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Why reading makes you smart

#HRLADYSHIP Travel Heather Gupta • January 16, 2017
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My mother taught me to read at the tender age of 3. Aged 4 years old, I was reading “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a book for 11-year-olds. So precocious was I, that the headteacher of my infant’s school (pre-school equivalent) accused me of telling fibs, until I read out loud to her.

Precocious I may have been, but I owe a great deal to my Mum’s patient diligence. Books were my ally throughout my childhood, and I was never without one (and a spare in case I finished it). I discovered amazing worlds, developed relationships with incredible characters, and learned to write my own stories. I went on to study English Literature at university, and vaguely flirted with the idea of being a journalist, until I ended up in advertising.

Reading not only helps develop written and verbal communication skills, it ensures that spelling and grammar basics are in place, and helps develop a wide vocabulary. Simply put, avid readers sound smarter! Studying literature, particularly as a degree choice, has also helped my analytical prowess, and that’s been invaluable throughout my career.

Although I don’t get so much time to read books these days (reading is one of the biggest sacrifices a working Mum makes!) I cannot imagine a life without books. And although I don’t expect others to be as obsessive as me, I’m always slightly disturbed when people say they “hate reading” or “never read”. This seems to be a particularly prevalent attitude amongst the so-called Millenials (and presumably Gen Z, the generation biting at their heels).

I interview a lot of twenty-somethings, and my heart sinks when they tell me they never read books. “Oh, but I read stuff on Facebook and Twitter” they say … and perhaps that is fair enough. I firmly believe, however, that they are missing out. Snacking on social media and clicking through an article and video links can never replace the true joy of sinking deeply into a novel, and losing yourself for hours on end. I’m trying to instill the reading habit into my own kids, with stories at bedtime and lots of interesting books to read, but it can be a tough battle when they’re clamouring for a screen.

The only downside of my reading obsession is that my books do threaten to take over the house. I’m one of those old fashioned types who refuses to abandon books for a kindle – for me, the reading experience is incomplete without physically turning those pages and the smell of the print. My books complete me, and reading is truly the oxygen I can’t live without.

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