by Emily Williams, Teen Services Manager, Outreach and Engagement Services, Metropolitan Library System
Reading is good for you. But why? Let’s dive into all the reasons why reading is important and contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Most of us recognize that reading helps us learn and grow, but have you thought about other potential benefits like improved physical health and stress relief?
As a library employee, one of my favorite “reading is good for you” facts to share is that reading fiction improves empathy. If you’re want to broaden your horizons, understand your community, and teach your children to be thoughtful and caring, then read fiction! It puts us in another person’s position, and helps us learn about cultures and traditions, viewpoints, and thoughts and feelings that may be different than our own. Practiced readers often identify with protagonists, giving us an expanded capacity for taking others into consideration when making decisions in the real world.
Reading can be a window, sliding door, or mirror. It can provide a window for us to look through and see another way of life up close. As a sliding door, we can step through and share an experience. Often, it’s a mirror to reflect recognizable parts of our own lives back to us, connecting us with each other and providing validation. Reading is both a comfort and an eye-opener.
We can expand vocabulary and reading comprehension with books! Seeing new or unfamiliar words in context is a great way to gradually add to our vocabulary. A bonus feature of most e-readers is you can touch the word and get a definition on the spot. As far as reading comprehension goes, it just takes practice! Especially for those learning to read, in general, the more you read the easier it gets. And reading comprehension can help you in all subjects — math, science, history, and more. Students who read for fun have higher test scores.
Reading is a great way to keep your mind sharp. A growth mindset means you are open to lifelong learning and changing your mind when presented with new information. Just the willingness to continue to grow and take in new information may help prevent cognitive decline. Reading keeps us engaged and gives us ways to connect and things to talk about.
The last two years were devastating to our collective mental health. Studies show reading can help alleviate stress by providing quiet time or an escape. Reading can help us process our experiences, receive reinforcement for our feelings, or provide a distraction from everyday stressors. Reading can be a recreational activity you do by yourself, a way to bring you closer to your family, or something social you discuss in a shared situation like a library book club.
In addition to the intellectual and mental benefits, reading may have positive effects on your physical health. Reading before bed is a great alternative to doom scrolling on your phone. It can lower your blood pressure and heart rate – unless you’re reading a particularly intense thriller (or romance)! Listening to audiobooks can keep your mind busy while you are walking, running, hiking, or doing household activities like laundry, cooking, yardwork, or cleaning. It can make such time more enjoyable or go by more quickly, to keep you moving and active longer.
It’s important to note that all kinds of reading counts! Comic books and graphic novels are “real” books. Audiobooks provide just as much vocabulary and reading comprehension as the paper versions. E-books are a convenient way to carry about dozens of books at once, plus the library’s downloadable collection is just a wi-fi signal away.
Reading benefits are cumulative, so keep at it! Research also shows us that modeling reading behavior to others in our lives and physically (or digitally) having books in our homes supports reading skills and the health benefits that follow.
Our annual Summer Reading program is a great way to challenge yourself to read all summer long. The program is free and for all ages, and you can earn prizes just for reading this summer! As little as 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference. Sign up with your family and friends today and motivate yourself to read during your lunch break, before bedtime, on vacation, together with your family, or on your own. Read whatever you want, in whatever format you want. Our library doors are open to help provide options and resources. Sign up at www.metrolibrary.org/summerreading and help us build a healthy reading community here in central Oklahoma.
SOURCES AND ADDITIONAL READING: