Listening Vs Reading

The well known saying, “knowledge is power,” is true. A knowledgeable man can meet the challenges of life and become more successful. There are two main sources of gaining knowledge; one is through listening to informative talk or presentations and the other is reading books. Out of the two, reading books is the most important source. We get only a limited opportunity to learn from listening. The information conveyed through a lecture can in no case be as exhaustive as that in a writing.

 

There are other limitations to learning by listening when compared to learning by reading. Our mind can grasp much faster than we can speak; there is always idle time for the mind while the spoken words get imprinted on it during which the mind wanders. In other words, other alien thoughts pass through our mind which affects the concentration of the mind on the spoken words.

 

Another snag in listening is that we judge the ideas conveyed by the speaker while listening; this process is called “scheming”. While we scheme, we miss out on what the speaker is communicating. Our attention to the talk also depends upon how interesting the speaker’s presentation is. Even in the case of a sincere listener, it is difficult to hold his attention too long as boredom and other distractions tend to creep in.

 

When listening, the listener’s role is generally more passive, unless he tries to put himself in the position of a speaker, with empathy, which is a rare skill. When reading, one can adjust to the comfortable pause of reading. While reading, the time is his own. He can reflect on what he reads. Reading allows us to exercise our brain more intensely than listening can permit. It is within our control to keep the reading environment calm. While reading, our mind is in a deep state of concentration, the state of which soothes our mind and keeps us calm and composed, like we experience in meditation.

 

Reading activates our neural system and slows down the decline of memory due to the ageing process. It also enables us to organise information logically and cultivate patience. The information gathered through systematic reading gets embedded deeply and more clearly in our brain than information stored through listening. It is only through sustained reading habit that one can develop true scholarship.

 

However, with the advent of computers and the internet, reading has taken a backseat. At this rate, reading will soon become extinct and the material progress of mankind may reverse. The need of the hour is to restore this invaluable human ability by facilitating book reading sessions followed by discussions. Libraries, in particular, should organise such programmes periodically. Along with promoting reading skills, writing habit should also be promoted.

 

This blog post is by Serene Urbana resident Dr A. Sreekumar Menon.

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