Remember the loveable aardvark in the yellow sweater named Arthur? He had it right when he said, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!” In addition to being a lot of fun, the advantages of reading are varied and plentiful.
We all understand the benefits of reading for students and children, but it’s a habit that is often lost by the time we’re adults. The advantages of reading books don’t only apply to young people. Learn more about the many benefits of reading every day, including why it’s important to challenge your brain with different reading materials and how to read more often.
8 Advantages of Reading Regularly
1. Increases Knowledge
Reading is one of the chief ways we acquire knowledge. The more you read, the more you know. When we have a strong base of knowledge, it’s easier to acquire more of it and apply that knowledge to solving new problems.
Filling your mind with new information and new ideas helps you generate innovative ideas of your own, which will come in handy the next time you’re brainstorming with your team. Reading regularly and expanding your knowledge also makes you a better conversationalist, as you will always have something interesting to talk about.
2. Exercises the Brain
Reading engages a number of different areas in our brains and helps build and strengthen our mental muscles. Just like Tyrion Lannister says in Game of Thrones, “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” In other, less-medieval words, reading sharpens our minds by exercising our analytical abilities, stimulating our imaginations, and activating our memory centers.
If you regularly exercise your body, you know that the more you exercise, the better you feel, and if you haven’t exercised for a while, you know how difficult it can be to get your body back into shape. Well, your brain is just the same. To keep your brain healthy and functioning optimally, you need to exercise it regularly, which is why it’s important to read every day.
3. Expands Vocabulary
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are an estimated 171,146 words currently in use in the English language, plus another 47,156 obsolete words. That’s a lot of words! But how many different words do you think you use in a day?
If you’re not accustomed to reading classic literature or Shakespeare, for example, then diving into Hamlet is going to be a bit of a challenge, as it probably feels like you’re reading something in a different language. It’s not because you aren’t smart; it’s because you aren’t regularly exposed to the words—and it’s pretty hard to enjoy reading something if you don’t understand the words. Like any valuable skill, reading takes practice.
Reading expands your vocabulary, which boosts your reading comprehension. The next time you run into a word that you don’t quite understand, set your book down and look up the meaning of the word in a dictionary or on Google. The next time you see the word, your imagination won’t be impeded, and eventually, you’ll begin to incorporate the word into your own vocabulary.
4. Builds Comprehension
The more you expand your vocabulary, the better you’ll be able to comprehend what you read. Reading comprehension refers to your ability to understand written words. It’s much more than being able to recognize words; comprehension brings meaning and context to what you read so that the words on the page transform into thoughts, ideas, and pictures. Without adequate comprehension, reading is boring and unfulfilling because you’re just looking at words on a page.
Strong reading comprehension skills are why adult books (besides graphic novels) don’t have pictures. Pictures in children’s stories are there to boost a child’s comprehension. The more they practice reading, the better children are able to visualize what they read. Eventually, the pictures become unnecessary since all of the action is going on in their imaginations.
Of course, the same is true of adults. If you’re not in the habit of reading regularly, your comprehension skills are going to diminish over time. The good news is all you need to do to enhance your reading comprehension is pick up a book and commit to reading.
5. Improves Memory
Reading enhances your memory by training your brain to retain new information. Reading creates new memories and demands that we remember important names, dates, words, relationships, and plot elements. The ending of a book would be pretty lackluster if we couldn’t recall the events of the previous chapters. Reading regularly means we are constantly using and improving our memory.
6. Reduces Stress
Picking up a book and becoming lost in our imagination provides a necessary escape from the stress of the real world, similar to meditation or yoga. The only difference is it requires much less effort.
If you’re skeptical about the psychological benefits of reading, a study referenced in the Telegraph by the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, making it a more effective stress reliever than listening to music, drinking a cup of hot tea, or going for a walk. Reading was also found to work incredibly fast—it only took a total of six minutes to reduce the participants’ stress levels.
Reading lowers your heart rate, slows down your breathing, and eases muscle tension, leaving you feeling calm and comfortable. This calming effect is why reading is also an excellent part of a healthy bedtime routine.
7. Enhances Empathy
Reading helps us understand other people’s feelings by allowing us to step inside the shoes of another person for extended periods of time. It can be difficult to understand how people can hold beliefs and desires so contrary to our own beliefs and desires—especially given the polarizing nature of the world right now. Reading fiction novels allows us to see the innermost thoughts of other people, enabling us to empathize with their choices and the way they see the world.
8. Prevents Cognitive Decline
Alzheimer’s disease is a serious illness, and it’s on the rise. More than six million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is projected to rise to 13 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. These facts illustrate why it’s so important to do all that we can now to prevent Alzheimer’s from taking hold later in life.
Reading keeps our brain active—a massive factor in preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. As mentioned above, reading also enhances our memory. Studies show older people who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, and the sooner you start, the better your chances.
A massive part of preserving your brain’s cognitive abilities is keeping it active. Reading stimulates our imaginations, activates our memory centers, and strengthens our comprehension—all of which are vital to preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The Importance of Reading Books Outside of Your Comfort Zone
In order to make a habit of reading, it’s important to find something you actually enjoy reading, but don’t be afraid to branch out. Different types of books and reading materials offer different benefits. Plus, you may discover you really enjoy a genre you’ve never tried before.
The Benefits of Reading Nonfiction Books
Reading nonfiction has many of the same benefits as reading fiction, such as an expanded vocabulary, improved memory, and enhanced reading comprehension. Apart from the general benefits of reading, the primary benefit of reading nonfiction books is expanding your real-world knowledge of a specific subject, such as physics, gardening, the upbringings of famous people, and everything in between.
The Benefits of Reading Fiction Books
Don’t be fooled by articles out there suggesting that reading nonfiction is better for you than reading fiction. Research suggests that reading fiction may provide far more important benefits than nonfiction. Reading fiction increases your ability to understand other people’s motivations, improves your ability to empathize with others, expands your imagination, provides you with an escape from the daily grind of work and family, and enhances your social awareness.
The Benefits of Reading Classic Literature
There’s a reason the classics are considered classics—and it’s not just because they’re old. A study by David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano suggests that reading the classics actually makes you a better person.
Classic literature holds timeless lessons, enduring characters, sweeping romances, and also teaches us much about what people believed and how people behaved in the past. Reading the classics also expands your vocabulary and challenges your reading comprehension in a way that the Twilight books do not.
Plus, classic literature is referenced and repeated time and time again in new works of fiction and popular culture, so if you have a decent understanding of the classics, you’ll be able to catch these references, allusions, and connections.
The Benefits of Reading Aloud
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, reading out loud benefits your ability to retain information. Research suggests the dual action of reading and hearing yourself speak helps the brain store information long-term. So the next time you need to memorize something, such as a grocery list or a speech, don’t just read through it silently and hope for the best; read it aloud to yourself repeatedly to ensure it sticks.
How to Read More
- Begin by choosing something you enjoy reading before branching out.
- Carry a book with you at all times so that you can read whenever you’re waiting.
- Read on your daily train or bus commute.
- Build reading into your daily routine.
- Choose a good book over television one night a week.
- Read with your children or have reading time as a family.
- Establish a distraction-free reading environment.
- Read every night for a few minutes before bed to avoid blue light.
- Start a book club at work.
- Set personal reading goals.
- Track your progress using a journal or habit tracker.
More from Blue Summit Supplies
For more strategies, how-to guides, and product advice, follow our office blog dedicated to helping businesses, teams, and individuals thrive inside and outside of the workplace.