The Transformative Power of Reading

Transformative Power of Reading

(Photo Credit: Black Christian News Network)

One of the most powerful ways to awaken, develop, strengthen, and renew your inner intellectual is through reading substantive pieces each day. When you read substantive works, your knowledge grows, your imagination becomes broader, and your capacity to dream elevates. Reading permits you to not only discover many or most of the answers you seek, but also it enables you to formulate the right questions, questions that will lead you to a better, more interesting, and more successful life. This intentional focus on your inner intellectual will pay true dividends in enhancing your self-concept and naturally and ultimately your self-esteem.

When you read quality material, material that relates to your interests, aspirations, and search for answers, your purposeful reading will serve as a strong defense against negative factors affecting and influencing your self-concept and self-esteem.

Reading substantive literature, such as slave narratives, allows for you to place the challenges, barriers, and problems you face in their proper context. When you read slave narratives, you will learn about individuals who persevered and triumphed in impossible conditions—conditions much more difficult than you will ever be able to imagine. These stories about how American heroes and heroines endured these impossible conditions will inspire you to continue to strive for success—even when success falsely appears unlikely and barriers seem like they will never be conquered. Look for the strategies, values, principles, and thinking that led to those individuals’ success. Find ways to incorporate what contributed to their success into your own life.

Use your school library, public library, and the internet to find books and articles that pertain to your interests and goals. One of the greatest investments you can make in yourself each day is to read something that is going to support your interests and place you further on the path to achieving your goals. Each day is an opportunity to learn something new. Don’t waste a moment in self-doubt. Expand your knowledge, expand your horizons, expand your imagination through a commitment to reading meaningful books and articles that pertain to your interests and goals.

A commitment to purposeful reading every day is one of the most powerful ways of strengthening your self-concept and self-esteem. With this commitment, your mind becomes occupied with self-advancement, pursuing your interests, and meeting your goals.

Let books and articles occupy your mind, limiting the amount of time for condemnation, peer pressure, and self-doubt to discourage you and halt your progress.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Importance of Studying History

Black Readers

While there are conspicuous benefits to studying history formally at a higher education institution, an individual is not limited to gaining historical knowledge inside a higher education institution.  A person has a few economical options available to learn more about history: (1) checkout and read history books at public libraries, (2) purchase used copies of history books online, especially on Amazon, and (3) read free online historical material, including websites devoted to history, e-books, and scholarly articles available through Google Scholar.  Understanding the past is crucial to comprehending the present and future.  Too often many are flabbergasted about national and international developments.  If they closely follow history, many national and international incidences will not astound them.

Whether one is a Marxist or not, reading the works of Karl Marx, especially Capital, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology, and The Communist Manifesto, will enable a person to see connections between economic and social evolutions.  By reading Marx, one gains an apposite understanding of capitalism and knowing the history of capitalism is requisite to a keen awareness of the history of the modern and postmodern world.

It would be wonderful to have a majority of elected leaders who are students of history.  Just imagine how much better our lives would be if they actually had a robust knowledge of history.  Through a firm awareness of history, our elected officials are able to be more informed about the likelihood of their policies experiencing success.  At the local and national level, too many failed policies of the past are being employed.  What’s frustrating is many elected officials believe they’re offering new policies—when, in reality, those policies have been used in the past and have been miserable failures.

A passion for studying history must birth throughout the nation.  American citizens cannot simply rely on their elected representatives to have a commitment to learning from history—they must be the ones who change their representatives’ relationship (or lack thereof) with history.  Although you may be a student of history, the mistakes of those around you who aren’t students of history can have a deleterious impact on you.  Any transformative changes in economic and social policy will necessitate that a firm historical understanding be evinced.  No matter how brilliant an idea may sound, if the idea is detached from the lessons of history, it will prove to not be so “brilliant” after all.  When we don’t demand our leaders to be led by history, we unintentionally encourage their ineptitude.

An excellent example of how many Americans lack serious historical knowledge is reflected in numerous reactions to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.  Too many individuals are attempting to make claims about the film’s treatment of slavery when their responses don’t reveal they’re truly competent about slavery.  Before you proceed to compare the film’s depiction of slavery with the realities of American slavery, you actually have to know the history of American slavery.  Is this too much to ask?  Too many would rather just pontificate about the film and slavery than do the work necessary to have a credible appraisal of the film.  Spike Lee was foolish enough to admit that he was negatively criticizing the film without viewing it.  He expressed that he refuses to watch the film but he was unwilling to forego commenting about a film he has not viewed.  Does this make sense?     

You will find that when you engage more with reading history books, you will develop a greater appreciation for history and will have a more enriched understanding of yourself and the world in which you reside.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Start A Book Club Today

Some of my most enjoyable interactions and discourses have transpired during my participation in book clubs. Starting a book club can help to provide you with great intellectual stimulation, offer you an opportunity to have your ideas heard, discussed, challenged, and refined, provide you with a chance to fellowship with others, and much more. Although some people might think that book clubs are old-fashioned in the postmodern milieu with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and etc., I contend that there is still nothing like getting together with a group of people face-to-face and discussing a mutually agreed upon book. In a time when there is a dearth of new ideas being offered, a lack of support for creativity, and a dearth of alternatives to the status quo being put forth, beginning a book club is one important way to recover the aforementioned things.

In Madison, Wisconsin, I have an opportunity to see so many people doing random and useless things. They could redirect the time that they are devoting to random and useless things to reading exciting and challenging books, which will allow them to enter into the world of ideas, creativity, and innovation that books can lead us to. For those looking for a creativity outlet, a book club would be a useful and productive means of channeling your energy and desire for creativity expression. You might even compliment your book club with a blog and/or website to allow the discourse that takes place in person to continue once you are no longer face-to-face with all of your book club participants. A blog or website will allow you to share your discussions with a global audience, offering the opportunity to further enrich and enliven your discussions.

Although I suggest that you conduct your book club in a face-to-face format, an online format using a blog, Twitter, and/or Facebook would still give you the chance to have rewarding discourses. I just want people to gain the value of a book club. You do not have to be a college graduate to start a book club, and you do not have to select books that are considered classics. When you are selecting the books that you want to read, you can elect to read books that reflect the interests of the participants in the book club. A book club can be a hip club; that is, your book club does not have to be constructed in the image of a bunch of nerds sitting around reading books. You can read and discuss any works that you have an interest in.

I would encourage you to give starting a new book club today a try. Although it may be called a book club, this does not mean that you have to actually read books—you could read essays and other things as well. Let me know if you need any ideas and/or advice about starting your new book club. If you don’t want to start your own book club, then be sure to join an existing one. If you are having a difficult time finding a book club, then I would be more than glad to start one with you online. Get started today!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison