Monday, January 27, 2014

RX: Read a book, recover from depression, improve critical thinking…and your vocabulary! Bring it on!

knew that sooner or later someone would discover that reading a book actually was good for you.
FICTION, especially!
Now in the USA where the average college graduate reads one book per year, (shoot me, please) reading anything is akin to revolutionary. But latest findings by different groups show us that reading:
  • stimulates nerve endings in the brain in that area which focuses on creativity;
  • fiction inspires a sense of identification with the protagonist and therefore, a compassion for his/her challenges;
  • is what doctors are now prescribing for depression because reading inspires a sense of orderliness and offers hope. This new prescription has a name/term too: bibliotherapy.
WOW.  I really like these findings.
They give me hope that:
  • Shock Treatment for the brain will end and be supplanted by Reading Treatment;
  • not only reading but writing fiction will become a means to heightened empathy for others;
  • fewer people will wind up depressed because they learned how to read and write about their personal issues and they developed a sense of objectivity about their Human Condition;
  • appreciation for memoirs and diary writing will take on new value and meaning to many who may have  negated their value in recuperating from PTSD or head injuries, even addictions to alcohol and or drugs.

I could go on, jumping up and down in my glee that so many people are advocating reading, dear sweet reading and ever so important writing as viable, useful activities.

Just imagine a world in which people are more articulate! They wish to discuss issues freely. (Yes, do see my 2 previous posts on The Art of Conversation and All I Want for Christmas.) They have a useful and colorful vocabulary which replaces the 4 letter words they use now liberally, along with the ever-so-ridiculous word, awesome.
They would speak with purpose, listen with purpose, perhaps even give up an hour of TV each day so that they could have a conversation over the dinner table!
I am so ready for that.
Aren't you?
And oh, by the way, what is the book you are currently reading?
I am into LONE SURVIVOR. Had it for awhile and now must hurry so that I am well prepared for the movie.
Yes, that's me. Read THE HELP yet? Do.
GONE WITH THE WIND? Better read it first for the historical background.
How about TEAM OF RIVALS? Yep. That one, too, can rock your world.
Read and WRITE in 2014. My new mantra everywhere!


Tina Donahue said...

How sad that so few read today. I can't remember a time when i didn't want to read. Even as a kid, I'd read cereal boxes at breakfast, because I had to be reading something.

Some of my best times in grade school were in the local library during summer vacation, reading everything I could get my hands on.

When I got a reading list prior to my freshman year in high school, I read everything on it. I found out later, I was one of the few who'd actually took the reading list seriously and read everything listed.

Never regretted it for a minute. Loved the stories. They enriched my life.

Cerise DeLand said...

Tina, I too recall those hours in my childhood when I went to the local library (Baltimore's famous Enoch Pratt system), and all my school libraries. I do recall that when JFK was assassinated, I was in McKeldin Library at UofM. A sad day. Sadder results for decades afterward.
I digress.
So much peace is to be found in reading that I am always shocked that so few children do it or even enjoy it.

Fiona McGier said...

I'm almost done with "The Closing of the American Mind", and also "The Dumbest Generation". Both deal with the fall of humanities in our educational system. Used to be that only the elite or incredibly gifted poor went to universities at all. It was expected that you'd be exposed to the ideas that are the foundation of western culture: Philosophy, literature that has stood the test of time because it asks eternal questions, and classroom discussions that would engage your brain to think in new ways. The eternal questions: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? What legacy do I want to leave? etc. were all legitimate things to study at length. Of course you would slide easily into a career after that, since you were now a thinking, analyzing, logically-organized thinker. Then came the 60s.

Now colleges and universities are vocational schools and everyone is told if they don't go they won't be able to support themselves. The jobs that used to be available for those who either didn't want to go to college, or weren't capable of doing the work, are no longer here. No factories, only service industry jobs, which have worked to destroy unions and keep employees at the edge of poverty. These days if you work a minimum wage job, you need to work multiple jobs, at the expense of your health, and even then you'll still need govt. aid with food stamps and medicare. My uncles who never graduated from high school, returned from WW2, worked in factories and supported their stay-at-home wives and sent their kids to college. You can't do that anymore.

So college has now become an adjunct to high school, and the standards have become dumbed-down--let's not discriminate by expecting students to "work up" to college level...let's instead make the work easier so they can achieve. But then the standards have to continually be made lower, and we look around in horror to realize that the rest of the world has surpassed us in science, math and technology, and the corporations who are benefiting from this new globalization, are getting tax breaks written into the laws for them to import foreign students to do the jobs our schools aren't preparing us for anymore.

The second book has a chapter called "bibliophobia", discussing how kids don't want to read anymore. They can go on-line and find synopses of any literature, and enough quotes to write a convincing paper so they pass the class. But they never actually read the words or think the thoughts that should come from that reading. They escape from school unschooled and undereducated, then wonder why no employer wants them. They have no skills and no interest in getting any because it interferes with their on-line socializing and TV viewing. Reading is for losers.

My daughter is a fanatic about education, pursuing her degree in elementary ed. I sure hope some of her optimism is justified. She says things are changing in the teaching of teachers, because others have become aware of these problems. But when the school only has a kid for 7 hours of the day, and the other 17 are spent with family/friends/caregivers who don't value reading or education, how much impact can even a stellar teacher have?

Sorry, I'll shut up now.

jean hart stewart said...

Read all three of the wonderful books you mentioned.. Can't imagine a life without reading and it pains me my grandkids will never lose themselves in a book for hours like I still do. I'm reading Mary Balogh's 'Seducing an Angel' right now. Lots of sex, but tasteful.

Cerise DeLand said...

Fiona, I too lamer the decline of a liberal arts education. What passes for it now leaves so many holes that the thought processes which were to be engendered have atrophied.
Appalling. Can anyone think for themselves any longer? They are taught to regurgitate for tests.
My son teaches 7th graders English and History. Stressing plot and characterization along with theme, premise and moral, he has gotten emails from parents who ask him to return to teaching the novel with out such "inventions." ????
We despaire.

Cerise DeLand said...

Jean, Waving to you!
I am currently reading RITA entries! Cannot tell you whose they are, but will say I have a good lot this year!
Color me gratified.