Immerse yourself in the world of words

February 20, 2024By Paula ElliottInsights

A good story can take you on a fantastic journey, spark your imagination, engage your senses, make you laugh or cry and transport you to another world. I firmly believe that our minds are broadened by stories, and I love this quote from George R.R. Martin, popular author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction, as it captures how I feel about books: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he or she dies. The person who never reads lives only one.”

I was horrified to read a report from the National Literacy Trust stating that fewer than 3 in 10 (28%) of children and young people aged 8 to 18 said that they read daily in 2023, matching levels seen in 2022. And that there has been a 26% decrease in the number of children and young people aged 8 to 18 who read daily in their free time since 2005 (decreasing from 38% to 28%).  Call me old fashioned, but nothing beats the thrill of settling down to read a new novel.  So, this got me thinking about why we don’t read as much anymore.

Well, apparently, we don’t find it enjoyable, because in 2023 the National Literacy Trust also recorded the lowest level of reading enjoyment since they started asking children and young people about this in 2005. A large part of the reason is that fewer of those who have traditionally enjoyed reading, such as girls and those aged 8 to 11, now say they enjoy it.

Having lived and breathed words since the start of my career, they matter to me.  I can’t imagine not enjoying reading and writing. And whether that is writing a mission statement for one of my clients, an article or press release, or reading a good book, immersing myself in the world of words is such an amazing experience.

This made me question why this is the case for me, but not for younger people. Apparently, the format of books doesn’t stimulate or interest young people today.  Social media, video games, streaming channels are all competing for their attention and reading a paper and ink book just doesn’t cut it.

Additionally, young people who don’t like to read probably haven’t experienced the joy of getting lost in the magic of a story or learning something new about their  favourite topic.  In that case, reading may feel like a lot of work for no particular reward.

Also, attention spans are now much shorter. This doesn’t just relate to young people, but humans in general, meaning our ability to concentrate is lower.

Research has shown that between 2000 and 2015, our attention spans shrank by 25%. That’s like going from being able to binge-watch an entire season of your favourite drama to struggling to get through a single episode.

Likewise, we get very easily distracted. For example, the average mobile phone user picks up their phone to check it more than 1500 times a week — that’s 3 hours 16 minutes a day.  Just think what else you could be doing with that time, if you just checked your phone less often.

And talking of time; young or old, we all need to allow ourselves time to slow down a bit and to set aside more quality time to immerse ourselves in the world of words.

Reading for pleasure is not just a leisure activity; it’s a powerful tool for personal development, intellectual stimulation and enrichment, and emotional well-being. It enables you to be more conversant with others. It opens doors to new worlds, expands horizons, and enriches lives in so many ways.

I’d be curious to hear how reading has informed your life and your experiences overall. Do let me know.

With World Book Day just around the corner (7th March 2024) why not indulge yourself and get stuck into a good novel this weekend.  Or read more to your children, buy a newspaper this Sunday, or indulge in your favourite magazine. Or you could start a journal or write a story of your own about anything – you may surprise yourself.  I hope I have inspired you to read and to start experiencing all those magical extra lives you’ll find in your book.