What exactly do human beings get from reading books? Is it just a matter of pleasure, or are there benefits beyond enjoyment? The scientific answer is a resounding “yes. “ Reading books benefits both our physical and mental health, and those benefits can last a lifetime. They begin in early childhood and continue through the span of life.
• READING STRENGTHENS OUR BRAIN
Researchers have confirmed that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks also get stronger and more sophisticated.
• INCREASES ABILITY TO EMPHASISE
People who read literary fiction — stories that explore the inner lives of characters — show a heightened ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of others. Researchers call this ability the “theory of mind,” a set of skills essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships.
• BUILDS VOCABULARY
Students who read books regularly, beginning at a young age, gradually develop large vocabularies. And vocabulary size can influence many areas of your life, from scores on standardized tests to college admissions and job opportunities.
• REDUCES STRESS
Studies have found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did.
• HELPS ALLEVIATE DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS
People with depression often feel isolated and estranged from everyone else. And that’s a feeling books can sometimes lessen. Reading fiction can allow you to temporarily escape your own world and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters. And nonfiction self-help books can teach you strategies that may help you manage symptoms.
It’s especially important for children to read as much as possible because the effects of reading are cumulative. However, it’s never too late to begin taking advantage of the many physical and psychological benefits waiting for you in the pages of a good book.