OPINION: Life-long reading brings life-long benefits

CN/ Melody Ortiz

By Julie Santiago

Students should read books for pleasure more often. 

Life-long reading for pleasure has health benefits as well as other personal advantages.

Growing up, many of us were encouraged to read books, but as we’ve gotten older, it might have been pushed aside for more pertinent and important things. 

Without sounding like a nerd, however, reading a book can help reduce stress, boost intelligence, teach you to be more empathetic and even change your brain.

For years, scientists have known reading can boost vocabulary and improve speech, but they are beginning to find that the benefits don’t just end there. 

According to the British Cohort Study, a study conducted in England, Scotland and Wales in 1970, children who read more for pleasure received higher test scores in vocabulary, spelling and even math. 

The study observed children in the same age, with similar social backgrounds and who had similar test results from ages five to 10. It showed that those children that kept reading for pleasure tested higher at age 16 than those who didn’t. 

A more recent study conducted in 2014 observed twins with the same genes and home environments. The results were similar to the British Cohort Study. 

The twin with stronger reading skills earlier in life tested better than the other. 

This information should be hopeful because it means, to some extent, that intelligence is something people can work at and not just something they are born with. 

Implementing good habits can also be beneficial to your growth as a person. 

Reading can also help reduce stress. When you read you have to focus on the words in front of you. Being engulfed in a good book can make you feel like you’ve left the real world behind. 

It can feel like you’ve stepped into another dimension where only you and what you are reading matter. This feeling is called flow.

Reading also allows you to step into the mind of an author and understand what information they are presenting and/or where they are coming from. 

Your own beliefs may even be challenged. This can help you expand your knowledge on a subject, be more empathetic and even change your brain.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically,” said Neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of a 2013 study and the director of Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy. 

Researchers found that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that still occur even days later after a person has stopped reading a book. 

Researchers believe that reading may train the mind and boost neural function through a process that’s similar to muscle memory. Students should take a few minutes out of the day to read everyday.

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