Benefits of Reading

         Reading is a proud tradition that has influenced hundreds of societies (if not thousands) through several millennia of history. From books to newspapers to magazines, reading has been proven to sharpen the mind and hone mental acuity. I know that for myself, I’ve always held a passion for reading as well as writing. I was homeschooled as a child and I was encouraged to read as much as I could. I was known to carry a book with me everywhere I went, from the doctor’s office to the park to my soccer games. I owe so much of my own knowledge and writing skills to my hobby of reading and I’d love to explain why reading is such an important tool in the improvement and sharpening of minds.

         Studies have shown that reading slows the cognitive decline in the elderly, improves your vocabulary, and can even help alleviate the effects of depression. Studies have indicated that stimulating your brain by the act of reading can help slow the cognitive decline that occurs in the elderly. Reading a book or an article is like giving your brain a workout and according to Dr. Terri Bacow, any exercise that you can give your brain is good for you. (Yauger, 2020) Think about it; have you ever read a book then felt like you needed to take a breather because you had so much to think about and understand? That’s because you’re putting your mind through a workout by using your critical thinking skills and actively challenging yourself with new ideas.

         How could it help with depression, stress, and anxiety? Well, the answer is simple. When you read, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, you are constantly being exposed to different perspectives and the experiences of other people. You will find that you aren’t alone and that there are other people out there who understand how you feel and also what steps you can take to work through your depression. It also helps with stress and anxiety by getting you out of your own head and escaping your inner dialogue. Reading can provide an escape from a particularly stressful or anxiety-inducing moment. As for myself, I can think of numerous occasions that I would use reading as an escape, a tool to calm myself down. 2020 was a difficult year for me because I had many medical issues to worry about, not just COVID-19. When I was sitting in that waiting room every week just dreading the procedures that I needed, the only escape that I had handy was often the books that I had downloaded onto my phone or the magazines that were available in the doctor’s office. Reading can be more than just a tool, it can be a soother, a comfort in times of stress. (Yauger, 2020)

         I have one more benefit of reading (among many) to talk about. Reading is education. There are so many things to be discovered and learned in the pages of books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, etc. Humans have passed down their wealth of knowledge through generations by writing manuscripts, memoirs, diaries, articles, etc. Through reading the words of others, whether they be of our own time or of times past, we are seeing the world and its wonders through the eyes of other people. As a child, I learned so much about the cultures of other countries, races, creeds, and societies because my mind was opened by the things I read. Some of the greatest minds have been self-taught from young ages. Take a look at this list of accomplished authors, artists, engineers, and visionaries who changed the world because they educated themselves through reading.

Authors

Charles Dickens

Rabindranath Tagore

Jack London

Artists

Leonardo De Vinci

Frank Bender

Vincent Willhelm Van Gogh

Scientists

Galileo Galilei

Steve Irwin

Benjamin Franklin

 

         Like all of the people mentioned above, Ernest Hemingway, author of The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms, was know to be an avid reader. His sister gave an account of her brother’s hunger for books; she said that “he read for hours at a time in bed. He read everything around the house–all the books, all the magazines, even the A.M.A. Journals from Dad’s office downstairs.” (Brasch and Sigman, 1981) Ernest went on to write seven novels, six short story collections, and two nonfiction works. He also earned the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Reading can inform you and challenge you in ways that you never expected. It can take you to places that you’ve never been and it can change the way that you think. So, next time you’re waiting somewhere and you feel anxious, stressed, bored, unchallenged, grab some literature, whether that be a newspaper, book, or a magazine, and start reading!