There are so many benefits to picking up a good book and getting lost in it. Reading brings such pleasure and, as Albus Dumbledore so aptly put it, "Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic ..."So what are the real benefits?
1. Reduce stress.
When we read, we can get so lost that it actually takes us to a different place and time, with different characters. It provides a much-needed break from the stresses of everyday life without ever leaving our home. In an article for Huffington Post, Laura Schocker reported, "Research conducted in 2009 at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex showed that reading was the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out old favorites such as listening to music, enjoying a cup of tea or coffee and even taking a walk, The Telegraph reported when the findings were released. It took the study participants just six minutes to relax (which was measured by evaluating heart rate and muscle tension) once they started turning pages."
2. Better sleep.
Reading vs. playing a game on your phone or watching TV will give you better sleep patterns. Electronics can be very disruptive to sleep so open a book and relax yourself into a good sound slumber.
3. Expands our range of experience.
When we read about things beyond our own personal experience, we come to a greater understanding of what others go through. We realize that others may have excelled over trials and that we can also. We also realize that maybe we don't have it as bad as we might have thought. We can gain courage and strength by living vicariously through well-developed characters.
4. Gain empathy.
Studies show that we can actually have an increase in empathy when we read. When we expand our range of experience, in the process, we learn to be more empathetic toward the plights of others.
5. Improves brain connectivity.
Reading improves brain connectivity, embodied cognition and theory of mind. For those of you who, like me, have no clue what that is saying, a Psychology Today article by Christopher Bergland explains that reading improves the communication from one part of the brain to another, the ability to put ourselves in others' shoes and to understand the reasoning behind what they choose to do.
6. Keeps our minds young and staves off disease.
All of this may result in us keeping sharp longer and avoiding things like Alzheimer's disease. The more we read, its effects lasting for days, the longer we may keep our faculties about us.
7. Connects us with the world.
By learning how others live and handle their lives, beyond an increase in empathy, we become connected with the world in a way we might not otherwise experience. We discover we are part of a huge conglomerate of human thought and emotion.
While reading good books is beneficial to us as adults, spreading that love of reading to our children is a great way to start them on the path to learning these things earlier than perhaps we did.
Start by reading to your children (I read to them in utero) from birth, and don't shy away from the great works of classical literature. There is more to life than board books. Early reading provides them with a solid foundation of learning, increased vocabulary and all the lessons I've already written about.
As they get older, give them library cards and let them choose good books to read. Encourage them and make time in their hectic schedules to get lost in a literary adventure. Read with them to enhance the experience and bounce ideas and questions off of them. They are never too old for this. I read in bed with my daughter until she went off to college.
Remember that reading will improve their cognition and school studies. It's one of the best gifts we can pass on to our kids.