A year ago, I posted a blog on this website called '10 tips for making yourself employable in Sierra Leone'. The feedback we received from job seekers was that they found it useful. However, we feel we should do more to help students prepare themselves for the job market. Therefore, over the next few months, we will share some benefits of following the tips. The first one will be 'Read' because it is the foundation and it is evident in CVs and cover letters that are sent to us that it is not done enough.
During school days, I read a lot. I exchanged a lot of novels with my school friends and family members. Back then, self-help books were not popular, so it was mostly fiction and text books that were available to us. We all enjoyed reading, even to the point that books were stolen from each other's bags overnight and returned the next day. Today, I still read - mostly articles, biographies and text relevant to my profession - but not as much as I'd like to because there doesn't seem to be much time in the day. I still enjoy reading and recognise its benefits daily. I believe children should be encouraged to read from an early age, because as William James said "So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky". They should be given books that they enjoy so it does not become a chore and they'll continue into adulthood. However, it's never too late for adults who were not given that privilege as children. They just need to understand that "Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything" - Tomie dePaola, and find those books.
Here are some benefits of reading:
1. Makes you smarter
In her Summer 2001 paper, 'What reading does for the mind', Anne E. Cunningham recorded that reading, in general, makes you smarter and it keeps you sharp with age. People who read tend to have more general knowledge and higher intelligence than those who don't. As long as you accept that you don't know everything you need to get to where you want to go, reading will lead the way.
2. Strengthens analytical skills
Analytical skills are extremely important, especially in the work place where you are required to solve problems, make decisions, think, use initiative etc. Reading makes you think about the story - the way it was written, spot patterns etc. You might even be able to predict how it ends. Even better, discussing the book with a friend or other members of a book club could help you discover areas that you had not thought about and build up your skills for the next book.
3. Helps reduce stress
Living in Sierra Leone can be quite stressful. People have to deal with the normal work and home life stress, as well as frustrations caused by living in a country with systems that do not work. Reading a good book can help you escape from those everyday troubles, and depending on the reading material, could even help provide solutions to some of the problems you may be facing or as least help you deal with them differently.
4. Provides mental stimulation
A study, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found elderly people who regularly read or play mentally challenging games are 2 ½ times less likely to have Alzheimer's disease and Dementia, which affects about 30% of people above 65 years in the US (unfortunately, in my research for this blog I couldn't find statistics for Africa, but have personally encountered several people suffering from dementia).
5. Increases your vocabulary
Reading is said to improve one's memory. Therefore, the more you read, the more new words you come across and you have a better chance of remembering them. It also helps you structure sentences better.
My advice to you - pick up a book now and start enjoying the benefits