Pick up a book and destress

2014-04-02 00:00

IT is one of life’s simplest and greatest pleasures, yet in the modern world of technology and gadgets, it’s neglected and forgotten, cast aside by many and not given much thought.

People will find time to go to the gym at odd hours of the day, trek across the country for a rock concert, visit the pub and even sit through hours of recorded TV programmes, but reading is never considered an option.

All it takes is picking up a book, getting comfortable and leaving the world of stress and tension behind. Yet for many people, it’s the last thing on their minds. They claim they are too busy to read or they just don’t like reading.

These are baffling statements as in the next breath they will tell you what a busy life they have, how stressed they are, and how shocked they were after going to their doctor for a check-up — totally in the dark as to why their body has deteriorated so much and their blood pressure has become an erupting volcano.

Words shape our lives. Those who make the ludicrous statement of never reading are really only kidding themselves. They are reading all the time. Their eyes are reading the world around them and sending the story of what they see to their brain.

Without realising it, these people are acutely aware of the news and happenings around them, yet they choose to plead ignorance when challenged on it.

Consider how fortunate those people are who are able to identify words and use them to stimulate the world’s feelings and emotions. They speak love, hate, joy, horror, mystery, concern, and they can reduce the toughest person to tears, either through the intense human element of a story or unbelievable humour that tickles the funny bone.

Reading is among the first skills that children are taught at school. Stopping to listen to the excitement in a child’s voice when he or she is telling the story of what was read at school is a tonic in itself, either to end off your day or start the next one.

These little people are privy to the finest detail in a story, and on the couch at home or in the car to school the next day, a story you thought you knew well takes on a new meaning when related by them.

Suddenly, you realise there was a talking saucepan or a nasty, miserable person next door who never threw the ball back over the fence.

Books bring new meaning to young children. They cannot wait for story time at night and the way they listen so intently and ask questions as you read, proves this is one of the most valuable times spent with them.

They remember a story and feed off the message conveyed by the story — to share, be honest, care for others — little things we often see as boring, but in their ever-inquiring minds, form valuable life lessons.

These days, tablets and other electronic devices have shunted the newspaper and book a few steps down the literary ladder.

Yes, it’s far more convenient to carry a flat, slim device that slides easily into a bag or pocket and can be used in the traffic or in a long queue, but for the purist, nothing beats the feel of a book or the sound of the turning pages of a newspaper. It’s the real thing and it just looks so much better than staring at a small, rectangular gadget, where tensing the thumb every few seconds constitutes turning a page.

The electronic way is cheaper too, but again, money well-spent on a book you really want, which will adorn the bookcase in the lounge, adds value to life.

It’s a constant companion, always ready to please, always close at hand to answer questions on whatever subject it covers. It has no working hours, doesn’t argue when you need it and it enriches the soul.

Books are lifelong friends and they never fight back, judge a person or cause discomfort.

In fact, they are the opposite, adding a ray of sun to the day in the darkest of corners.

Sadly, as children grow up, they forget those story times. Ask them in high school what they read, and most stand tall to say they hardly look at a book.

It’s sad, as there is no need for an instruction manual. Just take a book, sit down and follow the words to a new world.

• David Knowles is a sports reporter at The Witness.

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