Read! But be careful…

IQRA’… “Read” was the first word revealed to the Prophet Mohammad, Peace and Blessings be upon him. Many scholars have taken the opportunity to translate the significance of such revelation to the importance of reading and learning in Islam. And hence, many parents find themselves urging their children to read more. Young parents take their kids to the libraries and bookstores to pick out books, any books, that may spark their interest. Parents of teens and pre-teens take pride in their children if they find them reading instead of playing video games or watching TV. All these feelings of pride and success are rightly earned, but have you ever thought about what your children are actually learning from the novels they are reading? What sort of imaginary world are the authors of these books taking your children to? What sort of ideologies are the writers subtly passing on to your children through their intriguing stories and captivating writing styles?

If you are an avid book reader yourself, you would know that indulging in a book takes your brain to a whole different world where the author takes full control of your senses and imagination. Our brains are formed in a way that allows it to draw pictures from the words it reads. Therefore the reader may actually feel as if he/she were a part of the story, most likely relating to the lead character in one way or another. More so, your brain’s sensory system gets activated with the words you read. A study by Emory University compared the use of metaphors and their effect on the human brain. Using MRI technology, the researchers were able to prove that the brain is affected by the words it reads. They found that the regions of the brain responsible for texture get activated once a sentence containing a texture word (like “rough”) is used in a sentence. The same type of study was done but using words that would activate the sense of smell like the words “coffee” and “perfume” and similar results were reported – the region of the brain responsible for the sense of smell was activated. These studies show the gross effect of the words we read on our brain.

A more intense study was also conducted by Emory University where they studied the effects of reading a novel 5 days after finishing it. The study concluded that

“’The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,’ said Gregory Berns, the lead author of the study. ‘We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.’ The changes persisted over the five days after finishing the novel, suggesting that reading could possibly make long-lasting changes to the brain.”

Therefore, put your VRs away! Science proves that reading is the best virtual experience your child’s brain could undergo… just be careful which reality you choose to put their brains through!

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