Last year, I was alarmed to learn of a poll that determined 41 percent of U.S. adults had not read a fiction book in the past year; 42 percent had not read a nonfiction book; and 28 percent had not read a book at all!
Although America is not among the 10 countries with the worst literacy rates (yet), our own rates have stagnated over the past decade. In fact, experts say that 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read and two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. There’s also compelling evidence that low literacy rates among adults pose serious health risks, and some reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.
The good news is that all of this is easily remedied by teaching kids and adults to read, supporting public libraries that make reading affordable and fun, and educating people about the health benefits of reading!
5 Ways Reading a Book Can Improve Your Life
1. Stress Reduction – A 2009 study from the University of Sussex found that reading silently to oneself, for less than 10 minutes, reduced stress by 68 percent. In fact, reading was more effective at eliminating stress than listening to music (61 percent), having a cup of tea or coffee (54 percent) or taking a walk (42 percent).”Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart,” reported the Telegraph.
2. Better Sleep – Our eyes and brains weren’t designed to be bombarded with glowing pixels all day. These bright lights stimulate the brain and tell our bodies it’s time to wake up. In an age when many of us spend 8 to 10 hours in front of a screen each day, it can be hard for our bodies to calm down at bed time. Many sleep experts say that reading a paper book (e-books don’t count!) about an hour before bed can be a great way to signal to your body that it’s time to rest.
3. Improved Conversation Skills – Do you feel left behind in conversations? Like you can’t come up with anything that’s clever or interesting enough to talk about? Reading more can help. “The vast of new found knowledge [in books] will help you to become more involved in discussions, you will be more able to instigate much more variable and interesting levels of conversations,” explains SelfHelpFix.
4. A Stronger Brain – Forget Lumosity and all those other silly brain games. Want to feel sharp and have a steel-trap memory? Pick up a book. OEDB reports that, “Stanford University researchers have found that close literary reading in particular gives your brain a workout in multiple complex cognitive functions, while pleasure reading increases blood flow to different areas of the brain.” A recent neurological study found “those who engaged in mentally stimulating activities (such as reading) earlier and later on in life experienced slower memory decline compared to those who didn’t.” Some research also associated reading with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Increased Emotional Intelligence & Empathy – The New York Times recently reported on a study that found “people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence” after reading literary fiction. These are skills that help us to read body language in others. Likewise, several other studies have found that “fiction exposure correlated positively with empathy, while non-fiction exposure had a negative correlation. They also found that one’s tendency to become absorbed in a story was positively correlated with empathy,” reports Refine The Mind.
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