Reading is one of the purest pleasures in life, but can often get pushed to the wayside as more ‘important’ tasks take over. It can often feel self-indulgent to settle down with a book when there are so many things on your to-do list, but reading has real benefits for your mental and even physical health. So it’s not self-indulgent, it’s self-care. And there are even more benefits of reading to children, promoting their cognitive and emotional development. Next time you need to justify some quality time curled up with a good book, just come back to this blog.
Reading helps to develop a range of cognitive and semantic skills, including vocabulary, spelling and critical thinking. These are some of the most important benefits of reading to children, which can help them at school.
We live in an age of distraction, where even watching a 20-minute show on Netflix seems impossible without picking up your phone at least once. It’s a time of TikTok wormholes and endless scrolling sessions swallowing whole hours of the day.
Reading is one of the few tasks that still demands our full attention in order to digest the information we see. By reading more, we can retrain our short attention spans and improve our concentration. The benefits of this spill over into work, school and beyond. So stop flicking between apps, and start flicking through pages instead.
Nearly every book we encounter has a new word to teach us. From feelings of trepidation (noun: a feeling of fear or anxiety that something may happen) to extreme exhilaration (noun: excitement and happiness). We’ve all had to Google a word we’ve read at some point. And just as books can teach us new words, they can also reveal that we’ve been spelling them wrong for years. Oops.
Books not only entertain but educate. Non-fiction books are a great source of information, which covers just about every topic out there. Whether you find out the name of the suburb your favourite footballer grew up in or marvel at mysteries of the universe, there is always something new to learn. And fictional books can be just as educational since there is always some truth behind them.
Unexpected endings, hidden hints, beloved characters turned bad; books can break our hearts and betray our trust. But as upsetting as these surprising turns can be, they do teach us a valuable life skill: critical thinking. We learn not to take everything at face value and to think deeper about the meaning behind certain words and actions. Something both adults and children can learn from reading.
Reading is exercise for the brain, especially your memory. As we progress through the story, we are required to recall the plot, the characters’ names and details about them. Like any muscle, by constantly exercising our memory, we are making it stronger.
We mostly consider reading a mental activity, but it has real benefits for our mental and therefore physical health. By helping us to destress and unwind, it also has a physical effect such as improved sleep.
Reading is one of our favourite ways to unwind and there is real scientific reasoning behind this. Reading allows us to escape the worries of everyday life, as we are whisked away into another world. Numerous Studies have found that this has a physical effect on our bodies, as it lowers our heart rate and blood pressure. This reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.
There’s a reason so many of us read to our children before bed. Reading to children is not only a wonderful bonding opportunity but helps children to relax before going to sleep.
The same goes for adults, as many of us try to incorporate reading into our bedtime routine. Doctors recommend at least 8 hours sleep a night - a goal that many of us fail to achieve. The physical effects of lower stress levels, lower heart rate and lower blood pressure can help lull us into a full and deep sleep. And the physical benefits of more sleep include more energy, healthy metabolism and a better mood. So a little bit of escapism before bed can do you a world of good.
Perhaps the most important benefit of reading is simply how it makes you feel. We can all remember the first time we got sucked into a book, wondering at the new world this wordsmith has created for us. I’m sure we’d all love to experience that feeling time and time again.
The world of emotions can be difficult to navigate, but reading gives us the chance to be actual mind readers. We can hear the characters’ thoughts and feelings. Experiencing the world through another person’s eyes helps us to practice empathy.
This becomes even more important when we consider the diversity of book characters. Books introduce us to people from every background: rich and poor; old and young; hero and victim. It is always nice to relate to a character, but it is much more valuable to learn to empathise with someone completely different to us.
The author may put the words on the page, but it is up to us to bring those words to life. The man might have a big, shaggy beard, but what does that look like to you? If you and a friend both tried to draw the same character, you’d likely end up with something completely different. After all, how many times is there outrage at the casting of a beloved book character?
As our imagination works to bring the story into vision, we are often left to fill in the gaps. Our mind starts firing off ideas for the extraneous details that the author saw fit to leave to us. As we ping out idea after idea, we are honing our creative skills without even knowing it. The best way to learn to write is by reading.
Books help us to discover who we are. Through the constant exploration of different characters with different traits, we learn the sort of person we want to be and the sort of person we don’t want to be. We also discover topics of interest, which can inspire us to pursue new hobbies and even careers. The process of finding your identity is particularly important in teenage years, but also beyond that. Books are there for us in times of change and crisis, as we grow and evolve throughout our lives. For that, we should be truly grateful.
After all is said and done, the best thing about reading is enjoying a new book! The twists and turns, the will they won’t they and the satisfaction (or disappointment) from the ultimate resolution. There’s nothing quite like reading a new book for the first time.
There are many, multifaceted benefits of reading. Reading to children really makes them a more well-rounded person, from their cognitive development to their ability to empathise with the world around them. The benefits of reading are largely the same for adults. We can become smarter, kinder and more creative through books. The emotional relief from reading even generates physical benefits, as we experience less stress and better sleep.
It’s time to make time for reading again. Set aside some time in your schedule when you can curl up with a good book. Even half an hour a day could make a real difference. If you want to read more but can’t seem to start, check out our tips to read more books.