How Active Reading Changed My Life: 7 Things That Happened To Me
You have heard that readers are leaders. You have heard that reading makes you intelligent. If you are a public speaker, you must have been told that reading makes you a better speaker. And I am pretty sure that writers must have heard a million times that reading makes their pens smarter. These assertions are true but there is more.
American novelist and 1954 Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” From my personal voyage, I totally agree that good books are loyal friends and they keep the company of the wise. I love reading good books. Reading is an activity that refuels and rewires the brain.
When you read fiction books, you learn to live in the world of the characters and travel to new places. Reading a non-fiction book opens your mind to new insights from unique wells of knowledge that can make your life better. I have been married to good books for about a decade and the impact of reading in my life is mind-blowing.
To be honest, before engaging in active reading, I was that young lad who was inherently shy and always scared of criticism. I was helplessly battered by an inferiority complex and lacked the energy to sustain intellectual conversations with people.
Asides my school books, I was a complete novice and to make matters worse, I loathed movies. These three traits perfectly describe my personality before engaging in active reading:
I was that smart but diffident kid that sits at the back of the class. Everything about me including my grades spoke eloquently except my lips. They were sealed by timidity. Provided the discussion is out of the spheres of science, I was a complete ignoramus. There was really nothing to say due to lack of exposure.
I lacked the dignity of believing in my worth as a person. Inferiority complex dealt with my personality and made me a fragile soul. I was that moody guy pummeled by the actions and inactions of others like a ball in a pendulum. I was a people pleaser and never believed in myself.
- Terrible at communication:
Communication can be tough for shallow minds. The two most popular media of communication – writing and speaking, places a demand on your reservoir of knowledge and drains you. I was terrible at both writing and speaking and would always find a way of running away from them. Worst of all, I struggled with engaging in simple conversations because I was always afraid of making grammatical blunders. To earn a modicum of respect, I kept my mouth shut and watched others unleash their thoughts and ideas.
In 2007, shortly after graduation from high school, my Dad gave me a book, “You Can Make A Difference
” by American author Tony Campolo. And that was the turning point! The book appeared to me as a mirror that showed all my flaws, weaknesses, pain-points and shortcomings.
I perceived so strongly in my heart that Campolo had me in mind when he wrote the book because it did not only talk about my challenges but also offered solutions to them. He showed me why I felt inferior to others, why I always chose to follow the crowd and why my lips were sealed. Before I got to the last page, my inferiority complex encountered a natural death and I was free.
What happened to me? Just a book? Yes, one good book brought liberation to my soul.
And what was the next thing I did? I searched for more books and read voraciously. At that time, I had a very close schoolmate who lived two blocks away from my house, he was an addicted reader that consumes all manners of books in print. We became very close friends and made reading one of our hobbies.
That’s one single decision I have come to eternally cherish. Reading became my strongest addiction. Anyways, I am very proud of it even though I have earned funny names like bookworm and nerd.
After reading Campolo’s book, I pounced on novels and found a special taste for thrillers and science fiction. In the novels of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, I learnt about topics such as medicine and public health.
While rummaging through novels by John Grisham, I understood the meaning of words like subpoena, probono, affidavit, and other legal terms. I was intrigued by the problem-solving instincts of Dr. Watson’s fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, and fascinated by the solutions of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s mystery novels.
Reading books made boldness surge through my veins; it was like putting on a switch in my brain. Let me show you some of the things that happened to me when I started reading actively:
7 Amazing Things That Happened To Me
1. Increased Concentration
Reading good books sharpened my ability to concentrate on tasks and get them completed. It takes a lot of discipline and concentration to pick a book and finish reading it. When I started active reading, phones and tablets with social media were not in vogue. Grabbing a book was my way of getting entertained.
Now, it’s more difficult to read a book because of the multitude of distractions here and there. My concentration levels increased because of reading. You just need to sit and concentrate, one book at a time and it gets better.
2. Increased Vocabulary Bank
New words will be your friends if you are an active reader. My vocabulary bank increased with the daily deposit of new words, new phrases, and new statements. I also saw how these authors used these words which informed my use of new words in my conversations with people.
I became a better writer after giving myself to reading. After delving into active reading, it influenced my writing skills positively. Writing became easier because I had access to a plethora of words that aptly describe my thoughts. Above all, reading makes it possible for you to know the minds of other successful authors and you can explore their writing styles.
In speaking, you communicate what is within you to others. It can be exhaustive and could be an arduous task if you don’t know what to say. Active reading made a better speaker out of my timid frame. With reading, I consistently filled my reservoir of knowledge with the insight of others.
Hence, I could engage more people in inspiring conversations without burning out. The inspiring words of American poet, Ralph Wado Emerson comes to mind: “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
My adventure with books went beyond corridors of novels to the front porches of non-fiction books. Books are treasure troves. No wonder, American entrepreneur, Walt Disney opined that “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on treasure island.”
Reading of biographies, autobiographies, and self-help has shown me on numerous occasions that one can find help in books. If you are persistent enough, you can find solutions to your challenges in a book. In books, I found ways of becoming a better speaker, I learnt the rudiments of financial literacy and ultimately, how to be the best version of myself.
“Ordinary people have big TVs. Extraordinary people have big libraries.” – Robin Sharma
6. Increased Imaginative Power
When you read beautiful novels that are works of ingenuity and creativity, it has a magical effect on your brain
. On several occasions, I try to create the scenes of the stories that I read in books. This is an activity that trains your brain and mind to use the power of imagination. In the realms of imagination, I don’t only create new things but I also birth them.
With books, I traveled to new places, I learnt about the cultures of other people and I embraced new perspectives about life. I discover new routes of thinking and that is a form of education. Reading exposed my mind to many things that were intellectually stimulating and heightened my curiosity.
I began to ask many questions and find answers to them. I was not surprised when the German-American author, Dr. Seuss Giesel said, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”
Also published on Medium.