Literature has been around for a long time. Today, we read books, eBooks, newspapers, magazines, internet articles, and much more. From an early age we learn how to read these, whether we started on books such as "Dick and Jane" or something different. My point is that literacy is a very necessary part of our society today.
But why do we read in the fist place? Sure we need to be able to read to get almost any job these days, but this was not always the case. So why then did reading become so important to our society?
To answer this we should look at what reading really began as. That is stories. Stories were once told orally and then were converted into a paper form. This was where reading began to take hold. Then to look at why we read, we should really look at what reading a story does. One thing that a story can do is display a common quality through a specific experience. I talked some about how this can bring people together in a previous article, but now I plan to look at how this can affect an individual.
To do this, I will look to "good literature." Now, I will define "good" as literature that has two qualities. This literature must bring out a deep feeling from within the reader. You may call this an emotion, but the point is that the story draws out some connection from the reader. This literature must also be more than solely words on a page. By this, I mean that it bears some meaning or idea that exists outside of the story as it is presented on the page. Now, note that by this definition, "good literature" can change from person to person.
To illustrate this further I will give some examples.
Think of the Harry Potter series. I know many readers will say that they felt some connection to the characters throughout the book. So it then fits the first requirement for "good literature." What about the second? As I see it, one theme is the value of friendship when confronting evil. There may be others that different readers see in these books but this suffices for the second requirement. Therefore, the Harry Potter series can be considered "good literature."
Another example is a book that I enjoy by Toni Morrison entitled "Song of Solomon." When I read this, I felt a deep connection to the characters within. Although I cannot now recall that connection specifically, I remember the almost awe-inspiring feeling I had when reading the book. It also has many meanings off the page. One that I can point to is the theme of flight and how fleeing from constrictions can hurt those around you. In this light, "Song of Solomon" can then be considered "good literature."
My point through this is that what we really read for is this "good literature." We as humans read stories to feel a deep connection from within ourselves that we may not unearth in any other way. We also read for the meaning or idea that is presented off the page. In essence, we read to understand ourselves and those around us better through these connections and ideas.