Ten Reasons Why Reading is Good For You
In the age of entertainment on demand via aaaallll the streaming platforms (and these have their place, believe me) why would anyone do something so archaic as reading a good-old-fashioned-book? Oh books…How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
- Reading Reduces Stress
In these pandemic times, who doesn’t need that? In 2009, researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. Escaping into a literary world can help us forget our own troubles and become wrapped up in the lives of fictional characters. It’s best to pick something that you will enjoy reading. For example, reading the news makes me anxious and sad, so if you’re like me, avoid that and dive into something uplifting or intriguing.
- Increases Your Vocabulary & Fact-Based Knowledge (Makes you sound clever!)
According to research done by Keith Stanovich and his team in the 1990s, avid readers of both fiction and non-fiction books had a 50% larger vocabulary and 50% more fact based knowledge. The more you read, the greater your vocabulary. The greater your vocabulary, the more you understand while reading, even when reading about situations or circumstances which are completely outside your area of experience. A large vocabulary can influence processes such as job and university applications. It also sounds good when you’re chatting at a party! (Remember those? No? Look it up in the dictionary then).
- Develops Empathy
Just as travel broadens the mind, so does reading fiction. When we read, we encounter characters we may not befriend in real life. This gives us an opportunity to experience events through the eyes of others and understand their motivations. A 2013 study at Harvard University found that readers of Literary Fiction had better aptitude for identifying facially expressed emotions and understanding other people’s state of mind. This is called Theory of Mind. In a nutshell, regular readers of literary fiction have greater empathy and understanding of the thinking behind other people’s actions.
I don’t know about you folks, but this has been high on my list of priorities since March 2020. Who doesn’t want to forget the pandemic and all the other crap going on? Whether you’re being swept off your feet in a romance; experiencing workhouse life with Oliver Twist or mentally solving a mystery in a thriller; books offer us countless other realities to live in other than this one. And all from the comfort of your sofa/bed/hammock/local park/beach/. Risk free. Leave the danger to the characters on the pages.
- Benefits Children’s Education & Development
I’m not one to diss TV; a great series can offer similar, glorious escapism from reality. But research has shown that reading (or being read) a children’s book exposes children to 50% more vocabulary than a TV show. Also, children who are given exposure to reading before pre-school are more likely to be successful in all areas of formal eduction. And who says children’s books are only for kids? It’s wonderful to re-visit the tales which captivated us as children. I definitely have a few old favourites on my bookshelf!
- Keeps Your Mind Sharper as You Age
There’s not yet any conclusive research that proves reading can prevent problems such a Alzheimers. However, reading books and magazines is recommended as a way to keep the mind active and engaged as you age. A 2013 study found that the earlier we start reading regularly, the better. A whole host of problems found in the brains of people with dementia are less likely to occur in those who have participated in mentally stimulating activities their whole lives.
- Helps You to Relax Before Sleep
Reading before you go to sleep can help you to establish a bedtime routine and relax before going to sleep. However, if you’re reading the news, or reading on a computer or phone screen, this doesn’t count. The news can be depressing, dramatic and over-stimulating, which isn’t what you need before sleep. Also, the light from computer and mobile phone screens works to stimulate brain and trick you into staying awake. So a good old paper novel is your best bet for relaxing before sleep. And you know where to buy them….. 😉
- It Strengthens the Brain
The brain is like a muscle, and like all muscles, if we don’t challenge it, it becomes floppy. Research using MRI scans of the brain has demonstrated that even the morning after reading 30 pages of a book, the part of the brain associated with language and intellect showed increased connectivity. So by reading, or ‘exercising’ our brain, we can increase its power.
- Enhances Creativity and Flexibility
Researchers at The University of Toronto asked 100 people to read either a fictional story or a non-fiction essay. Afterwards, they completed a questionnaire assessing their ability to make clear, unambiguous decisions. The fiction readers came up as more creative and flexible than the essay readers. This effect is even stronger in those who read regularly.
- It’s Cool
Ok, so as lifelong bookworm I might be slightly biased here. But there is, especially in this technological age, something attractive about seeing a person reading a book. Whether on the beach, the bus or in a cafe. It’s something about that person being able to focus, be completely absorbed and dedicate time to relaxing and following the plot of someone else’s story, without 21st Century distractions. And, given some of the other benefits of reading: empathy, larger vocabulary, enhanced creativity; you can probably have a riveting conversation with them.
So, in light of all this, the question we should be asking is: why wouldn’t you read? You know where to find some cracking books for adults and children, so treat yourself!