Just one more chapter, then I’ll put it down...the pull of a book can be quicksand on your mind. No, more pleasant than that - warm salt water in which you might float effortlessly for a time, free from distraction, immersed in the moment of another time and place. Nutrimentum spiritus, meaning ‘food for the soul’, is the inscription above the Berlin Royal Library; and it has been said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Sadly, in the busyness of our lives it is often the things that are best for us that we put off for when we ‘have more time’.
While I read something every day, I will admit that reading for pleasure is a holiday treat and I look forward to the escape that it affords me. It is hard to imagine a more powerful antidote to the high-speed, information-rich, technology-infused pressures of daily life than to lose yourself in a great story. And the beauty of reading is that there is something for everyone - classical literature, poetry, biographies, fashion magazines, DIY journals, popular dystopian novels and romance. There is material to capture anyone’s curiosity and imagination and never more so than now with the advent of digital resources. A laptop, tablet or phone is now easily transformed into a newspaper, magazine or novel. As Stephen King said, ‘Books are a uniquely portable magic’.
If you need convincing as to the benefits of regular reading, there is a plethora of research in support of this practice. The mental stimulation has been proven to slow (and possibly prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Reading expands your knowledge and vocabulary and when we gain exposure to words used in context, even in another language, it will ameliorate our own speaking and writing fluency. Careful attention to character development, sub-plots, or the thread of a written argument improves our memory, and with every new memory created, we forge new synapses in our brains and strengthen existing ones.
Perhaps most importantly, reading improves focus and concentration, forcing us to attend to one thing at a time. This is particularly important for our young people who are constantly juggling the attention-hungry domains of communication and social media. In our internet-crazed world, attention is drawn in a million different directions at once as we multi-task through every day. In a single 5-minute span, it is not uncommon for us to divide our attention between working on a task, checking email, chatting with a couple of people (via Snapchat, Messenger, etc.), keeping an eye on Twitter and Facebook and monitoring our smartphone. This compulsive behaviour causes stress levels to rise, and lowers our productivity. Even 20 minutes of uninterrupted reading can quiet the mind and encourage greater productivity for hours thereafter.
Thankfully, Kristin places great value on reading and is always on the lookout for ways to encourage a passion for reading in our students. If you have not had the pleasure to meet our Library staff, you are yet to discover the wealth of knowledge they possess. Just a few words and careful questions and they will be able to recommend your next great read from the thousands of titles in the school’s collection, including traditional paper copies, digital and audio books. In the hopes of supporting greater access to these resources, the Kristin Library is about to trial extended hours and will be open for families, middle and senior students until 7.15pm Monday to Thursday. This will begin next week and will be reviewed at the end of the term and, if it is a popular offering, it will become a permanent arrangement.
For those of you who have just taken the time to read this editorial, I hope it has given you something to think about, time to pause and consider, and perhaps the motivation to step into your own next world of discovery through reading.