Our favorite books can do more than transport our minds to Terabithia and Middle Earth or educate us about science and history; they also may be good for our health. Tangible benefits of picking up a bestseller, magazine article or e-book include increased mental stimulation, reduced stress and improved memory.
March is National Reading Month, which serves as a novel opportunity for bookworms of every age to check out the positives of a good read:
Training Your Brain: It’s been said that reading is to the mind as exercise is to the body. Through reading, we gain knowledge, sharpen conversation skills and spark imagination. Our brain also benefits in other ways, actually changing its structure to increase capacity for language comprehension. Even the type of book you choose may affect how you exercise your mind. For example, an innovative 2012 Stanford study suggests that reading works of literature sparks multiple cognitive functions.
Ignite Empathy: Studies suggest that readers may relate with others on a deeper level because they more easily imagine themselves in others’ shoes.
Put the Internet Away: Being connected via technology 24/7 can take a toll on our health. A book may be a perfect way to mindfully unplug from electronics.
Well-Schooled Kiddos: Multiple studies indicate that the reading benefits for school-aged children could fill volumes. A 2017 study shows that reading and writing provide students with tools for lifetime success.
Wee Listeners: One study found benefits even for those who can’t yet read themselves. It showed that reading babies books featuring identifiable characters improved focus and recognition as early as 6 to 9 months of age.
How much time should we spend reading to reap these possible benefits? A 12-year study found that reading books for 30 minutes a day may help us live longer – giving us even more time for more reading.