4 Cognitive and Mental Health Benefits of Reading

Reading is a beneficial activity for cognitive and mental health, and scientists have long postured that being read to in early childhood is a strong determinant of linguistic and emotional intelligence. And that connection goes far beyond Kindergarten—there are a great number of brain benefits to reading for adults, too.

While many of these benefits can be experienced regardless of whether you’re reading on your iPad or from an old leather-bound book, there are also some that are exclusive to the real thing. But we’ll get to that later… Here are just a few of the mental and cognitive benefits to curling up with a good book.

Reading Helps You De-Stress

First, and perhaps most obviously, reading can be an incredibly good de-stressor. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Essex found that reading for just 30 minutes can be even more effective at relieving stress than listening to peaceful music or sipping on tea. And that’s important, because reducing stress levels is a big concern for many people in our modern society.

Reading Develops Emotional Intelligence

When we follow along with our favorite characters in a story, we develop skills for learning how to perceive the way they’re feeling. In fact, we begin to feel the same emotions ourselves. This mental process, scientifically referred to as “mirroring” and often called empathy, is a strong marker of social and emotional intelligence.

“… Literary fiction temporarily enhances what’s known as theory of mind—the ability to imagine and understand the mental states of others,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Reading Improves Linguistic Intelligence…And Mathematical Intelligence

It’s pretty obvious that reading can improve your vocabulary and grammar skills. Obviously, the more words and sentence structures you’re exposed to, the more you’ll absorb. However, what may not be quite as obvious is that reading can also improve mathematical skills, especially in kids.

“We compared children from the same social backgrounds who achieved similar tested abilities at ages five and 10, and discovered that those who frequently read books at age 10 and more than once a week when they were 16 had higher test results than those who read less,” writes Dr. Alice Sullivan for The Guardian. “In other words, reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, both in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics.”

Reading Actual Books Builds Spatial Intelligence

Finally, reading a physical book can also impact a third form of intelligence: Spatial intelligence. Spatial intelligence has to do with perceiving how distances and directions interact, particularly with regard to one’s place in space. This is the kind of intelligence that’s required for map reading, building, planning and even sports. According to the National Reading Campaign, reading from a book helps you build spatial awareness, as you’ll become cognizant of where you are in the story on linear and temporal lines.

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99 comments

Caitlin L
Caitlin Labout an hour ago

thanks for this

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D2 days ago

I cannot imagine a life without books. One thing I will NEVER do in this lifetime is "download" a so called book.

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Mona M
Mona M2 days ago

reading was never an effort but one of my deepest pleasure, the main source of openness and evolution, it's sad that many people will never taste that kind of Joy.

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Martin H
Martin H4 days ago

I was read to when I was a baby--my Miranda Rights!

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Mary B
Mary B5 days ago

My Dad read to us when we were small, then in school, the first half hour of the day, our teacher read to us [the whole room. grades 1 thru 4, about 20 kids] to settle us down for the day. You could hear a pin drop. We loved it. Reading opens doors to other times and places and personalities way beyond our small town farming community.

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Sherry K
Sherry K5 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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Maria P
Maria P5 days ago

thanks for posting

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Danuta W
Danuta W5 days ago

Thanks for posting

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Debbi W
Debbi W5 days ago

I have been a reader since I was 3 and a half, sneaking my books into bed at night. All children should be encouraged to read __real books__ and to have their own libraries (it only takes a few books to make a child's library), books they may like to read more than once, ones they choose for themselves. Reading encourages children to think and reason, learn to solve problems. Unless you want to raise Lemmings, encourage your children to learn by experience and from reading.

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Jetana A
Jetana A5 days ago

I am one of my public library's most active patrons!

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