Reading books benefits both your physical and mental health, and those benefits can last a lifetime. They begin in early childhood and continue through the senior years.
Here’s a brief explanation of how reading books can change your brain — and your body — for the better.
1. People who read often and widely get better at it.
This is pretty much just common sense.
After all, practice makes perfect in almost everything we humans do and reading is no different from anything else.
2. Reading exercises our brains.
Reading is a much more complex task for the human brain than, say, watching TV is. Reading strengthens brain connections and actually builds new connections.
3. Reading improves concentration.
Again, this is a bit of a no-brainer.
Children have to sit still and quietly so they can focus on the story when they’re reading. If they read regularly, they develop the ability to do this for longer periods.
4. Reading teaches children about the world around them.
Through reading, children learn about people, places and events outside their own experience. They are exposed to ways of life, ideas and beliefs about the world which may be different from those which surround them.
This learning is important for its own sake however it also builds a store of background knowledge which helps younger children learn to read confidently and well.
5. Reading improves a child’s vocabulary and leads to more highly-developed language skills.
This is because children learn new words as they read but also because they unconsciously absorb information as they read about things like how to structure sentences and how to use words and language effectively.
6. Reading develops imagination.
This is because when we read our brains translate the descriptions we read of people, places and things into pictures. When we’re engaged in a story, we’re also imagining how the characters are feeling. We use our own experiences to imagine how we would feel in the same situation.
7. Reading helps kids develop empathy.
This is something I’ve only recently realized but it makes sense. As my fifteen-year-old son said to me when we were discussing it: ‘Of course it does because you’re identifying with the character in the story so you’re feeling what he’s feeling.’
8. Reading is a great form of entertainment.
A paperback book or an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle doesn’t take up much space so you can take it anywhere and you’ll never be lonely or bored if you have a book in your bag.
You can read while waiting in a queue, while waiting for a friend who’s running late or during a flight delay at an airport.
9. Reading relaxes the body and calms the mind.
This is an important point because these days we seem to have forgotten how to relax and especially how to be silent.
The constant movement, flashing lights and noise which bombard our senses when we’re watching TV, looking at a computer or playing an electronic game are actually quite stressful for our brains.
When we read, we read in silence and the black print on a white page is much less stressful for our eyes and brains.