For years we’ve heard that reading is good for us, yet our county’s reading habits seem to be on a slow, steady decline. There could be many reasons, like more recreational television and games, YouTube and the internet that absorb our free time, but this is crazy.
We live in a time of trends to do everything we can to live healthy lifestyles like:
- eat the right foods
- minimize our footprint on the earth
- save animals and endangered species
We shouldn’t forget one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, to optimize our – BRAIN HEALTH
Here is a cold, ugly fact:
In October 2015 Smithsonian.com reported results from a Pew Research survey that revealed 27% of the population hadn’t read a book in the past year.
<gulp> If that’s not a horror story, then I’ve never read one.
The National Endowment for the Arts have been tracking our reading habits (as well as other considerations regarding the arts), and they created a research report titled:
Reading At Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America
The results of the survey were accumulated for conclusions, see them for yourself by checking out:
Section 4. Trends in Literature Participation, 1982 – 2002 on Page 21
. . . there has been a substantial decrease in the percentage of people reading literature, from 57 percent in 1982 to 47 percent in 2002, a decline of 10 percentage points.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a place in out lives for media. I like viewing television shows like the Outlander series (but I read the books first) and I wouldn’t suggest that we shouldn’t be looking forward to season three of Twin Peaks which is happening again (read Mark Frost’s book first, you’ll thank me later).
It’s getting harder and more competitive to find willing readers.
Christopher Ingraham wrote a great article for the Washington Post “The long Steady Decline of Literary Reading” last September 7th that noted more current numbers regarding our reading habits. (I borrowed the diagram used)
In long-term associations and shorter-term experiments, engagement in fiction, especially literary fiction, has been found to prompt improvements in empathy and theory-of-mind.
People exercise their brain while reading in the areas where we develop empathy. Reading increases cognitive brain ability.
Read more about it in an article from Psychology Today written January 2014 by Christopher Bergland here: Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function via PsychologyToday.com
“At a minimum, we can say that reading stories—especially those with strong narrative arcs—re-configures brain networks for at least a few days. It shows how stories can stay with us. This may have profound implications for children and the role of reading in shaping their brains.” —Dr Berns
Conclusion: Reading Improves Embodied Cognition and Theory of Mind
The Huffington Post had a nice article written by Laura Schocker in October 2013 Six Science-backed Reasons To Go Read A Book Right Now She cited increased empathy as a benefit, too. She also added: books chill you out, sharpen your brain, keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay, promotes better sleep habits, and lessens our bouts of depression.
What’s My Number One Reason To Read—I’m Curious
Books offer us new worlds to explore. Please keep watching great shows, too. Movies and video games offer great entertainment, and I can’t wait to experience VR (virtual reality).
But I implore you to spread the word that we all need to read as well—For our health
Only with a book can we totally immerse ourselves into a different world with our unique perspective and convey the written words in our own mind, using our own creativity to interpret the story. That’s the beauty of reading.
We can all read the same book, but we all come away with a different VISION. I rest my case.