of new words is to write. Start writing about something you are passionate about. Keep a diary in which you write down your daily activities. Writing releases new words and teaches you to convey a message in the easiest and best way.
- Cultivate new interests. New interests often result in us learning and using new words.
Reading is the key to success. Not only does it improve your communication skills, but it is also great fun and offers enjoyment that no television programme can beat.
Adult Literacy: Better Reading Comprehension, How to Speed-Read, and Some Life-Changing Literature to Improve Your Life – https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/adult-literacy/