Reading to Learn or Reading for Pleasure?

Literacy is one of the most powerful tools we have as human beings. To be able to record a message in writing and interpret it are fundamental to our ability to thrive as homo sapiens. Many people do not enjoy reading, they find it to be a struggle or just not as stimulating as watching TV or listening to a story on the radio. That being said, often times, they understand that reading is important for their mental and overall brain health. As a result they may look for a book, where they can “learn something” rather than a fictitious story where it’s “strictly for entertainment”.

I have heard this from many people looking for book recommendations. They may say that they are looking to get into reading, but quickly add that they “don’t read for entertainment, but read to learn”.

Whatever gets people to become readers, I’m in favor of. So if you get very excited about the next installment of Winston Churchill’s years as a bellhop before he made it big, or learning further about how many times JFK visited San Bernardino to collect giant bottles of his favorite cherry juice, more power to you. Exercise those reading muscles in your eyes and brain.

However, I am of the opinion that one learns much more from a fiction book than is usually assumed.

When you pick up and read a fiction book, in order to enjoy it, you need to assume the roles of the characters. A good author will set up a scene in which you have plenty of information about the characters, allowing you to empathize with how they will feel when an action befalls them. Sometimes, in a very good book, you may cry when the characters are sad. You may cheer when the characters are victorious. You may contemplate the similarities to your own life and compare how you would react in the same situation. As you read more fiction, you will gain the ability to put yourself in the character’s shoes, which I firmly believe translates to the ability to empathize in real life.

Additionally, many fiction authors will do copious research before publishing. They will reference things within the setting they have chosen and drop interesting tid-bits that the reader can further investigate and learn more, if they are so inclined.

Lastly, the writing style in good fiction necessitates the use of complex sentence structures and vocabulary. It’s shocking how many new words one can learn in a random piece of fiction literature. Not to mention passively learning new ways to structure sentences, which can vastly improve texting and letter writing ability.

So let me reiterate: If you love non-fiction, boogie on and read all the non-fiction you like. But if you think that fiction books are frivolous and that you will learn nothing, please give a good one a try, then see how you feel.

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