What Is the Importance of Literature?

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Literature is important because it develops critical thinking skills, fosters empathy for others, reduces stress and develops readers' personal experiences. It can also be a learning tool for subjects including medicine, history, sociology and psychology.

One main benefit of literature is it engages the reader in an active learning style, as opposed to a passive learning method such as gathering information by watching television. It promotes intellectual engagement and stimulation with the introduction of new subjects including math, law and the sciences. People can learn about their identities and history through literature, and they can even use literature as a way to improve their lives. Individuals with depression, for instance, often benefit from reading books related to depression in addition to attending therapy sessions.

Benefits in Education and the Workplace

Literature can play an important role in learning and developing critical life skills. Many educational institutions have adapted their curricula over time to promote students' business and technical skills rather than educating them in the humanities. But the study of literature, which involves reading, writing, thinking and discussion, contains important elements that can actually help students in their professional endeavors. Through close reading, students develop a more sophisticated vocabulary. They sharpen their critical thinking skills and learn to communicate effectively orally and in writing. Students who learn literature become more proficient at reading, comprehending and analyzing text from a variety of sources including news and reports. For this reason, students who read literature are often good candidates for law school. Many employers also note the benefits that reading literature translates to their employees, including increased empathy and the ability to think creatively.

Another benefit of literature, for readers and others with whom they interact, is reading fosters the imagination. Literature opens doors to new experiences and opportunities, which in turn expands the reader's worldview. Readers might learn to become more sensitive to the needs of others. Since reading literature can make people more aware of others' feelings, many medical schools are incorporating literary studies into their course requirements.

Scientific Benefits

While many people understand the joy of escaping into a good book, there are actually scientific benefits to literature, too. Reading reduces levels of stress and anxiety more than taking a walk or listening to music. Literature can be a natural sleep aid, too. People who have trouble sleeping at night often read before bed to help them relax and clear their mind from the day's events. Reading benefits people of all ages, but it is particularly beneficial for reducing cognitive decline and function in the older population. Reading requires the brain to be active, which in turn stimulates memory. Engaging in reading and other intellectually stimulating activities may also ward off Alzheimer's disease.

Whether people read to learn or read for fun, opening a book and exploring a new subject leads to a more well-rounded person. In the workplace, well-rounded employees offer diverse perspectives and are more comfortable transcending their comfort zones. Reading literature, in general, also simply makes people more interesting to talk to.