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Does Reading Make You a Better Person?

Does Reading Make You a Better Person?

Reading has become much more than just a way to pass the time for inmates in Brazil’s federal prison system. Prisoners who are approved for the program can now reduce their sentences by 4 days for each book they read, up to 12 books a year. Works of literature, philosophy, classics, or science will count toward the sentence reduction.

Along with reading books, the prisoners will also be required to write an essay about each one that must “make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing” (The Guardian).

Why should inmates who read get out of jail earlier? Part of the incentive for this government program is undoubtedly an attempt to alleviate the crowded conditions in Brazil’s prisons by releasing prisoners faster. But officials also believe that reading informative literary works could have a rehabilitative effect on inmates.

Lawyer Andre Kehdi, who runs a book donation project for prisons, said “A person can leave more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world. Without a doubt they will leave a better person.”

Does reading make you a better person?

Reading does a lot of things. It provides us with entertainment, makes us better communicators, and gives us an expanded view of the world we live in. But does reading make you a better person?

Some people say yes.

Researchers Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby believe that reading fiction and identifying with the characters in stories can influence the way we act in our own lives. They coined the term ‘experience taking‘ to describe the act of “spontaneously assuming the identity of a character in a narrative and simulating that character’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, goals, and traits as if they were one’s own” (i09).

Presumably this theory of character improvement through reading only applies when the reader identifies with a positive character in a book, rather than a villain or evil character.

In the end, I don’t know whether reading can make you a more moral, honest, or “better” person. But there are certainly many benefits to reading, and any program that promotes literacy and quality literature is on the right track to building a better, more informed society.

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11:13PM PST on Mar 4, 2013


“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
― Albert Einstein

So give a try!!!!!!

12:26PM PDT on Sep 27, 2012

a good thought, but plenty of educated people are bad people

5:11AM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

Perhaps not

2:36AM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

Joe Stalin was a great reader. Adolf Hitler was a great reader. Mao Zedong was a great reader. And they all read great books.

This Brazilian reading drive sounds like an effort to improve jail inmates' literacy skills and general knowledge and is a praiseworthy endeavour. But I wouldn't take it any further than that.

I'm a great reader too, BTW.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

In order for reading to make you a better person you have to have an open mind. There some who comment on this an other threads who are not capable of this. I am sure these people have not read an entire book since they left school.

11:53PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

RE: "... the prisoners will also be required to write an essay about each one that must “make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing.”

Reading and writing are especially emphasized in college as important modern work skills, and I love them myself, and am naturally good at them; I don't struggle the way that some people do. But who is teaching these prisoners the skills that are demanded of them in regard to their essays? Did I miss it in the article? If no one is teaching them, and they haven't already learned, they can't do it on their own, and many will struggle with it anyway.

9:51PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

I am not sure if reading makes you a better person, but I think it can make you a more well rounded person. I think that this is a good idea though as it may show some of the prisoners a better way.

1:56PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

Some of the least informed people I know have never read a single book in their entire lives.

One time I actually asked a guy how he learned, since he didn't read. He said he listened to what people said. The guy was reasonably intelligent. But he was not well informed. He was sort of like the Fox "News" viewers that our the bane of our existence today.

1:42PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012


1:08AM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

It really depends on your definition of "better".Reading certainly improves a person's knowledge and ability to express themselves.This is a great innovation for prisoners! You know what they say "Knowledge is power" and by the way,if you are reading all this,thank a junior primary teacher!!!I have read hundreds of books in my life and it's amazing how much knowledge one can accumulate.In respect to history,if you don't know what has gone before,how can you know what you are capable of!?

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