THE BLOG
11/18/2013 10:14 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Lee Siempre (Always Read)

"Lee siempre (lee-ay sea-em-prey)," my bookmark says. One glance serves as a reminder: always read.

Nearly every day, I hear one of my peers, fellow high school students, exasperatedly declare that they hate reading. Those statements break my heart just a little every time I hear them. As an avid reader and writer, I'm frustrated by the flippancy with which young people treat the act of reading. Books, after all, account for knowledge -- and then so much more. It's an escape. Reading is an addiction. You're pulled into new worlds, ancient lands, tiny towns, and vast cities. You meet people. You experience new things. You learn things you'd never know otherwise.

As a youthful generation entrusted with the future, we must empower ourselves further with the guidance of books. Neil Gaiman, author, lectures on the importance of reading. He also explains the remarkable nature of books:

Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.

Gaiman implied that we borrow ideas, words, and experiences from those before us through books. They are the past, the present, and the future. Therefore, everything we do as a society will depend on reading.

And why not read? After all, reading makes one more intelligent. You develop a more expansive vocabulary. Your writing style shifts without you even noticing it; you begin to take after the writers whose works you read. As a writer, I have to say that this is absolutely useful.

There's also increased empathy. I've in awe at how many times in a day I may glance at a person and begin to wonder how they're feeling, and then I make guesses as to what they're feeling. It's remarkable, really; most of my thoughts reflect the feelings I've read about in books. This idea is conveyed in Anne Kreamer's The Business Case for Reading:

To bring the subject home, think about how many different people you interact with during the course of a given day -- coworkers, clients, passing strangers, store clerks. Then think about how much effort you devoted to thinking about their emotional state or the emotional quality of your interaction. It's when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience.

Simply put, readers are emotionally intelligent.

In fact, readers are intelligent in general. Reading is the source of intelligence. Reading is understanding.

Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

-- Nora Ephron