Did you know that 33 percent of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives? Or that 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college? Sadly, there's more: 57 percent of new books are not read to completion and 70 percent of adults in the United States have not been inside of a bookstore in the last five years.
Am I the only one who finds these numbers appalling? Well I do, and it isn't just because I have a healthy appreciation for the beauty that books hold. They sadden me because reading truly is good for you.
According to an article published in the journal Science, reading literary works can help people strengthen their “mind-reading” abilities. No, this doesn't mean that book readers can literally read the minds of those around them. Unfortunately, that isn't an idea that has ever left the pages of books. Rather, “mind-reading” refers to the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of those around you. In other words, the average reader is more empathetic than the average non-reader.
Have you ever felt "emotionally transported" while reading a book? In the journal PLOS ONE, researchers discovered that readers who feel they are transported into the worlds of the characters in their fiction novels act more emphatically towards others than do readers, or non-readers, who do not or cannot. Basically, that means that getting so caught up in a book that you don’t hear your parents ask you to fold the laundry or let the dog out is actually a good thing (I’m just waiting for the day that my mom and dad realize that).
Reading as a child is even better. The younger you start picking up books, the earlier your empathy develops. If your children are able to develop empathy at a young age, they will be more likely to understand the emotions of those around them. They will make more friends and be more likely to stay in school. So, when your son or daughter asks you to read them that bedtime story just one more time, it really is good for them if you give in.
There are many other reasons, besides the resultant empathy, why people should read. Reading can relieve stress, help you sleep, sharpen your brain, ease depression, and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Even more interesting is the fact that reading one hour per day in your chosen field will make you an international expert in 7 years. How cool is that?
While each of these potential benefits should encourage all non-readers to pick up a book, in the end, the #1 reason why you should read is because you enjoy it. Read because the pages in front of you have the magical ability to transport to you another world, to another time and another place. Reading allows you to cultivate your imagination while strengthening your ability to empathize. So go ahead. Read. Give it a shot. You might just like it.