The importance of reading has been well documented, both by scientists who study this sort of thing and the writers who are able to articulate our thoughts so well. Mark Twain is often quoted as claiming, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.” Garrison Keillor insists, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” And the voice of our childhoods, Dr. Seuss himself, wrote in I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
If you don’t make time for reading in your life, there are lots of great reasons to start, from the scientifically proven to the sensible to the soul pleasing. Here are 22 reasons why you should read every day.
1. It’s highly entertaining
TV shows are fun to watch, and going to the movies or a play can also be good, but for quiet entertainment any time of day, it’s tough to beat getting lost in a book. Plus, books can do things that shows, movies, and plays can’t do as well, like creating scenes full of surrealism or physically impossible imagery. (Yes, even with recent advancements in CGI technology.) What’s more, with a good book, you’re not dependent on a schedule or streaming availability — just pick it up whenever you’re ready and start reading.
2. You’ll probably learn something new
Reading nonfiction can enlighten you about people, places, and things you probably never knew about, but if you want to learn something from a book, you’re certainly not relegated to the nonfiction stacks. Fiction can also teach you about far off places, historical time periods, and all sorts of histories. No matter what you pick up to read, you practically guarantee yourself an education in some way, shape, or form.
3. You gain more awareness of the world around you
Living in a small town can be a lot like living in an echo chamber, but living in a big city also comes with its provincial trappings. Whether you read fiction or nonfiction, reading on a regular basis makes you acutely aware that there’s a world beyond your back door, and that it’s populated with people of different stripes.
4. You gain a better understanding of history
A book is like a time machine — or, if you’re a Dr. Who fan, reading a book is like having your own personal TARDIS. It can transport you to a totally different time and give you a unique window on both its geographical and cultural landscapes. Nonfiction histories are an obvious choice for learning more about the past, but historical fiction can also teach you quite a bit about specific time periods and what people were like then.
5. You’ll develop better concentration and focus
It’s no secret that there are lots of things vying for our attention, and as a result, many of us (adults and children) often exhibit ADHD-like symptoms. It’s hard to concentrate on just one thing! Reading every day can help with that, though. When you read, you’ve got to concentrate on the words in front of you; read while distracted, and you won’t pick up on the subtle nuances of the story you’re trying to digest. When you haven’t read for a while, trying to focus on a book can be difficult. However, when you read every day, you train your brain to concentrate on the words and focus on the essential details — a skill that most definitely spills over into every other aspect of your life.
6. It’s a great way to calm down
Because reading is a quiet and individual activity, it’s a great way to calm down after a long and crazy day. You’ve got to sit, or at least stand still, when you read; it’s not an activity you can really do while driving a car or running around. And while there are lots of arguments about our modern day sedentary lifestyle, reading is one sedentary activity that actually has some benefits.
7. It helps to reduce stress
Not only can reading calm you, but it can actually reduce your stress levels and promote better overall health. A 2008 study at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England found that reading was one of the best ways to reduce stress. On average, it reduced subjects’ stress levels by 68% — more than listening to music, taking a walk, or sitting down to have a cup of tea.
8. It can reduce loneliness and depression
We all fight feelings of loneliness from time to time, and those feelings can often lead to depression, but reading is a viable way to help us deal with those difficult emotions. And, unlike the medications that are often prescribed for depression, reading has no side effects. Ultimately, reading reminds us that we’re not alone. Perhaps the late author David Foster Wallace said it best: “Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved.”
9. It makes you a more empathetic person
This is especially the case for reading fiction: it helps you understand the motivations of others and shapes your personality so that you are more understanding. There’s lots of scientific evidence to corroborate this claim: a 2013 article in Scientific American , for example, showed that subjects who regularly read literary fiction demonstrated a much larger capacity for empathy. Bottom line? If you want to better understand others’ points of view, read novels, and read often.
10. It helps you express your feelings
Taking off from the previous point, when you’re better able to empathize and understand the feelings of others, it’s likely that you become better able to express your own feelings. Again, this mostly comes from reading literary fiction on a very regular basis (like every day).
