How important is book reading?

A famous Chinese proverb says:  "A book is like a garden carried in the pocket” Though carrying a garden in ones pocket is impossible, but that is a thing about books. They are full of beauty...

A famous Chinese proverb says:  "A book is like a garden carried in the pocket" Though carrying a garden in ones pocket is impossible, but that is a thing about books. They are full of beauty; wonders and amazement. They are the storehouse of men's experience, knowledge and wisdom of ages. Great is the blessing of books and happy is the man who acquires the habit of reading books at a young age. He secures a life-long source of pleasure, instruction and inspiration and adds quality to his life. Eminent thinkers, philosophers and scientists have always cited the example of books as their main source of inspiration. Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, former president of India once said, that books are no less than ancestral property.
Recently Srinagar Book Fair at S P College concluded. The book fair saw the participation of intellectuals, scholars, students, teachers, politicians and other bookworms from across the Valley. The diverse range of books of different disciplines, literature in electronic form and portable laboratory equipments etc at special discounts was noticeable. One of the main objectives of such book fairs is to nurture and promote reading habits among the masses particularly students   and create awareness about the importance of books.
A book is regarded as person's best friend and guide. Everybody may deceive you but books will always remain beside during your bad times. Since ages books have always been regarded as good companions in both good and bad phases of our lives. Sometimes we laugh or shed tears with them and sometimes we forget the problems of our lives. Whenever we are little depressed, there are several books that boost us and encourage us and we get to learn from the writings of many great and famous personalities, how to recover from difficult situations.
Reading books is not only a great hobby but also an activity that builds intelligence, imagination, writing skills and improves our vocabulary and word power. People who read a lot have found themselves more articulate, grammatically correct and with a higher level of comprehension. It has been observed that reading stimulates the muscles of eyes thereby improving concentration, observation ability and increases mental development. The scientific research has proved that children and teenagers who love reading books have comparatively higher IQ level as compared to those who watch television.
It is very important that what type and quality of books we read. If they are poor quality and inferior certainly they will contaminate our thoughts and will produce adverse results. As Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) English author and philosopher put it right when he says that "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested". Therefore one has to be careful and judicious in choosing a book. A good book must surprise a person and captivate his/her imagination. A couple of good books can really be a source of joy for a long time.
In the fast-paced world today people have lost their innate passion for reading books because they don't find time from the intricacies of daily life. Mobile phones internet, computers and enhanced coverage by TV channels are slowly taking control of our lives, the habit of book reading is changing rather it has taken a back seat especially in the younger generation where it has occupied a greater space. Though our students are trapped in the so called busy academic schedules and rote learning and find it difficult to take out time to read books, the majority of them are less interested. They mostly cram market guides and notes to pass the examination. Active learning from books is declining. This practice cannot equip them in anyway to face the challenges of the world today. The lack of reading culture among our youths has greatly affected the quality of the degree holders we produce from our institutions.
Internet cannot be a substitute for reading a physical book which has magic in it. Book reading is a sensory perception. The smell, sight and feeling of books, holding in hands, leafing through pages is a different feeling which is missing in the virtual world. Reading a book in a quiet or peaceful corner of a room has different experience. The words we read in a book create a picture which invokes curiosity and imagination. On the other hand people claim that they cannot sit on the computers for long hours, because it is hurting their eyes and giving them headache. This is not the case with physical books which are simple, portable and can be read for long hours without the feeling of eye strain or back problem or the fair of battery run out, virus or hanging.
While we get all types of information on internet and clear our doubts and concepts of different problems of different subjects, there is no short cut to gaining knowledge. The actual mental work that results in the knowledge of a topic cannot be made much easier, simply because no one else can do thinking for us. Though the virtual world is helping us immensely it is hurting our imagination because we do not have to imagine as someone else is already doing it for us. The less we use our brains, the more foolish we become. We are buried under too much information and knowledge and it continues to come from all directions whether we want it or not. What do we do with all this information? Isn't this explosion of information destroying our power of imagination?
A famous saying of Albert Einstein goes, "Imagination is more powerful than knowledge," This attitude allowed him to understand the universe in profound ways. He believed that knowledge helps one to see and understand things as they are; imagination allows one to see things as they could be. He used his imagination to conduct "thought experiments" that helped him to see the world from new perspectives. So imagination plays a vital role in developing one's creative side and it has been widely accepted that book reading is one of the best ways to stimulate thinking skills, imagination and creativity.
The declining interest in book reading culture in our society is a cause for concern. There is a need to inculcate the benefits of book reading among the new generation. Cultivating and maintaining the habit of reading books everyday on various topics will not only widen our thinking, but will also help us to make better decisions in life. Holding of book fairs as regular event should be nurtured to cultivate the reading culture in our society. Although internet is indispensable but we cannot afford to lose the benefits of a physical book. We have to rediscover the charm of sitting down with a book in our hand.

(The author is Associate Professor & Head Dept of Physics, Amar Singh College, Srinagar. Feedback at: (Emails: amin_malik_ku@hotmail.com)

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