Research carried out at the beginning of this year (2019) showed that the number of Americans who did not read a book the previous year went up to 27%, compared to 19% in 2011 (Perrin, 2019). This sad figure is even more startling when you look at the 8% figure of 1978 (Heid, 2019). This increase of the number who do not read, can only be a negative thing. In this post, I will explain numerous benefits of reading and place them into three broad categories: health, linguistic and knowledge. These are the reasons why you should start reading!
There are a number of different health benefits that reading books brings. Ken Pugh, PhD, president and director of research of Haskins Laboratories, which is devoted to the science of language and affiliated with Yale, has done extensive research in this area and discussed his interesting findings (Duzbow, 2008 and Heid, 2019). Reading the physical book itself has benefits that other forms do not have. He mentions that it is unlike watching a visual form of the book, listening to an audio form of the book or even reading a digital version.
In addition, Pugh mentions that it has a proven effect on the functioning of the brain. Your brain muscles, like any other muscle, need exercise and working out. With regular exercise and looking after, the muscles grow, without it, they become weak. Simple. Reading is the exercise of the brain. As your brain muscles work, your mind sharpens and you gain the ability to think critically, to focus and even enhance your memory (Self Development Secrets, 2019). Amazing benefits, right?
It has also been claimed that reading can reduce stress. How? I hear you ask. When you pick up a book and start reading, you enable your mind to wonder to a place other than where you are right now, to a state other than the state you are feeling right now. It does not mean that you forget your worries, but it allows you to relax your mind and instead of focusing on the stressful matters of life and endless worrying, you are able feel calm, relaxed and refreshed. Think of it as a long-needed holiday you take at the end of the year, do you not come back feeling refreshed and raring to go?
To summarise, reading books is like a gym workout and a holiday for your brain! Pretty good reasons why you should start reading so far.
Reading is a language skill that is taught in all language courses. Learning how to read in and of itself is a skill, but the impact it has on the other language skills is like none other and unfortunately, often neglected. It has a direct impact on your vocabulary, writing, grammar and indirect impact on your speaking and listening.
It enables you to expand your vocabulary. It is quite simple, the more you read the more words you are exposed to, the more words you expose yourself to, the greater your vocabulary bank becomes. Language learning is all about input and output. The input affects the output. Reading and listening are input and speaking and writing are output. The more you read and listen to a language, the better you will become in terms of your writing and speaking of that language.
Reading books allows your eyes to take in how the language is used and you are taking this in without even thinking. This is different to a teacher standing in front of you telling you how you should use the language. This is why reading has a direct and great impact on your writing and grammar. You instinctively know how to use the language and when to use a particular tense. In the UK, grammar is not taught explicitly anymore, so, the common Brit does not know the different between the present perfect and past simple tense, but they can use with natural expertise. The reason for this is that they are naturally exposed to the language and have been since birth, they know how to use each tense and when to do so.
Aside from the health and linguistic benefits, there is the obvious benefit in terms of what you learn from what you’ve read. The books you read become your companions, so, read the works of great people of the past and even though you never accompanied them, reading allows you to transport yourself to that era and be with them even if it is imaginary and momentary. Read books written by great authors and be inspired and truly learn from their experience and expertise even though you have never sat with them. Malcolm X mentioned this benefit when he recalled the amount he had learned via reading in prison (Turner, 2018).
“I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive…My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America.” (Turner 2018).
All the ultra-successful people share a common trait, and that is that they read an awful amount. Levin (2017) highlighted that despite their busy schedules, they all manage to read a generous amount and upon being asked the secret to their success, their answer is always to read. For example, Warren Buffet would read 600-1000 pages a day when he began his career, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year and Mark Zuckerberg reads 2 books every two weeks. So, here is another great reason why you should be reading, if you want to make a lot of money and be successful, start reading!
These successful leaders and influential greats did not read for entertainment, but for knowledge. They read books that they could learn from and practically apply to better themselves and their success is there for everyone to see. This does not diminish the benefit of fiction or reading for entertainment though, as Pugh highlighted some specific benefits of this particular type of reading also. Some of which are the previously mentioned health benefits of reading.
Finally, the number of those that are not reading books is becoming worryingly high and the result is the loss of all of the above benefits. Isn’t that a shame? This cannot be good for a society. It is no wonder that the rulers of the UAE are stressing the importance of this skill and encouraging its people to pick up a book and start reading again. Reading is the backbone of a successful nation, they claim. And what they claim is undoubtedly true! Now, I want to send out an open invitation to you. Join us on our UAE book club tour, where we intend to travel to all of the emirates and host book clubs at cafes, cultural centres and libraries for the locals of the Emirates to fall in love with reading and benefit from its offerings. If you are a reading enthusiast, someone who wants to get into reading or even those who do not, but are now convinced they should… you are welcome!
Duzbow, L. (2008). Watch This. No. Read It! [Online]. Oprah. Available from: https://www.oprah.com/health/how-reading-can-improve-your-memory [Accessed 5 October 2019].
Heid, M. (2019). Why Reading Books Is Important for the Brain. [Online]. Medium. Available from: https://elemental.medium.com/why-reading-books-is-important-for-the-brain-d6468dc0a26a [Accessed 5 October 2019].
Levin, M. (2017). Reading Habits of the Most Successful Leaders That Can Change Your Life Too. [Online]. Inc. Available from: https://www.inc.com/marissa-levin/reading-habits-of-the-most-successful-leaders-that.html [Accessed 1 October 2019].
Perrin, A. (2019). Who doesn’t read books in America? [Online]. Pew Research Center. Available from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/ [Accessed 5 October 2019].
Self Development Secrets. (2019). 11 Benefits Of Reading Books | Why It’s Important To Read Everyday? [Online]. Inc. Available from: https://www.selfdevelopmentsecrets.com/benefits-importance-reading-books/comment-page-4/?unapproved=2657&moderation-hash=a4b5f046de3432c9ee7f7c4c2c911b4f#comment-2657 [Accessed 1 October 2019].
Turner, P. (2018). 15 Books Malcolm X Read In Prison. [Online]. Radical Reads. Available from: https://radicalreads.com/malcolm-x-favorite-books/ [Accessed 5 October 2019].