The unexpected benefits of reading

September 2023

Reading is essential in everyday life—we read every time we communicate via email or text, pay bills, or even navigate traffic. 

But did you know that reading for personal enjoyment and learning is good (and low-cost!) entertainment but can also bring many other benefits? Here are some ways that losing yourself in a good book can boost your overall well-being.

Reading helps sharpen the mind

Regardless of age, the more new experiences the brain is exposed to, the more it can adapt, learn and remember. If you’re looking for a new and novel way to keep your brain active, reading can help! You need to remember different characters, settings, and plot points when reading a book to understand the story. While you may enjoy the book you are reading, you are giving your brain a workout and improving your memory

Because reading requires your undivided attention, it can also help to improve your concentration and focus. And when you dive into any book, you increase your general knowledge and vocabulary. 

Additionally, keeping your brain active engages new or little-used mental pathways, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline. Studies have found that reading is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline for older adults at all levels of education. Reading is protective of your cognitive function as you age.

Reading helps reduce stress and improve well-being

With today’s constant connectivity and on-the-go lifestyles, finding effective ways to relieve stress is significant. Enter reading.

Reading is a highly effective method to reduce stress—it can give you mental space from the issues causing your stress. What’s more, it only takes six minutes of reading to slow the heart rate and effectively ease muscle tension.

Reading is linked to other positive physical and social effects. Research has found that low literacy has been linked to more prolonged illnesses and, in some cases, earlier death.

Reading before bed can improve sleep quality

A study out of Ireland found that reading in bed before sleep not only improved overall sleep quality, but people in the group who read before bed also experienced fewer problems staying asleep. 

Reading teaches empathy

Additional social benefits exist for fiction lovers, as there’s evidence that reading fiction helps to promote empathy, boost self-esteem, and improve social skills. Identifying the emotions of a novel’s characters and following their relationships with other characters activate the same areas of the brain we use when experiencing real-life issues. And this positive social benefit starts in early childhood, which is just one of the reasons to start reading early.

Reading could help you succeed in life

Reading levels among youth are also a key indicator of future success in education and life, and kids agree! A survey conducted by Scholastic Canada found that 91% of kids and 96% of parents agree that being a good reader is important for future success.

Reading helps foster connection between families

Parents who read to their children can positively influence how much they like reading. Reading as a family is essential because reading for fun enhances a child’s comprehension, vocabulary, and attention span. It increases children’s confidence and motivation to read throughout their lives. 

It can also play a role in developing a closer bond between child and parent as it gives you a chance to spend time together and learn about each other.

And if you are an avid reader, it is more likely that your kids will be too. A survey conducted by Scholastic Canada found that kids who are frequent readers are more likely to have parents who read books 5-7 days per week.

So, pop into your local library or bookstore or download a new ebook and see what interests you. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a page-turner you just can’t put down—plus a rewarding endeavour that is good for you!  

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