I was contacted recently by the librarian/reading champion in a prison, saying that he was planning to use my Readaxation Diary during Mental Health Awareness Week. I’m obviously delighted and I’ve asked him to let me know how it goes.
The librarian asked me for any pointers and in my reply, I said this:
“I think there are two other points to make: that when we expect a particular benefit, we are more likely to notice it when it happens; and that the more autonomy there is, the more benefit there will be. So, I recommend that you discuss with readers all the benefits they and you think MIGHT come from reading, get them each to choose the ones that appeal to them and then see what they experience when they do read (and it must be a book of their choice, of course.)
“For example, one reader might be attracted by the idea of increasing knowledge, whereas another might be looking for a sense of escapism and yet another might most value the idea that reading will help them understand other people better. The feeling of relaxation is one which most people would value, especially your readers, whose situation must be so preoccupying and mind-consuming.Meanwhile, I said I’d write a suggested list of possible benefits of Reading for Pleasure.”
It’s crucial that each reader, of any age, thinks about the benefits they want from reading. There must be autonomy and there must be self-knowledge.
I promised the librarian that I’d write a list of all the benefits we know can come from reading for pleasure so that he can pick a selection that might appeal to them and then they can each choose the ones they would like to come from their reading. You can use the same list if you’re a teacher, parent or librarian, simply selecting the benefits that might be relevant to the readers you are with.
I like the idea that reading for pleasure can:
- Increase my vocabulary
- Increase my knowledge about a topic
- Increase my general knowledge
- Make me able to express myself better in writing or talking
- Show me that there are other people with similar/worse problems
- Show me how other people might have dealt with their problems
- Help my brain model how to react to problems
- Let me escape from my worries for a while
- Give me the pleasure of escaping to another world for a while
- Reduce my stress
- Lower my heart rate
- Make me laugh
- Make me feel scared – while knowing that it’s “just a story”
- Let me explore my emotions through fictional characters
- Boost my self-esteem and confidence
- Help me understand other people better
- Help me understand myself better
- Help me get to sleep and help me sleep better
- Improve my imagination/creativity
- Help me do better at school or work
- Make me feel proud
- Make me even better at reading
- Be sociable, too, as you can discuss it woth someone else who’s read it
- Let me help my children with their reading
- Be generally good for my mental and physical wellbeing
During the sunshine yesterday, I read almost a whole book – We Are All Made of Glue, by Marina Lewycka – sitting in the garden in a mixture of sun and shade. I felt REALLY good about that in so many ways. It gave me a rare chance to get into the book really quickly, which helped me enjoy it; I felt I’d given my brain and body a break from fretting; it felt like a pleasure that was really good for me. The last time I read like that was on holiday. I really should do it more often.
You can use the Readaxation Diary, too – download it here.