Reading and Learning part 2

If you read a history book, you will find some geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein etc. These are probably the “smartest” people who ever live. However, they do not have more brain than the average person like us, they just use their brains more efficiently. According to neuroscience, the brain is a muscle that requires constant exercise to keep it healthy. Without mental stimulation, the connections between neurons in your brain will shrink and eventually disappear. In another word, your brain needs you to exercise it every day to improves its neurons connectivity. As you read a book (i.e., exercise), your brain is actively working to decode a series of abstract symbols (i.e., Words) and synthesizing the results into a complex thing called “learning.”

Sir Isaac Newton wrote in his diary: “My brain’s power is a product of my daily reading habit.” If you want to improve your brain’s power, you need to read more by developing a good reading habit. Since it takes at least 30 days to develop a habit, if you can read every day for 30 days, you will develop a good reading habit. When you read a book, you have time to think and eventually develop a deeper understanding of the materials than when watching movies or reading trivial things that do not require you to think. The benefits of deeper understanding will help you improve your learning capacity.

Have you ever asked: “Why some students seem to learn many things easily when others cannot? The answer can be explained in their reading skills and attitude toward learning. Neuroscience explained that the brain can be reshaped over time by forming new neural pathways. The more you read, the more you learn, the more connective your brain can be developed. Whatever you read often will create specific pathways in your brains, eventually, you can learn more about the subject that you read. For example, if you read a lot about mathematics, you may become better at learning math. Students who are studying hard by reading more on a subject, often improve their knowledge and their grades over time. Students who believe that they are not “smart enough” often ignore certain subjects, limit their reading ability and their grades often get worst.

Of course, anyone can change. The first step is to read more about a subject, get your brain to be active to develop the new connection and soon you will learn better. Socrates taught his students: “If you want to learn something, read more about it.” Reading about certain topics may also reveal your character. Benjamin Franklin explained: “Tell me what type of books that you read, and I can tell you what kind of person you are.” Oscar Wilde also said: “You are what you read.”

Reading helps students to develop a good studying habit, improve their knowledge and grades. It is not a theory but it is a fact supported by science. Reading is not just for learning but also opens your mind to many things and affects the way you act. The more you read, the better your verbal and writing skills. The deeper you read, the better your ability to understand complex materials. That is why I believe reading could be the most important thing that students should do to help them achieve success.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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