I know, I know – reading is fun, it’s hip and it’s good for you. There’s plenty of reasons why you should read, but here, I’ll focus only on the ones backed by science.
1. Reading makes you a better person.
Seriously, it’s not a figure of speech. Not one, but two (parallel) studies found that reading actually makes you a better person – more caring and empathetic towards other people. In 2013, Emory University did a study that compared the brains of people after they read, compared to people that didn’t read. Using brain scans, they found that reading something actually makes you somehow visualize it and even feel it in a way – I assume this explains why 50 Shades of Grey is popular – you can feel the emotions in the book.
But that’s not all – psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, at the New School for Social Research in New York, have proved that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships.
2. Reading reduces stress
The reason why most kids don’t want to read is that they have to read – which pretty much takes all the fun out, doesn’t it? Reading is supposed to be relaxing and exciting, which is exactly what Dr. David Lewis, one of the pioneers of neuroscience found. Often called ‘the father of neuromarket’, Lewis reported that reading reduces stress levels by 68 percent and significantly lowers heart rate. For comparison, a walk outside reduced stress levels by 42 percent.
It’s something about immersing yourself in another world that seems to reduce stress levels and calm us – even after we’ve done reading. Research found that as little as six minutes of reading can be enough to greatly reduce stress.
3. Reading makes you smarter
Seriously, this should be a no-brainer: reading does make you smarter. A 2013 study found that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers. The study conducted by the Institute of Education (IOE) researchers Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown. The difference was most striking with children aged between 10 and 16.
Perhaps surprisingly, reading for pleasure was found to be more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ levels of education. But what’s even more interesting is that reading didn’t only help children fare better at spelling and literature – it also helped them in topics like math. According to researchers, the ability to acquire and process information is crucial here – and that’s exactly where reading helps.
4. Reading is good for your relationship
I couldn’t actually find any peer reviewed study to actually confirm this, but many scientists working in the field seemed to share this opinion. Notably, psychotherapist Ken Page said that reading the same (or similar) books in a couple and then discussing them can do wonders for your relationship.
Ella Berthoud, a bibliotherapist at the School of Life in Bloomsbury, London said, “One of the joys [of reading together] is that you discover new aspects of each other, or you may rediscover a connection you had.” It’s not only current relationships that reading can help – it’s also in finding a relationship. As Robin Williams put it: language was invented to woo women – and in that endeavor, laziness will not do. Speaking of that…
5. Reading makes you a better speaker
Again, a no-brainer: reading helps you acquire a better, enriched vocabulary. But while this is pretty much common sense, you can leave it to Canadian researchers to confirm it – which they did, in a study published in 2001. Who would have thought that reading all those fancy words will make you learn and use fancy words? Everybody, probably.
6. Reading prevents Alzheimer’s
Having an active life (mentally) is generally one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from Alzheimer’s. Another study published in 2001 found that elderly people who regularly read or play mentally challenging games are much less likely to develop the crippling disease.
It’s basically a great exercise for your grey matter – just like you need to keep your body in shape, your mind needs work too. Actually…
7. Reading keeps your brain sharp
It’s not just that reading makes you smarter, but it can keep your mind sharp too. This study in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, says that reading is important throughout a person’s life, from childhood through old age. People who read continuously throughout their life exhibit significantly better memory and mental abilities at all stages in life.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!