It’s another last Tuesday, meaning it’s time for another This versus That post. Our topic for today is whether it’s better to read for enjoyment or for educational benefit. Should we spend all our time reading only educational books? Or is it okay to read for enjoyment too? I’ll begin by discussing the benefits of reading for enjoyment.
What are the benefits of reading for enjoyment?
Some of the benefits of reading for enjoyment:
- Is restful and relaxing
- Can help with stress
- Happens more naturally
- Can be read longer
- Can teach spiritual lessons, cultures, time periods, etc.
Reading for enjoyment is fun and relaxing.
At the end of a busy day or even in the middle of the afternoon when I am having a break, something educational and requiring a lot of concentration isn’t usually what I want to read. I do choose that at times because I try to have a balance between pleasure reading and educational reading. But books that are read for enjoyment are usually relaxing and restful since they don’t require too much brainpower.
I think most of us when we are resting or taking a break, would not choose a gigantic textbook to read. Instead we would probably choose an interesting or exciting story.
It might be an adventure story or a missionary biography. Or it might be poetry or historical fiction. There are many options of books to read for enjoyment, and many of them encourage resting.
Not all of them do though. I’ve read books that got my heart racing, as I flipped through the pages as fast as I could, wondering how in the world the situation was going to end. Those aren’t the kinds of books to read when you are wanting to relax. So, I might add, when you are reading to relax, an exciting story might should wait along with the educational books.
Reading for enjoyment can help with stress.
I’m sure most of us have had times where we were stressed about something, but it wasn’t something we had any control over at the moment or could do something about. It’s at those times when all we can do is wait, that reading for enjoyment can be a great distraction.
One situation that comes to my mind is waiting in doctor’s offices. I’ve always been nervous going to doctors, even when there’s no reason to be nervous. Reading something interesting has helped me to get my mind off what was about to happen.
I can remember taking school books along, (what home-school kid hasn’t done school in the waiting room?) but I didn’t usually get very much done. I was usually too nervous to focus. But an exciting story worked much better to help me forget my nervousness.
Often in stressful situations, we use technology as a means of distraction. But that only stimulates our bodies, something we don’t need when we are already stressed. An interesting book that holds your attention is a much better option. And a book that is typically read for enjoyment would be much more likely to hold your attention than an educational book.
Enjoyment reading happens more naturally.
How often do we just pick up something educational to read, because we are in the mood to read it? Oh sure, we may do it sometimes, but let’s admit it: more often that we care to admit, our choice of reading would fit under the enjoyment category. Unless we specifically plan to read something educational.
Now, if we are trying to read more and find more time for reading, that can be a good thing. Choosing an interesting story to read is better than sitting on our phones scrolling through social media.
Imagine this: you are sitting in a cozy armchair with a cup of coffee or tea on the end table beside you. Also on that table are your cellphone and a 500 page book about Ancient Rome. Which would you choose? Now, unless you are a college student with looming deadlines or a dedicated history buff, you would most likely choose your cellphone.
But what if it instead of a history book it is an almost 500 page book by your favorite adventure fiction author, a book in the middle of a series, a book that you have been waiting for a couple of years to read? I think the answer this time would be very different for the majority of us. If I didn’t have anything else that needed done, I probably wouldn’t leave that chair until I was at least halfway through, maybe farther.
If you are trying to fit in reading time, beginning with books read for enjoyment is a good place to start since that is what we naturally gravitate towards.
Now, I suggest you branch out and incorporate more beneficial reading material, but if you already aren’t reading regularly, the educational books probably aren’t the best place to start.
Books read for enjoyment can usually be read longer.
When we are reading for educational purposes, we have to read in small increments of time. Otherwise our brains become overloaded and can’t process any more information.
This isn’t as likely to be the case with books read for enjoyment. They aren’t as apt to max out our brains.
So if you are wanting to read for a long period of time, such as when traveling or waiting for time to pass and bring something you are looking forward to, reading for enjoyment is probably the way to go.
When I was in college, I didn’t do a whole lot of pleasure reading. But when I did, I usually read a lot, probably several different books over a few days. I couldn’t have read that many textbooks in that time without going into overload.
Now, if you don’t have a lot of time to read and you have a tendency to not put an exciting book down until you have finished it, then maybe you should choose something more educational and less exciting. If I am only reading for a short time, during a fifteen or twenty minute break, I usually read something more educational. That way my fifteen or twenty minute break doesn’t become an hour or two hour break.
But if you don’t have something you need to be doing and you want to read for awhile, the pleasure books are less likely to wear out your brain and leave you feeling tired from studying too long.
Enjoyment reading can still teach valuable lessons.
A lot of pleasure books are not necessarily informative in the areas of day-to-day life and necessary life skills, but they can teach important lessons. Christian fiction can make Scriptural lessons easier to understand and apply to our lives.
Of course it doesn’t replace reading the Bible and other Christian books, but it still can be beneficial, especially for younger readers.
Besides teaching Christian lessons, books read for enjoyment can also teach other things, such as information about other cultures and time periods. A book that is set in another country, if written accurately, can teach about the culture of that country.
