Shelf Life: Reading For Pleasure
It was a good weekend for books and reading – alongside Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, which was celebrated around the country, it was also World Book Night, which saw the distribution of hundreds of thousands of books to encourage reading for pleasure. Despite all the booky celebrations this weekend, how many of us actually sat down with a cup of tea and a book?
Apparently 36% of Britons don’t read for pleasure, but is this surprising given our hectic and often highly technology-focussed lives?
We’re busier than ever, and with so many things vying for our attention – work, family, friends, study, computers, games consoles, tvs, phones and now the glorious spring sunshine beating down outside – is it a surprise reading for pleasure isn’t at the top of many people’s lists? If you’ve got to cram it in it starts to feel more like homework.
Then there is the challenge of deciding what to actually read; for dedicated and new readers alike it can be difficult to settle on a book. There are so many options out there - prize shortlists, course lists, recommendations online, in bookshops and libraries left, right and centre shelf – the choice can be overwhelming and create pressure around what you ‘should’ be reading. It can be tricky to know where to start and for the established reader 'over immersion' can have a similar effect – there is simply too much to read and too little time.
And ‘reading for pleasure’ should do exactly what it says on the tin. As defined by the National Literacy Trust, reading for pleasure is ‘Reading that we do of our own free will, anticipating the satisfaction that we will get from the act of reading.’
It’s important to maintain this ‘free will’ and remember that you keep control of your own reading – the time you choose to spend and what you choose to read are down to you. Unnecessary pressures placed on your reading habits - even by yourself! - can be as destructive as someone else telling you what to do. Reading for pleasure and reading freedom go hand in hand and it’s up to you to decide when and what you read.
Other than it being fun, reading offers huge benefits. Amongst other things it offers: stress relief, relaxation, a widening of our horizons, a new understanding and empathy for other people and cultures, improved confidence and self-awareness and can reduce feelings of loneliness.
So get out and celebrate books this week, whether it’s a bit of Shakespeare to honour his birthday, your favourite spy-thriller or a comic, whatever you read, read it for fun!
Read more about reading freedom: Down with Reading Resolutions