The Value of Reading

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"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body" -Sir Richard Steele.

Sadly, more and more people today are giving up the printed word in favor of being entertained and informed by the talking head and crystal clear imagery of the ever-larger TV set that sits as a throne in the center of their living space.

photoA recent news story noted that more and more infants are being subjected to TV programming, perhaps as a babysitter. More than two hours of TV time per day are now a part of infant development, generating physiological and mental problems that are of growing concern among experts.

At the very least, young people will learn how to process information in a much different way than those of other generations. Reading encourages thinking, reflecting and the cultivation of truth, but image-driven cultures tend toward subjectivism, superstition, hedonism and propaganda.

Dr. Jane Healy cautions, "Too much television—particularly at ages critical for language development and manipulative play—can impinge negatively on young minds in several different ways including the following:"Higher levels of television viewing correlate with lowered academic performance, especially reading scores. This may be because television substitutes for reading practice, partially because the compellingly visual nature of the stimulus blocks development of left-hemisphere language circuitry. A young brain manipulated by jazzy visual effects cannot divide attention to listen carefully to language. Moreover, the 'two-minute mind' easily becomes impatient with any material requiring depth of processing" (AAP [American Academy of Pediatrics] News, May 1998, www.aap.org/advocacy/chm98nws.htm ).

Neil Postman, media critic and author of some great books, including Amusing Ourselves to Death and Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, pointed out the ways that reading teaches us to think in a logically connected way. It cultivates a sustained attention span. Readers learn to think in terms of abstract ideas, objective truth and sustained reflection.

When this is replaced with graphic imagery, like television (especially commercials) and movies, there is a tendency toward shorter attention spans and a purely emotional response to what is offered. Once addicted to graphical stimulation, there is an increased demand for constant, entertaining stimulation that can hinder the capacity for delayed gratification.

If you want to prepare yourself for great achievement and have more to contribute, try reading more books. Pick up some of the great classics and search for well-researched material that can help you grow. Reading Vertical Thought is a major step in the right direction. VT

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