11. It improves your memory
Whether you read fiction or nonfiction, there’s a lot to remember when you’re reading: names, places, plot points, and so on. Keeping track of all of those details ramps up your brain activity, which creates new pathways in the brain and reinforces existing ones. The result is that your overall ability to remember things, both short term and long term, is improved.
12. It can help ward off dementia
More than boosting your memory, though, reading has actually been shown to slow down the degenerative effects of dementia and memory loss afflictions like Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the National Institute of Health, keeping the brain active every day is essential to reducing the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and reading on a regular basis is an ideal way to do just that.
13. It’s an ideal way to improve your vocabulary
Unless you’re reading nothing but books aimed at five year olds, you’re going to come across words that you don’t know. Sometimes you can figure out their meanings just from the contexts in which they’re used, but other times, you need to look them up (a task that’s absurdly easy these days, thanks to the smartphones that almost all of us carry around). When you learn these new words, they’re likely to creep into your own conversations and writings; the more you read, the more new vocabulary you’re likely to acquire.
14. Your writing will improve
As any good English teacher will tell you, the best way to improve your own writing is to read good writing. It’s like any other skill: by seeing how the masters do it, you’ll get closer to mastery yourself. What’s more, a great writing style can rub off on your own prose. Don’t be surprised if your own writing closely approximate the style of writing you read most recently.
15. It makes you aware of important social issues and current events
While reading romance novels may not get you up to speed on, say, the current political climate in the Middle East, reading contemporary nonfiction and respected publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal can keep you well informed, and as our founding fathers knew, a well informed electorate is essential for democracy. To quote Thomas Jefferson, “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.” By reading every day, you do your part.
16. It’s inspiring
When you feel inspired and high on life, it seems like nothing can slow you down. Want to get that feeling more often? Read! A great story, whether fictional or nonfictional, can get you excited about all the possibilities that life has to offer, and it can even get your own creative juices flowing.
17. It makes you more imaginative and creative
Speaking of creative juices, the possibilities explored in both well written fiction and nonfiction will probably get your own imagination going. Whether you’re just trying to come up with a creative solution to a problem in your life or looking for a way to express yourself, reading a little bit every day will keep your creativity sharp.
18. It helps you analyze situations in your own life
When you’re reading a good story (fiction or nonfiction), you’re anticipating the possible outcomes and what it all means in relation to your life. This is especially the case if you read mystery novels: the act of trying to figure out how things will end and who the guilty party is. This practice in plot analysis will come in handy when you need to take a good critical look at crossroad moments in your life and figure out how to best approach them.
19. You’ll be a better conversationalist
Reading gives you something interesting to talk about in mixed company. Plus, you appear more sophisticated and intelligent than someone who can only discuss reality TV shows. And, frankly, being well read makes you more attractive to almost anyone — and if that’s not an incentive to read every day, we’re not sure what is.
20. If you have kids, they’ll want to read too
Parents who read have kids who read. Why? Because when kids see their parents taking part in some activity, they’ll want to do it too. Additionally, children who are raised in households with lots of books around tend to read more. According to a 2014 study from Common Sense Media entitled “Children, Teens, and Reading”, “…aspects of the home environment that are changeable…have been strongly related to children’s reading. These include how many print books are in the home, how often the child’s parents read, and whether the parents make time in the child’s daily schedule for reading.”
21. It can help you sleep better
Watching TV just before you nod off for the night is a popular habit, but if you want to improve your overall sleep quality, it’s not doing you any favors. The bright light of the boob tube inhibits your ability to sleep soundly, and you’re just zoning rather than giving your brain a pre-sleep workout. Instead of watching reruns, try reading just before bed to help you fall asleep in a more relaxed manner. It should be noted, however, that the bright screens of e-readers have less of a calming effect than an actual book, so ditch the Kindle after dark in favor of an actual print book.
22. It’s free
OK, so bookstores aren’t exactly giving away their bestsellers, but you can borrow just about any book you want from your local library for the low, low price of nothing at all. Plus, programs like the Little Free Library, as well as neighborhood book exchanges, make reading affordable for anyone and everyone.
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