Most of us do not have the option to travel to many different places, so learning about these places through literature and media is the next best thing.
Historical fiction and true accounts of historical events can have a similar effect, teaching us about something that happened in another time period. The book I’m currently reading is a historical fiction story that is about World War I.
It has been interesting and informative, talking about events happening during the war as well as war-unrelated events that really happened. World War I is one of the main wars that I don’t know as much about as I should. I’ve been learning about some events I previously didn’t know about.
Now, it’s time to move on to Part 2 of this post and the benefits of educational reading.
What are the benefits of reading for educational benefit?
Some of the benefits of reading for educational benefit:
- Has a long-term impact
- Can be informed on a variety of topics
- Can feel a sense of accomplishment
- Can share what you’ve learened
- Is more practical to everyday life
Educational reading has a long-term impact.
Most of the benefits that we discussed for books read for enjoyment have a short-term impact on us. They are valid reasons for reading pleasure books at the time when we are reading, but overall they do not leave much of a lasting effect on us unless they teach some of the lessons mentioned in the last section.
As far as a long-term impact, that is one of the main points in favor of reading educational books. They do have that effect on us, if we read them carefully and absorb what they are teaching us.
Educational books are not usually books we read for momentary enjoyment, but for the knowledge that we can learn from them and have ready when the time comes that we need it.
So what are some of the long-term effects that educational reading has on us? The next points will go into more detail on that.
You can be informed on a variety of topics with educational reading.
There are educational books on nearly any subject. Browsing a library or an online bookstore shows us that. And for one topic, there are lots of books covering different aspects of that topic.
In my small, personal library, I have close to a dozen different books on writing and English. Most of them cover different kinds of writing and different approaches to writing. And that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of writing books available.
Imagine just how much you could learn if you read one book on twenty or thirty different topics. You would be well-informed on a variety of topics and have a grasp on the basic concepts of those different topics.
Now, just reading one book wouldn’t make you an expert by any means; that takes serious study and focus on just one topic. But if you read on a variety of topics, you could still learn a lot. And after all, most people don’t have more than one or two topics on which they would be considered an expert.
Reading a variety of pleasure books would introduce you to different writing styles and book genres. But as far as helping you to become informed on useful topics, they probably wouldn’t help you get very far.
You can share what you’ve learned with others and benefit them.
This goes right along with the last section. So after you’ve read books on a variety of topics and know a lot of different things, what do you do with the information? Well, some of it will probably come in handy at some point, and you will use it. But what if it doesn’t? Does that mean it was all a waste? No, it doesn’t.
You may not use everything you know, but you have it ready in case you do, and in the meantime, you can share what you know with others. Now, I don’t mean that you should always go around spouting information like an encyclopedia, showing off what you know.
But when the opportunity arises, and you know something that would be helpful to someone else, you can share it, and use your information to benefit another. You may not use all the information you know, but you might just be able to pass some of it along to someone else who will use it.
I’ve often enjoyed a conversation with those who are informed on various subjects. They are usually interesting to listen to and can add a lot to the conversation. They can explain things and give the history of different events. Being well-informed is a blessing and something we should try to be.
You can feel a sense of accomplishment with educational reading.
I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish an educational book. One book that comes to my mind is The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. That was a very interesting book, but it was also long and, in some places, a little tedious and technical. But I made it through, and it was more than worth the time and effort it took to read it.
If I had just been reading a story, I wouldn’t have had that same sense of accomplishment when I finished it. That is one difference between reading for enjoyment and reading for educational purposes.
We know that educational books are profitable, so when we finish one, we feel as though we have accomplished something profitable. The feeling when we finish an interesting story, however, is not usually that we accomplished something.
It would more likely be the feeling that we had a nice break, and now it’s time to get busy on something that matters. So if you want to feel like you’re accomplishing something while reading, read an educational book!
Educational reading is more practical to everyday life.
I did mention some of the informational benefits we can get from pleasure reading, but only one of those is really practical for everyday life: the spiritual lessons. The other things are good to know.
It is nice knowing about other time periods and other parts of the world. But as far as learning for practical purposes, there isn’t a lot of that sort of information in books read for enjoyment.
Most of the learning from books that benefits us on a regular basis comes from educational books. Some things we learn first-hand or are taught by others, but there is still a lot that we learn from books. Math isn’t taught in a story book. Neither is music.
Some things can be explained to a certain extent in a story, but to go deep, it takes more than a story. It takes a book written specifically for educational purposes. They aren’t always interesting, but they are necessary.
As we have seen, both education books and pleasure books have benefits and are helpful for us to read. As I mentioned earlier, most of the benefits of reading for enjoyment are short-term. The benefits of reading for educational purposes are long-term.
So my conclusion would be that we should spend time reading both. When we are able, we should read helpful, informative educational books. And when we are not able to read them, then it’s time to pull out that pleasure book we’ve been wanting to read.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Which is your preferred choice of reading: enjoyment or educational? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.