Reading helps you become a better you

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Reading helps you become a better you

Dubai - 'Children should spend at least 20 minutes reading'

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Sun 27 Nov 2016, 6:07 PM

Last updated: Sun 27 Nov 2016, 8:15 PM

Are you having problems focusing and concentrating on work? Are you low on confidence? Do you think work gets monotonous and exhausts you mentally and physically? If yes, then one practice that will solve all these issues is reading. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
In fact, in order to achieve the country's vision of a knowledge-based economy, the UAE government also passed the national reading law for encouraging the nation to pick up a book. The law makes it legal for workers to take breaks from work to read.
Also the year 2016 has been earmarked as the 'Year of Reading' in the UAE to promote the reading culture in the country amongst students and residents. The aim is mooted to consolidate UAE's position as a global capital for knowledge and culture
"I think that the new law is one of the greatest and I am quite positive that it will be marked as a historical achievement for generations to come. Why? Because studies show that reading not only improves the overall human health, but also helps better the quality of thinking and living of the group which practises it collectively as a culture. For example, a study in 2006 showed that half an hour of reading a day is better for reducing stress than music and other traditionally known relaxing strategies," said Dr Mohammed Wafeek Eid, consultant psychiatrist, Medcare.
Research on reading fiction shows that many skills needed for increasing productivity levels are improved due to reading. These include self discipline, focus, time management and creativity. "Moreover, every new language we read in adds new layers to our innovation," said Dr Eid.
Dr Sreekumar V. Nair, psychiatrist at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Nahda, Dubai, said: "Reading breaks can help improve our endurance and help us continue working. Taking a break helps to break the monotony of work, but unlike other break-time activities, reading keeps the brain active in a way that helps us to focus back on work much easier and faster."
Positive effects of reading
Elaborating about the advantages of reading breaks, Dr Nair said: "Reading breaks will improve productivity. Taking a break helps the body and mind to recharge and focus back on work. Taking multiple short breaks is more beneficial than a single long break as short breaks don't allow the body and mind to even reach a point of fatigue."
So what happens to our brain when we read?
"When we read, different areas of brain connect and relays in a way which enhances focusing, attention, concentration and improved memory. Regular reading also helps prevent the age-related memory impairment," Dr Nair said.
"Research shows that reading reduces the level of stress hormone, thereby helping us relax. Reading helps us understand others better and cope with negative emotions like anger and jealousy. This has a positive effect on our self-esteem and confidence. We are able to analyse situations and make intelligent decisions.
"Hence it improves our problem solving skills. Also, psychologically it helps us to be more calm and composed and be in control of ourselves."
It is also very important to note that many studies today advise us to go back to books and reduce our reading from smart devices. Up to 80 per cent of information we read from bright screens are prone to be forgotten while from a book, only 20 per cent is susceptible to be lost.
'Reading is healing'
Under the auspices of the Dubai Health Authority and Government of Dubai, Medcare Women and Children Hospital hosted an interactive reading session led by Amirah Al Marzouqi, an award winning Emirati author. As part of the "Reading is Healing" initiative, the author captured the imagination of young children by sharing excerpts from her book 'Waraaqt Al Hayat'. The session saw participation of children aged 5-12 years, accompanied by their parents.
'Children should spend at least 20 minutes reading'
The importance of reading and writing habits in children has reached a critical juncture across the globe. The reading and writing habits students had in the 1990s or the pre-digital era, has been completely changed in the 21st century. As per statistics from the Arab Thought Foundation, the annual average reading rate for an Arab child is six minutes compared to a 12,000-minute average for children in the West.
"Reading and writing habits actually determine the academic achievements of students to a great extent. Both reading and academic achievements are dependent on each other. Students often come from different environments and backgrounds with different levels of academic achievement. Therefore, they are bound to differ in the pattern of reading habits. While some students have better reading habits, others tend to exhibit poor reading habits. Therefore, teachers, parents and students need to take the adequate steps to bring back the reading habits into the framework once again," said Poonam Heryani, head of academics at ASPAM Indian International School.
"A child should spend a minimum of 20 minutes everyday, reading their favourite topic or book. They must be encouraged by parents, teachers and peers to sustain this routine to gain knowledge from all sources. We are thankful to the UAE government for charting out reading initiatives which will help students create a better society," added Poonam.
Tips for students to improve reading skills
> Set aside time for gadget-free independent reading
> Frequently visit your school library and borrow books
> Do brief book reviews
> Never miss a book fair and listen to the authors and their experiences
> Share your books with friends
> Be part of your local book clubs
> Host book reading events at home
> Encourage your parents to read
> Start with short stories if you don't want to go for the thick books
> Learn at least one new word a day by reading and by end of the year you would have added 365 to your list

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