To Read or not to Read?

By Jasmine Khan

Effective communication is dependent on words, knowing them, their meaning and in what context to use them. It also requires a certain amount of self-confidence in your ability to express yourself. This cannot be done if you do not have the skills, and the best way to acquire these skills is by reading.

“To Read or not to Read?” This is today’s burning question. In a world of rapidly advancing technology, and easy access to information, reading is well on the way to extinction. The irony is that no substitute has yet been found for the written word. To access information you still have to be able to read. As with most things, reading should be encouraged from an early age. Children look to those around them to show them the way.

It is far easier to plunk the child in front of the television, than to sit with him with a book.  The fast pace of living has made this the rule rather than the exception, and the television is a fairly inexpensive baby sitter. Parents should not be judged or condemned for doing this; some of them are so stressed and frenzied, that the idea of a child sitting quietly watching animated figures is too hard to resist. However, as with all things we need to take note of the consequences of doing this.

Too often we opt for short term gain and long term pain. Instead of investing the time to sit and read to the child, and with him as he progresses, we say we do not have the time. It is a fact that teaching a child to read during the first six years of life DOES produce a highly-capable child with a potential for genius,  but this is not the primary objective when we teach our kids to read from a young age.

What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh What we make them learn. – Jim Trelease, Early Education author

We should not just teach the child to read, we have to instill in him the desire to read. When a child wants to read, he becomes capable of educating himself.

Reading is the heart of education. In order to do any subject at school, one has to be able to read. No other form of learning has yet been found, and this is why education starts with learning to read.


  • builds listening comprehension, and this leads to reading comprehension
  • allows the child to use his imagination
  • enables him to visualize scenes and locations without seeing a picture in front of him
  • introduces a child to meaningful literature
  • enables him to learn new words and thus build up a vocabulary
  • improves concentration and attention span
  • allows him ‘time out’ to connect with himself.
  • instills a love for learning new things and facts
  • He enters school with self-confidence and a desire to learn more.

A child, who grows up in a home where there are no books, and where they never see the adults reading even a newspaper or magazine, will find it hard to get into the habit of reading. A twelve year old boy told me that he can learn just as well from watching television as from a book. This is the situation today, and while we constantly lament the lack of reading in children, very little is said about adults who do not read. We must remember that children learn by seeing and doing what the adults around them does. There are numerous and varied benefits for adults in engaging in regular reading.

  1. Escapism.
    When experiencing anxiety or grief, or even anger a book can provide an inexpensive answer to the need to escape, to be instantly transported out of the mundane, to the splendid.
  2. Relaxation
    There is merit in taking time out from your normal routine and just relaxing with a book. It stills the frenzy of the mind and will take you to a quiet space. It is something we do not often do in our hurried journey to get as much as possible done for others. There is a freedom, and an almost guilty pleasure in doing something exclusively for ourselves. A book is like a door into a secret garden that you share with no one else.
  3. Circuit breaker.
    It is an overwhelming relief to focus on a good story, which can amuse, entertain, as well as educate you. You choose to enter another world, and this is wonderfully therapeutic. This is so effective that the National Health System in the United Kingdom has introduced a ‘Reading and You Scheme’. The scheme encourages mental health patients to read more as part of their therapy for reducing stress and overcoming anxiety, depression and social isolation.
  4. Stimulates the right side of your brain.
    On a daily basis we are bombarded with images and sound bites; everything is presented to us and we hardly get to use our imagination. With reading your imagination is taken out of the cobwebs and taken on journey of infinite possibilities. You actually have to imagine or visualize the setting of the events that are playing out, and your right brain actually gets an opportunity to show its mettle.
  5. Entertaining You get emotionally involved in what is taking place, you can laugh, sneer, feel sadness, or journey on a roller coaster ride of suspense. A story can run the gamut of emotions and you have a front row seat.
  6. Enjoyable
    The very image of ‘curling up with a book’ evokes an image of cosiness, and if you cannot do it very often, it is seen as an unexpected treat which is very enjoyable and satisfying.
  7. Informative
    Reading stimulates the senses and sharpens the intellect. With a wealth of knowledge available you will learn more from the pages of a book in a month, than you would from the speeches of men in years. You will be able to contribute to conversations and discussions on a variety of topics. It is like having a teacher who does not tire and is on call all the time. At the very least it will make you an interesting person to talk to.
  8. Rejuvenating
    All of us, at some time or other, need some ‘me time’ and what better way to have it than with a book. Since reading is done on your own, it is a good way to nourish your soul; especially if you read an inspirational book. We spend so much time and energy seeing to the needs of others that we forget to nurture ourselves. We need time to nurture our bodies, our minds and our souls. Spending time reading can fulfill all these needs. It becomes easier to see to the needs of others when you are in a good space.

And the best, highest and worthiest of books is the Quran.

The supreme irony is that the very first word of revelation was:” Read”. (Quran: 96.1)

Perhaps we should ask ourselves why.

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