By Wilma Bedford
It can be said that the most important skill you can acquire from an early age, is to read. Everything you read gives you the opportunity to learn something new. You can expand your vocabulary, exercise your brain, promote wellbeing, lower stress and discover something new about yourself and the world around you.
Lifelong reading and learning is the broad term for education that occurs after school and university. It is therefore voluntary rather than compulsory and is completely self-motivated, with the main purpose of improving personal and professional development.
The continuous mental stimulation we obtain by reading regularly has gotten somewhat lost because we have replaced it with video and audio communication. At the same time our attention span is shortening. Reading, especially reading critically, is the best way to improve your concentration, rationalise things and place them in context with other information.
As the workplace becomes more diverse and complex, more and more employers are realising that formal qualifications are not the only way to identify personnel who will be beneficial to the company. The knowledge acquired through prior experience as well as skills learnt on your own along the way, can be utilised significantly by the company. Lifelong reading and learning ensure that employees develop continuously and show their desire to grow at a professional level.
Lifelong reading and learning can benefit you personally and professionally as follows:
It broadens your vocabulary so that consequently you can express your thoughts and feelings better and therefore communicate more effectively at a personal and professional level.
Your concentration improves. To read for 15 to 20 minutes per day enables you to focus better and ultimately be more productive.
Reading helps people suffering from depression with their social wellbeing. It builds self-confidence, decreases cultural isolation and builds a sense of community.
Research shows that people who keep their brain active by reading, are 2,5 times less inclined to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other mental illnesses than those who spend their time on less stimulating activities.
Reading takes you out of your surroundings and shows you the realities of others’ existence. It enables you to understand and identify with other people’s feelings and circumstances, in other words, it cultivates empathy.
Heightened creativity and communication skills, as well as the vocabulary that you acquired through reading, will improve your writing ability significantly. By reading the works of others, you can focus on their techniques and how they portray their message and themes through their writing.
Research by Sussex University indicates that reading can lower your blood pressure by so much as 68%. It allows you to forget the worries and stress of each day and escape to the author’s domain. A certain measure of escapism is necessary, especially during these uncertain times.
Spiritual reading matter also lowers blood pressure and brings about calmness and peace. If you struggle to fall asleep, 10 minutes’ reading can work wonders and lower your stress levels.
If you read books about a specific subject by different authors, it provides you with a deeper knowledge regarding that subject and you can also determine where there are gaps in your knowledge.
Reading stimulates the parts of your brain responsible for sight, language and related learning. It practises your thinking and puts your memory to work continuously.
The average person changes jobs ten to 15 times. Employers are providing more and more in-service training programmes, especially with regard to developments in the digital field. To read and learn continuously and in so doing remain abreast of these aspects, makes you more sought after in the workplace.
You can also learn indirectly without realising it. Through conversations, unexpected lessons learned, relationships or travelling, the world around you may expose you to new ideas and learning for which you didn’t even plan.
On a professional level, lifelong reading and learning also offer the following advantages:
- You can acquire a new qualification
- You can add new skills to your CV
- You can increase your prospects to be employed or promoted
- You can earn more money
- You can fill a skills gap
Approximately two-thirds of publishers’ income still comes from physical books, but the sales of electronic books and audiobooks are increasing. According to Van der Ark, 35% more people worldwide read during 2020, a large proportion thereof online. The convenience of digital books cannot be disputed; they are available on your computer, tablet and cell phone and therefore are readily available everywhere and always, whether it be for relaxation of for work.
Nowadays you can fix anything by watching a YouTube video. It enables everyone to master anything from home improvements to cooking any place and any time. The digital era makes continued learning increasingly easier and more accessible.
In our current life and time it is therefore absolutely essential to embrace technology and digital literacy as key factors to encourage reading and learning from childhood to adulthood. The development of a global society has made involvement compulsory for successful individuals on all terrains of life.
According to Jesus Lan, chairperson of the information department of IFL, lifelong learning and reading are in a strategic, mutual relationship, which is critical for the success of each individual, organisation and nation in the global information community. According to him, these two paradigms should be harnessed to work together symbiotically and synergistically for people and institutions to survive and compete successfully in the 21st century.
Unesco’s Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) consequently also wishes to quash the perception of learning and literacy as stand-alone skills and advocates for the investment in lifelong learning and the updating of already acquired skills. This will enable the individual to obtain independence and wellbeing and communities to be sustainable and to move forward socio-economically.
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Achieving literacy and numeracy from a lifelong learning perspective. UIL Policy Brief 7.
UNESCO. Feb. 2017. https://uil.unesco.org/literacy/achieving-literacy-and-numeracy-from-a-lifelong-learning-perspective
10 reasons why lifelong learning is the only option.
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https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/01/10-reasons-why-lifelong-learning-is-the-only-option. A blog about technology, innovation, & motherhood