People often describe themselves as fitting into one of two extremes — an avid reader or someone who does not read at all. Both groups express strong arguments to justify their passion or disdain for this popular pastime, with one camp citing a lack of interest and time issues as disadvantages of reading while the other sees reading as an advantage because of the mental stimulation and relaxation it provides.
Many people tend to read because they need it for work or study purposes and therefore do not associate it with relaxation or enjoyment. This sentiment generally begins in high school, when difficult literary classics such Shakespeare are mandatory.
In the past, reading was one of the few ways to pass the time, but that was before the advent of technologies beginning with the radio, then television and now computers, the Internet and gaming consoles — in other words, people have many other options for spending time nowadays. With leisure time a precious commodity in this hectic day and age, many people prefer to spend this time doing something that actually interests, relaxes or excites them, ranging from more active pursuits such as playing sports and socializing to more passive activities such as watching movies or video games.
Unlike watching television, reading activates parts of the brain that would otherwise remain dormant. Stimulating the brain through reading helps keep it strong and active, thereby reducing the risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer's disease while improving concentration and memory.
Reading is also a valuable learning tool that helps expand knowledge, skills and vocabulary, which in turn give readers more confidence to deal with a variety of situations and discuss a wider variety of topics.
With the availability to audio books and the adaptation of many books into television series and movies, many people would prefer not taking the extra days and hours to sit down and actually read a book. For many people who do manage to take time to read during their busy daily routine, reading is usually just a means to help pass the time while commuting, having a meal or even sitting on the toilet.
Reading provides a peaceful escape at any time of day from digital gadgets and the constant bombardment of information that comes from living in the digital age. As well as providing an avenue for relaxation, reading provides an ideal way to unwind at the end of a hectic day. People who read before bed develop a sleep association, their body identifying reading with falling asleep, which helps them fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly.