6 Benefits of Reading Every Day

iStock / iStock

Reading is good for more than just entertainment. Committing part of everyday to reading printed books can make you a smarter, kinder, more relaxed individual. And the positive effects can be felt at any age: Even before they’ve fully developed their reading skills, kids can benefit from having access to printed materials and being read to on a regular basis. Exposing kids to books, magazines, and more at an early age is a great way to encourage them to be life-long readers, which means they’ll reap these benefits for years to come.

1. Reading can boost intelligence.

People who exhibit strong reading skills early in life grow up to be more intelligent. That was the finding of a study published in 2014 that measured the cognitive development of 1,890 sets of identical twins. When two twins shared the same genes and home environments, early reading skills appeared to be the factor that decided which twin would be better at both verbal tests (like vocabulary) and non-verbal tests (like reasoning tests). Because reading ability is something that’s learned, the study authors concluded that more emphasis should be placed on teaching strong reading skills to young children.

2. Reading helps increase empathy.

Reading books doesn’t just make you smarter—it can make you a kinder person as well. According to a study published in 2013, people who consume literary fiction have an easier time sensing and relating to emotions in other people. This effect likely has something to do with the way such books are written: Great literature forces readers to step outside themselves and empathize with the characters they’re reading about.

3. Reading can lower stress.

Feel stressed at the end of a long day? Cracking open a book is a good way to wind down. A 2009 study found that reading for just 30 minutes has similar stress-reducing effects to doing 30 minutes of yoga.

4. Reading may change your brain.

Even after you put down a book, the effects of reading it are still present in your brain. A 2013 study discovered that when people read fiction with a strong narrative and plot, their brains continue to behave differently hours and even days later. The brains of readers show increased connectivity in the left temporal cortex—the region responsible for language receptivity—even hours after they’ve stopped reading. This suggests that reading can train the mind and boost neural function through a process that’s similar to muscle memory.

5. Reading is an excuse to put your phone away at night.

If you’re too busy to read during the day, consider making snuggling up with a good book as part of your bedtime routine. Reading a physical book before going to bed is a great alternative to scrolling through your phone—something most of us admit to doing. Research has shown that smartphone use at night makes it harder for people to fall asleep and leads to an overall decline in sleep quality. Some experts say reading books, on the other hand, can have relaxing effects, making it the ideal bedtime activity.

6. Reading helps families bond.

Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. When parents read out loud to their children, they can pass on the benefits of reading and encourage meaningful interactions. To reap the positive effects of reading to kids, parents should stick to physical picture books. A recent study found that print books, in contrast to tablets and e-readers, can promote the deepest connections between caretakers and children.

Reading on paper books can enrich the entire experience, but it’s not the only amazing feat that paper can pull off. Learn more at howlifeunfolds.com/learning-education.

Sources: Highlights; Mental Floss [1, 2]; Psychology TodayScience Daily; Emory UniversityScience; CNN; Huffington Post; Refinery29; Journal of College Teaching and Learning; The Guardian