You Are What You Read
Knowing a language and being competent in it is one thing, but loving its written word is also important.
The literacy rate of Malaysians over age 15 stands at 92.1%. But out of that 92.1%, only 85% read actively. Another 80% of that 85% consists of people who read mainly newspapers and magazines. Only 3% read books. This is a sad fact, since reading is much more than just a hobby to pass time.
Early childhood reading is vital, because it teaches communication skills, and also logical thinking. For those of us who have passed that stage in life, however, reading for pleasure is still important.
Studies show that “reading fiction actually increases people's emotional intelligence: their accurate awareness of themselves and others, and their ability to create positive relationships with others based on managing their own reactions." Besides this, reading fiction encourages the reader to think about what goes on in the characters’ minds. It gives us an insight into how people think, making us more able to interpret others in real-life situations, and makes us more sensitive to the feelings of other people, increasing our EQ (emotional intelligence). It helps us view life from a different perspective, by allowing us to step into someone’s shoes.
We shouldn’t just read any book, however, as what you read also matters. If you are what you eat, then you are what you read, too. Studies have found that “first-person narratives can be temporarily transformative, changing the way readers see the world, themselves, and other social groups.” In addition, when people relate to a particular character, they can find themselves subconsciously imitating that character. Besides that, reading a good book can also improve our grammar, and expose us to a wider vocabulary and writing techniques.
So you see, reading is important, and so is what you read. Fiction teaches you how to read people, and provides important skills that schools don’t teach, by giving an in-depth look into human behavior without ever using scientific terms. Reading is something we should all do regardless of background. Even if we don’t have a solid chunk of time to spend reading, there are still ways to catch a quick read, even if it’s just a page a day. As the Malay proverb goes, sikit-sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit.