10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day
Before the electronic era, everyday reading was a ritual that almost everyone who wanted to gain knowledge adapted. The benefits of reading needed not to be reminded all the time.
Amongst other things, we have been so preoccupied with social media and the internet that hardly anyone contemplates reading books. While some maybe too busy to read, others merely don’t care to read.
There are many benefits to reading, from making you smarter to improve your reading and writing skills. If you want to understand what benefits one could reap from developing the habit of reading, then we have enlisted the top 10 benefits here.
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Full Episode Transcript (click to expand!)
Welcome to Write Now, the podcast that helps aspiring writers to find the time, energy, and courage you need to pursue your passion and to write every day. I am your host, Sarah Werner, and I am really excited for this week’s episode. Well, I’m usually excited for the episode for the week, but this week more excitement than usual. It’s not just because I am highly caffeinated right now. It is because I get to do two things. The first of which is talk about books. The second of which is answer a question that I get asked a lot. And that question is, why as a writer is it so important for me to read? Why do people keep telling me that writers need to read so much? And what are the benefits of reading for writers?
So I’d like to start off today’s episode by explaining a little bit, at least, why I love to read so very much and why it’s so important to me. I was raised by parents who were very much of the television will rot your brain persuasion. And so growing up, we could watch a couple shows on PBS, such as Sesame Street or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, or if I was home sick from school, Reading Rainbow with LeVar Burton. Sometimes when my grandmother would visit from Texas, we could watch Wheel of Fortune with her. And once in a very great while, we would be indulged in an evening viewing of Star Trek or Masterpiece theater on PBS.
However, while our television watching was pretty severely restricted, we were permitted to read absolutely whatever we wished. We lived within walking distance of the library and the feeling that I got when I walked in those doors and realized that every single book that I could see was potentially one that I could take home and absorb, it was amazing. The possibility, it’s such a wonderful feeling as a child to know that the entire world is laid open to you and that you have the power to choose what you take away from it.
So I would go to the library and pick up books, anything that looked interesting to me from picture books when I was little to chapter books, to young adult books, and then to the fiction and science fiction and mystery and horror shelves as an adult. I did have a predilection for fiction. Oh my gosh, that rhymes. I’m pretty upfront about that. Since I didn’t have television to carry my imagination away, I turned to books for that purpose.
I read a lot of educational stuff in school, and we had a full set of encyclopedias at home, but there was nothing like being able to escape into a fictional world in a book of my choosing. I read everything I could get my hands on. Some of which I probably read a little bit before I was ready to read them. I remember hitting the romance novel shelves as a middle schooler and being like, whoa, but those books became home to me in a way that home never really was.
My transition from reading into writing came quite naturally, I think, as it does with a lot of voracious readers. You pick up on the fact that reading is a kind of magic that books are these little ecosystems all in their own. And you feel drawn to see if you have that magic inside of you too. If you have worlds inside of you that you can create, or, and I think it was Toni Morrison who said this, at some point, there’s nothing else that you want to read, and so you go ahead and create that book that you want to read.
Now, I think a lot of us, many of us, given the choice, would simply hang out at home or in a cozy place and do nothing but read and/or write all day long. But this is reality, and this is a podcast about work-life writing balance. I think a lot of writers question the need to read because they’re so busy. They’re just so busy. They say, “Sarah, I only have one hour to myself a day. And if I’m going to be a writer, even a scantily part-time writer, then that hour needs to go toward writing and not reading.” And I understand that.
But as Stephen King notes in his excellent book On Writing, which I’ve referred to many times before, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” He also says that, “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that.”
So that sounds pretty harsh. But throughout this episode, I’m going to lay out the benefits of reading for any writer in any genre. I think that you’ll see he’s simply being truthful. When he says that reading is the creative center of a writer’s life, I think of listening to music being the creative center of a musician’s life. Can you imagine a musician who doesn’t have time to listen to music? Can you imagine a chef who doesn’t have time to sit down and eat? So what I did was I sat down and I started brainstorming about the benefits of reading for a writer. And I came up with a list of 17 things, but I did some editing and trimmed it down a little bit so that it would make more sense for a podcast episode. And so I chose my top eight.
5 Reading descriptive words can stimulate brain regions related to different senses
A 2006 study published in Neuroimage shows that reading descriptive words can stimulate brain regions related to different senses. Words like ‘cinnamon’, ‘lavender’ and ‘soap’ stimulates certain regions of the brain, which are not related to language-processing but to smell.
If the written material is in sensory language, “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated,” writes Annie Murphy Paul at The New York Times referring to this study.
In 2012, researchers from Emory University reported a study they conducted which showed that when their subjects read metaphors related to texture, the sensory cortex of the brain, which figures our texture patterns through touch, became active.
Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex, while phrases matched for meaning, like “The singer had a pleasing voice” and “He had strong hands,” did not. — states the New York Times article.