From Dr. Jane's Notebook
The therapeutic power of reading
Iíve never been a fast reader. Iíve never had great reading
comprehension. Sometimes I read and re-read pages just to follow a story line. Iíve
never thought of myself as a person who loved to read. So imagine my surprise
that over the years, reading has become a great passion of mine.
Its not hard to remember learning to read in school. Most of us kids squirmed
in the chairs of our little reading circle, dreading the moment of our turn to
stumble over words out loud. The closer it came to my turn, the faster my heart
would beat. Naturally, the sounds from my chest usually got so loud that Iíd
lose my place just as the teacher called my name. For me, the reading circle
became the equivalent of getting up on stage for a major performance, complete
with weak knees and a voice that was never loud enough.
In spite of my initial trauma, I eventually found a lot of pleasure in
reading. Needless-to-say, I consider this to be a major victory after a
hard-fought battle. As a result, I feel compelled to encourage children and
adults who remain stuck in their fear to learn about reading all over again.
Please join me for a few more thoughts on the matter.
- Learning to read is like learning to drive. At first, reading is
mechanical. It can be intimidating, difficult, and painful. In school, we
may feel pressured by deadlines and bored with the subject matter. Reading
in school is a bit like driverís education. While its important to learn
how to do it right, the element of punishment hangs over your head. However,
once you develop the necessary mechanical skills, they are yours for life!
- Thereís a difference between reading for work and reading for play.
When reading is an assignment, it is often accompanied by anxiety about
"the test". We are usually not free to just read, but are expected
to fully memorize the material. This is not what I would call reading for
enjoyment. But reading a good story without the threat of interrogation is a
gift you can give to yourself. Like watching a movie, it is possible to sit
back and just enjoy the entertainment.
- Each of us has different tastes in reading. Some of us like
comic books and some of us thrive on 500 page novels. Poetry has the wonderful
quality of being short and meaningful. I recommend that you go for books that
have large enough print so your eyes are comfortable; read shorter, rather than
long books; and if you arenít enjoying a book, put it down and look for
another. As with music, you will like certain styles and dislike others. Just
because a book is recommended to you, donít feel you have to like it or finish
- Reading aloud is a bonding experience. While reading may
seem like an arduous task, almost everyone likes to be read to! If your child is
struggling through a school book, reading it out loud together helps them to
overcome the mechanical difficulties enough to appreciate the story. Once the
story is known, reading the book can become more user-friendly and less
Likewise, I highly recommend giving the following gifts to people you care
about: Read books out loud to your family on car trips; read to those who are
sick and bedridden; and offer to read to those who are visually impaired.
Reading together can provide wonderful shared adventures, discussions, and
- Reading is an anti-depressant as you feed your brain healthy
thoughts. Our brains are perhaps the most active parts of our bodies and
personalities. Brains are active consumers which rarely take a rest. As such,
they are usually moving in a positive direction learning new things, or in a
negative direction retracing previous thoughts and experiences. One way or
another, brains are either getting their exercise through learning and
imagination, or by thinking negative, critical, and depressing thoughts. In my
experience, reading almost anything provides a creative outlet for my thoughts,
and allows my mind to stretch in positive ways. This almost always makes me feel
smarter and better about myself.
In recent years, Oprah Winfrey has encouraged thousands of TV hounds to take
time for themselves and read a good book. To her credit, she has shown many
adults that it is never too late to learn to read and that the rewards which
come from reading are plentiful. Just think, when we read we get to travel, grow
from new experiences, and explore the entire world without leaving our homes.
Can anyone deny how good it feels to put a book up on the shelf when weíve
finished it? Even better is the feeling when you recommend it to a friend!
©Copyright, 2001, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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