Aren’t books wonderful?!! We love to read in this house, and I do mean we. I grew up obsessed with books. I loved going to the library to find new and exciting books to read, and my first library card was a treasured possession. Before we had kids, Mr. AJ and I loved to browse old and new book stores for hours to see what we could discover. We still love to do this, but we don’t have as much time anymore with our two little kiddos. However, reading time is still a mainstay at our house.
Since the day each of our kids were born, we have tried to cultivate in them a love for books and reading. My six-year old made this easy. She would sit on my lap attentively while I read her numerous books on a daily basis. Even as an infant, she was enthralled by the words and pictures on those pages. It was a time both of us truly enjoyed. Now, she thrives in having her personal reading time with a variety books on a daily basis.
My two-year old, on the other hand, was a different story. Although he is usually the more patient of the two, he refused to let me read him any books all the way through. It was a good day if we could get a measly two or three pages of reading in before he started complaining. When he was mobile enough, he would simply grab the book we were reading and toss it across the room. He also liked to rip pages out of books, and he was rather good at destroying board books as well, thanks to his curiosity. He was definitely a challenge, and his love of reading took a little longer to develop.
He loves books now though, and he’ll happily choose his own pile of books to bring home from the library, so Mr. AJ can read them to him every night. Books are an important part of our lives, not only because we truly enjoy reading, but because of all the amazing benefits that reading an actual book can give us. By reading books, you can learn almost anything, or you can just enjoy an amazingly creative story. It was important to us that our kids got these benefits.
Beyond that, there are many other science-proven benefits that reading a book provides to us.
Reading a book helps lower your stress level.
After a hard day, allowing yourself to sit down with a good book helps to not only distract your mind from your stressors, but it also gives you the chance to calm down and slow down. A study conducted by the University of Sussex concluded that reading is a better stress reducer than listening to music or going for a walk. According to the study, reading also works faster at reducing a person’s stress than other stress management methods. Participants only needed to read for six minutes before their stress levels were reduced. One small catch to this, is that you have to read a book that you enjoy. It also has to be about a topic that doesn’t make you angry. With so many books available, it’s easy to find one that you’ll like.
Reading makes you smarter.
Frequent reading helps to increase your vocabulary, and it presents you with new thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. It helps you become more empathetic, as it allows you to experience someone else’s perspective. It also helps to improve your memory, since reading a book requires you to remember and understand many details to fully enjoy a story. A study by Carnegie Mellon University showed that the act of reading physically altered the brains of the children who participated in their study. Reading allows more white matter to be created which, in turn, enhances communication within the brain. The more reading instruction the children in the study received, the more white matter was created. The more you read, the better the benefits get, so read on.
Can help lower your risk for Alzheimer’s.
By keeping your mind actively engaged in reading, will continue to exercise your brain. Exercising your brain with activities like puzzles and reading has been shown to decrease Alzheimer’s risk. Being inactive in intellectual pursuits was actually shown to be a risk factor, so keeping your mind active with reading helps to keep your brain healthy.
It enhances and improves your imagination.
When you read a book, you’re able to create entire worlds in your mind inspired by the words on the page. You have the ability to exercise your mind in a way that watching television simply will not allow you to do. Reading fiction has been shown to have multiple benefits according to a study by Emory University. The most prominent benefit is that it increases brain connectivity. Other studies have shown that it also heightens empathy. The more you read, the more these benefits surface.
Reading helps you relax, and helps you sleep.
Establishing a nightly reading pattern, with an actual physical book (not a screen), also helps you to have a better night’s sleep. It helps cue your body and your mind that it’s time to slow down and prepare for sleep. Also, since reading is one of the best ways to relax, it helps you to slow down quicker. I’ve talked about the importance of sleep and healthy ways to get to sleep before in my sleep series articles. Reading is one of my favorite ways to set up a healthy sleep pattern.
There are so many additional benefits to reading a book that we continue to discover on a frequent basis. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, reading helps you to be able to think critically, has been shown to help with depression, and it helps you become a better writer. The list just keeps going. I simply don’t have room to list them all here, but reading truly is amazing for our minds and for our physical health. I notice a difference in my weeks and my days when I haven’t had time to read enough. Making time in our schedules to read is a choice to take care of our health.
And let’s be honest, I just really love to read! The many amazing benefits of reading are just icing on the cake. So the next time you think that you don’t have enough time to read, pick up that book anyway. After all, it’s for your health.