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The Lost Art of Reading

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

I got yelled at last week. Was I breaking rules? Was I mean to anyone? Did I forget to pay a bill? No. I was reading directions! In what kind of world do we live in where you get yelled at for reading directions! Apparently, the world we live in. There’s just not enough time or patience for people to wait and figure out how something works anymore.

This incident came to pass because my family had an item delivered last week that required a little set-up. Me, being the organized person I am, choose to read the directions. My son on the other hand, felt I should be able to look at it hard, and assemble it with my mind. Presto!

This often happens to me. I’ll read a label, a sign, a handout just to make sure I have all the information. The impatient masses, however, be it family or other citizens, would prefer if I ran rampant through the world letting the chips fall where they may. That could work I guess but there would be a lot of things assembled improperly, rendering them virtually useless, a lot of detours and vital knowledge missed relating to any number of things. Not to mention wasted time and money! I for one don't want to be on a bike when the front wheel falls off because the directions said twist right, but I twisted left, too impatient to follow instructions, and the subsequent repair bill that may come with fixing the collateral damage of my race to the finish line.

That got me thinking about reading in general. Reading is essential in life but we’ve all pretty much mastered the art of skimming now. Looking through quickly to latch on to what seems to be the most key points, making decisions and firing off responses. Just this week I had to provide someone with information that if they had just taken the time to read through the message string, I wouldn’t have had to provide because the answer was right there. Two scrolls down. But, who are we kidding, that happens every week, multiple times a week. It’s one of my pet peeves.

Time is saved and confusion avoided by actually reading. Reading has become a lost art.

It’s not all about reading instructions and emails either. Reading in general provides so many other benefits that if you are not reading, you’re really missing out. A good book, the newspaper, an interesting Blog (perhaps this one. Hint, hint). There's so much good reading out there just ready and waiting for you spend a little time exploring.

I’ve mentioned the benefits of saving time and money earlier and that’s a no-brainer, we all need more time and money, but reading is also vital to selfcare. Reading provides you with an opportunity to relax, a little downtime and a distraction that is sometimes so sorely needed. When was the last time you were swept away by a good book? Whether hand-held, eBook or audiobook, a good book and takes you to new places and you can learn new things. Can’t afford that trip to Rome? Pick up a great mystery, romance or non-fiction book set in that region that puts you in the middle of the action, provides visuals, real and imagined, and let your wanderlust run free. Read in the park to enjoy nature or in the bath to intensify the relaxation. Go for it, you could use the break!

Relaxing is wonderful but reading also affords you the opportunity to share with others what you have learned. Teaching others based on your own knowledge can be so fulfilling. It’s amazing to kids when they ask you a question and you know the answer or can tell an interesting story about it. How do you know about it? You read about it! Read to or with your kids. It’s one of the most nurturing and positive things you can do with your children. Set an example for them by letting them see you reading. Our kids say what we say and do what we do so why not let them see us getting lost in a book?

Use reading to help others too. Volunteer your time to read to children’s groups or donate some of your time to reading to seniors in assisted living. You can take others on a journey with the words and the trip will bring a lot of joy and soothing benefits to you as well. Volunteer with a program that needs adults to read with kids so that they develop a love of reading, become more proficient readers, and gain more confidence in their reading abilities. Every teacher will thank you for that and you’ll feel wonderful for having made an impact on a child’s life.

Finally, read to protect yourself. It’s not just about directions or instructions. We all need to get back into the habit of reading the fine print. How many times have you signed up for something online and there were screens that included “Terms,” "Conditions," and “Waivers” to accept and you just scrolled down and selected “Ok?” What did you just get yourself into?! Most of the time it’s for something pretty innocuous and that we know we want anyway so there’s really no need for pause. However, let’s stay sharp people! That’s a slippery slope and don’t come complaining to me when you can’t get out of that timeshare you thought was in Palm Springs and turned out to be the Mojave Desert. Ouch!

My plan is to keep reading for all the good reasons outlined above and for the pure enjoyment of reading as well. Is my son a voracious reader? I’m sad to say he is not. In fact, he would rather crawl over broken beer bottles than read (hence the need to scold me for reading instructions), but I will continue to praise the joys and benefits of reading to him. I will continue to read with him, at him and listen to him read to me. I will continue to let him see me reading in the hopes that one day, it will be a source of selfcare for him, a way for him to continue growing and give back to others and a way to protect himself from those who would try to take advantage of him through the manipulation of words. My hope is that he will come embrace the art of reading and understand the long-term value it offers.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses while sitting on a bench reading a book.

Need some great motivational reading recommendations or just plain silly ones? I’m happy to send a few titles your way.

Happy reading!

Take care and be well,



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