Philomath Community Library
Philomath Community Library (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Greetings! I’m back again to talk with you about the library while sending an abundance of care and compassion to you during this still very trying time.

Julia Engel

As we go into the holiday season to cap off one of the most bizarre and troubling years in recent history, I’d like to provide a gentle reminder that reading is a vital component to our survival and ability to thrive. I’m not here to overwhelm you with a lecture about the importance of reading and education, although I do believe reading is important for the purposes of education, what I feel is crucial to keep in mind right now is reading as a means of stress reduction.

The past eight months have introduced levels of uncertainty that our world has not seen within my lifetime. Toxic prolonged stress has shown to have damaging effects on children’s development and can create a lasting effect on their ability to lead a healthy life.

Reading can move us emotionally, create catharsis to purge anxiety or distress, and can help bring us some relief. It has helped me to broaden my view of the world and shift my perspective to gain clarity. At times it has helped me to achieve peace, serenity, and joy.  

For parents and children, a key benefit to reading together is the bonding experience it creates and for social-emotional learning. I won’t burden you with too many facts and figures, but I would encourage you to check out Early Childhood Literacy expert Saroj Ghoting’s site for some further reading on research and resources for parents.

Many studies show the benefits and importance of reading to children early on, as it readies their growing brains to continue absorbing information as they tackle more complex topics. My hope for everyone is that we can keep in mind that reading for pleasure can and does often serve a dual purpose. Not only will reading for pleasure help to reduce stress, but it can keep your brain primed to learn.

The library provides resources that can be helpful for families learning at home right now.  Not only print books, downloadable eBooks and audiobooks, but databases and other digital resources that can be accessed.  

It also stands to reason that as we persist down the path of life that reading is beneficial not only for a child but to the individual through all stages of development. We can see evidence throughout history that the written word has long been a conduit for conveying world altering or life-changing ideas. In addition to printed text, reading can include other formats which in the past may have been considered “non-traditional.”

In library school, I learned that a dog is a “document.” This blew my mind! A dog is akin to a book? A dog’s bones contain information that can tell us about its genetic background, medical history and so on; we just need to learn to decode and read that information, right? This helped open my mind to understand that reading can be a broad term that encompasses a variety of different formats.

I am often asked if I consider listening to audiobooks to be reading and I always respond with a resounding yes! When listening to an audiobook, we must follow a plot, pay attention to character development, understand cause and effect and discern perspective. These are all skills of reading comprehension and help us to summon creativity that can make a huge impact on our lives.

When we listen to spoken words, we flex our muscles of imagination which can serve us well in a time when we often feel bombarded by bad news. We can use this to conjure images of a more hopeful future, that our present circumstances are not the state we will stagnate in forever, there is a light on the horizon we can look forward to if we just push forward.

Graphic novels or comics had historically been written off as “not literature,” but recent developments in the literary community have come to reveal that they have more than merely entertainment value. They are often full of text that the reader must decode and analyze in the same way as in a pictureless book, in similar ways as I outlined pertaining to audiobooks.

They are also particularly beneficial for “reluctant readers” — individuals who think they are averse to reading or in a momentary slump. There is now a wide variety of styles and formats of graphic novels that runs a gamut of appeal for almost any reader.

Lately, I have struggled with not being able to concentrate on reading a full book of dense prose, so I will turn to a graphic novel or book of poetry to jump start my reading momentum again. Whether you read for information or pleasure, or prefer to read a format other than printed text, do not underestimate the phenomenal power of reading in all its forms to relieve stress as well as stimulate development.  

Now that I’ve convinced you all of the reasons you should read this holiday season, why not get something to read from the library? You can still get materials from the library in a few different ways! I encourage anyone who hasn’t already to sign up for our home delivery service here. Once you are signed up, you can navigate to our library catalog, search for something you’d like to read/listen to/view/or try out (have you heard of our “Library of Things”?) then put it on hold using your library card. Then when that item is ready for you, we will deliver it to your door! Easy peasy.

Don’t have a library card? No problem! Just visit this page to sign up for an all-access eCard you can use to access our digital eBooks and eAudiobooks right away, or you can use the number to place any of our physical items on hold through the catalog.

We are also offering some pick-up services at all library branches, please visit our walk-up services page or Facebook page for current up-to-date information on what your local branch is offering.

As always, if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at the Philomath library by phone or email me if you need any further assistance. We are happy to help you access our services and can provide reading, viewing or listening suggestions.

Sending you peace and joy this holiday season, and happy reading!

(Julia Engel is a reference librarian at Philomath Community Library. She can be reached via email at or by phone at 541-929-3016.)