21 June, 2024


Does Reading Make A Perfect Person? Clearing A Cloud Of Confusion

By Rehan Fernando

Rehan Derrick Fernando


The proverb “reading makes a perfect person” is an illusion. This is a controversial topic though it is appeared to be quite simple in its meaning. In my humble opinion, I would never accept that reading leads to making people perfect. Then, this whole world is a fine planet for all living beings to live peacefully. However, this argument just cannot be stopped here. We need to move forward with effective and constructive ideas to discuss further. 

Are you a “street-reader”?

This term street-reader will be quite new to the audience I guess. What I mean or the way I define is that some people used to read sitting in a restaurant or quiet place, coffee shops, café, and so on. There is nothing wrong with it. However, some others used to read habitually while walking or being on a corner of the street. These types of reading practices would only give us satisfaction. Thus, such a reading habit does give us information or collecting of data, maybe for a professional job or satisfy us as a hobby. Yet it does not lead us toward the radical praxis of becoming thinkers. A person can be a voracious reader, but does he or she a great thinker? There, a question remains unanswered. 

Reading is a very sophisticated thing. I’ve seen many people read so haphazardly and there is no specific area to read or an interesting subject. Some others are very selective in their reading because they prefer selective areas or subjects. A question would still appear. Should we read whatever we come across in magazines, papers, books, pamphlets, leaflets, and so on? It is quite difficult to answer in general but I would say “No.”  

The proper discussion begins now

Reading is a conscientization. It cannot be just a habit. Reading never makes anybody perfect. It is the praxis of reflection in our reading that makes us perfect. Since we are gifted with a critical and analytical mindset, we must or can reflect. This reflection does not come or emerge through long hours of reading in a café or restaurant or street or library, it comes from a critical and analytical mind. It also demands a radical praxis of “thought pattern.” If such a process doesn’t work for us, we become mere statues. It also leads us to distort humanity. Have we not met voracious readers who have killed the public? For an instance, a criminal-political leader like Ranil Wickremesinghe (current president if Sri Lanka) is one good example of my argument.  

In one of my surveys about this topic, I could get two important views which I would prefer to mention. These two guys openly came up with their attitudes.

Only Reading books won’t do much …Know a few people who boast about their personal library while spoiling the lives around them – Sudam Dalpadatho.

It does to some extent. At the end of the day, it depends on the person doing the reading and what they are reading. Selection of what to read also depends on the person. Sometimes people can boast about their reading habits, and books they own, but won’t make a conscious effort to replicate what they have learned through reading in their lives. Reading just for the sake of reading won’t get you better results but reading with purpose can make a huge difference to you and others around you – Ravindu N Fernando[2]

Reading+reflection = positive action

Reading should not be a mere ending. Its reflection should lead us toward a positive action in which we contribute to the well-being of our society. It means reading should show selflessness. Otherwise, our reading whether it is personal or communal becomes selfish. I have encountered many students who read personally and get through exams during my teaching career. Most of the students don’t share their knowledge with their colleagues. It shows their selfishness and competitiveness. 

A good reader is a person who voluntarily and willingly shares knowledge, which is a massive social consciousness. Such a reader will never make any personal room for reading and block the space to gain and share knowledge. If such a social consciousness takes place in the community, I suppose it is a tremendous reflection of any reading toward positive action. 

From personal experience to a common forum

I am not a voracious reader, yet I do read a lot. Hence, my reading habit comes as a result of becoming a writer. I published my first poetry book in 2002. It was a small booklet in which I wrote 40 stances about Mary. But I did a  research study about Fr Marceline Jayakody’s poetic language and I was able to follow his poetic language so closely. After the publication, one person who read my book commented saying “I felt like second Marceline Jayakody was born again.” My point here is that my research reading brought me to a climax in publishing a book. So, it was not mere reading, rather, it led me to a reflection plus good action. Well, I don’t think every reader could work in the same manner, but the argument is that a good reading should provide a good reflection and action. 

Much later, as I published my second, third, and forth poetry books, I began to read for hours. That gave me new pulses to reflect and produce some of my radical ideologies. 


Reading does not make a perfect person. Reading must be accompanied by deep reflection. That is the initial process of making a perfect person. In other words, it is our option that makes us perfect through reading and reflection. Reading without reflection and action is similar to an empty cup. I expect that I was able to clear the cloud of confusion that sometimes exist among us. My argument is not a scientific research of “eureka” but it is an ideological phenomenon for further debate.

[1] Read my article published in Colombo Telegraph on August 3, 2022: https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/voracious-readers-who-killed-the-public-its-wealth/

[2] I did this tiny survey in the Facebook as I posted about this article. According a few commented. I have chosen two essential  comments to defend my point to some extent. 

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Latest comments

  • 1

    If you ask me, ‘Does Reading Make A Perfect Person’. I’d say, A better person!
    (Reading College is a further education college based in Reading, Berkshire, England.)

    • 1

      Your levity may not be to the liking of certain deadly-serious moral arbiters.

      • 1

        old codger

        Prof G L Peiris is known to be a well read academic.

      • 1

        Mark Twain said
        “If you do not read the newspaper you are uninformed, and if you read you are disinformed”

  • 0

    A well-read man has read a lot and has learned a lot from that.
    Now, you give me the answer. Does Reading Make A Perfect Person?
    (For those who are lazy to think, – Yes, reading makes you better every time.

  • 3

    I never miss any of the articles presented by this author in these columns. They are generally research oriented with reflective ideologies based on ethical and moral norms. Very informative and coherently explained for us to read, emulate and discuss the topic with friends and at gatherings.
    I remember of another old proverb akin to the one expressed;
    ” Reading makes a full man, writing an exact man and speech a perfect man “.
    Here, each one is interconnected and interrelated to each other.
    However, this research paper will create an eye-opener to every reader of this article.
    Surely the research arguments in this article a ‘ eureka ‘.

  • 2

    Thank you, Rehan Derrick Fernando,
    It is a common perception that reading is a wonderful habit. However, Raymond Williams starts one of his books (Reading and Criticism) with the observation that Reading is one of our bad habits. Any habit, on this observation is bad.
    If we don’t have a book we tend to read the instructions on a bottle of medicine.
    I’ve only glanced at the article. There are many different kinds of reading. Certain pieces of writing should be quickly looked at just to get some information. Any language teacher learns that we have to train students to read in different ways, at different speeds.
    I will come back here. But there’s so much to read and comment on, apart from politics. There is for instance, this very serious (and long) article:
    Only a day left for comments there.

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