Many people don’t think reading and books are important. Here are several reasons why they are flat out wrong and you should either start reading or read more! (Trust me, they’re good ones.)

But first…

The statistics on reading are sobering.reading-declining

  • In a study of literacy among 20 ‘high income’ countries; US ranked 12th
  • According to a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in 2015, only 43% of adults read at least one book in the previous year. (That’s the lowest it’s been since the NEA surveys started tracking reading 1982.)
  • Research from Common Sense Media showed reading rates decline as kids get older and rates have been dropping for the last 30 years. In 1984, 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-olds said they “never” or “hardly ever” read for pleasure. In 2014, that number had almost tripled, to 22% and 27%.

Why should you care?

Well, if you’d rather sit in front of the TV or the computer than read, here are some reasons why maybe you should  pick up a book instead.

#1 Reading Makes You a Good Person

Several studies have shown that reading, particularly fiction, increases your ability for empathy (ie, it makes you understand others better). In fact, a recent study revealed that people who read literary fiction tested better for understanding other’s thoughts and feelings, which meant their capacity for empathy was better than those who read nonfiction or nothing.

And, here it is folks! For all the Harry Potter fans out there, there is actually a study that shows Harry Potter in particular, instills empathy! That’s right, reading Harry Potter reduced prejudice and increased compassion in students. So, thank you dear daughter for finally convincing me to read the series!

Why does reading make you more empathetic? Well it might be because of how the brain works. Researchers in Spain found that the brain often treats the experience of reading and the experiences in real life similarly. Fiction books that are particularly descriptive allow readers to fully submerge themselves in another person’s thoughts and feelings.

#2 Reading Changes Your Brain, For the Better

Speaking of the brain. Reading can actually change the wiring of that mass of goo in your head. A research team out of Carnegie Mellon University found reading can actually rewire the brain. In the study, children’s brains were scanned before and after 100 hours of intensive reading training. Researchers found after reading the kids had an increase in white matter, which improves brain communication within the brain. Another study found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function.

#3 Reading Makes You Smarter

People who read have higher intelligence. In fact, a recent study indicated that having strong reading skills as a child is a predictor of higher intelligence as an adult.  If you really want to know more about this, check out a paper by Anne E. Cunningham’s called What Reading Does to the Mind. (Quick answer: Reading not only helps you retain information, but also helps you maintain that knowledge through old age. It helps your verbal skills, analytical skills and knowledge. I know that seems obvious. But, if so, why aren’t we reading more??)

#4 You’ll Live Longer If You Read

That’s right, reading has been linked to longer life expectancy. A 2016 study out of Yale found that book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines. (With a P value of .001. I’m dorking out here. Although I’m a fantasy writer – see The Travelers, I still have a day job as a medical editor/writer, so I live in P values. This is a good one!)

#5 Not Valuing Reading Can Have a Negative Societal Impact

Firstly, a society that doesn’t value reading will lead to higher illiteracy rates. Maybe you feel like that doesn’t affect you. But, money speaks to many people, and if you’re one of those people, here’s why you should care. Reading and literacy has even been linked to economic growth or lack of growth. A report from the World Literacy Foundation found that illiteracy costs the global economy an estimated $1.19 trillion annually. According to the Literacy Foundation, higher the proportion of adults with low literacy proficiency is, the slower the overall long-term GDP growth rate. According to the estimates by the United States Department of Labor, literacy problems cost United States businesses about $225 billion a year in lost productivity.

#6 Reading Improves Focus and Concentration

Sitting down and reading a book requires long periods of focus and concentration. In a world where we are constantly pulled in many different directions, particularly on social media, sitting down and just reading can help improve hone your concentration skills.

#7 Reading Can Reduce Stress

Feeling stressed out? Had a hard day at work? Well, maybe you should get off your phone and pick up a book! A 2009 study found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels up to 68%.

More Reasons to Start Reading or Read More

If you’re not a big reader, you can still become one! This is a great list of reasons why starting to be a reader, if you’re not already, is so wonderful.