Why Read? Reason #6: Knowledge is Power but Imagination is More Valuable.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.
- Albert Einstein

Everything changes when we read.

The more we read, the more enlightened we become. Gaining knowledge empowers our minds and broadens its range.

Reading broadens our imagination by stimulating the right side of our brain. It literally opens our minds to new possibilities and new ideas helping us experience and analyze the world through others' lives.

Neuroscientists at Emory University * discovered that reading fiction can improve brain function on a variety of levels. They found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. Reading fiction was found to improve the reader's imagination in a way that is similar to muscle memory** in sports.

Additionally, they found that reading a good novel allows one’s imagination to take flight and allows you to forget about your day-to-day troubles. Reading a good science fiction novel, for example, can transport you to a fantasy world that becomes reality in your mind’s eye.

Lead Emory researcher Gregory Berns concluded, "At a minimum, we can say that reading stories—especially those with strong narrative arcs—reconfigures brain networks for at least a few days. It shows how stories can stay with us. This may have profound implications for children and the role of reading in shaping their brains."

Reading Improves Embodied Cognition and Theory of Mind***

Imagination is also critical to successful cognitive skills. We know we can acquire the ability of imagination from reading, and through extensive reading we can enhance that ability. Sven Birkerts says in a School Library Journal article: “Imagination feeds reading, especially the reading of novels and poetry, and imagination is in turn fed by the life encoded on the page.” ****
In 2007, China convened the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. Neil Gaiman, the famous science fiction author, asked a top official why they have this interest in science fiction now since it had been disapproved of up till then?

The official told him that the Chinese were “brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine.”

The Chinese sent a delegation to the US visiting Apple, Microsoft and Google and asked those who were inventing the future about themselves. They discovered that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different”, Gaimam says.


* Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain. Berns Gregory S., Blaine Kristina, Prietula Michael J., and Pye Brandon E. Brain Connectivity. 2013, 3(6): 590-600.

** When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems. Examples of muscle memory are found in many everyday activities that become automatic and improve with practice, such as riding a bicycle, typing on a keyboard - from Wikipedia

*** Theory of mind (often abbreviated ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own. - from Wikipedia

**** Birkerts, S. (2012). Why Read?. School Library Journal, 58(3), (p.27).

Using their imaginations, backward poets write inverse.

Another poet, John Lennon, said that reality leaves a lot to the imagination. Imagine that!

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