The Importance of Reading

Reading enriches the mind, rendering reading a mental superfood.

Acuity is a product of awareness and cognitive prowess. Cognition is the expressed will to gain knowledge. Like muscle tissue, the mind is an organ that needs regular exercise to stay working with full power.

Perception nominally works subconsciously in a relatively straightforward manner. We take it in. The multimedia presentation of Nature only requires willpower when one wants to analyze relations or particulars of a witnessed sequence that comprises an event.

By contrast, reading is a cognitive skill of the highest order. Letters must mentally coalesce into words, sentences, and paragraphs. These symbols must be hierarchically analyzed into concepts and categories. For described scenes, our vision-oriented mind paints a mental picture. For abstract concepts, our inner philosopher is engaged. Mathematics is reading within a problem context.

Obvious benefits of extensive reading are extending vocabulary and otherwise improving communication skill, whether orally or in writing.

Reading is also an exercise in rational empathy, also called mind perception or mentalizing. “Reading is a higher-function activity that requires us to allow ourselves to be absorbed in the mind of another in order to ‘receive’ their communication,” says psychotherapist Mark Vahrmeyer.

Behind the analytics of reading is the will of cognition. Whereas witnessing is relatively mentally passive, reading is mentally active. This engagement keeps us on our proverbial toes, mentally dancing.

Letting the mind run wild with unbidden thoughts (monkey-mind) is a precursor to mental illness. The final step into inner misery is believing what comes to mind.

The counter to monkey-mind is believing nothing and practicing skepticism, which is a willful act. There is only the convenience of skill in concepts. There is no truth in abstraction. And all the mind offers are abstractions.

Exercising will is essential to mental health. Reading and writing are ideal exercises of will.

The cognitive decline of societies has been shown by the public reading less in the past century. Radio in the 1920s and then television in the 1950s increasingly garnered the American public’s attention. Contemporaneously, reading time declined. In this century, with the advent of the Internet, the scholastic aptitude of the average American child has further dropped. Americans have gotten dumber as they read less: not just because they know less science, but also their basic cognitive facility has diminished. 54% of adult Americans today read below the level of a 6th grader.


Sian Ferguson, “Mental illness can make it hard to read. Here’s why – and what you can do,” Healthline (30 August 2019).

Steven Zauderer, “55 US literacy statistics: Literacy rate, average reading level,” Cross River Therapy (30 June 2023).