Back to all blogs

There's more to reading than learning to read

Depositphotos 83337282 xl 2015 v3

It’s widely recognised that the best way to encourage your child to read is for them to see you reading. But you already know how to read, so you probably have better things to do, right? Well, it turns out that reading a book is good for you in all sorts of ways. So, to help you prioritise more personal reading time, here are some of the benefits you could enjoy and pass on to your child.

Reduces stress

University of Sussex research[1] found that reading a book for as little as six minutes is one of the most effective ways to lower your heart rate and relax your muscles. Reading came in ahead of other popular stress-reducers, like listening to music, having a cuppa or going for a walk. Unlike watching or listening to something, reading requires full concentration, allowing your mind to disconnect from outside influences.

Improves empathy

Psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York showed that reading good literary fiction improves our ability to recognise other people’s emotions or mental states[2]. This is an important skill for social interaction in all areas of life. They explained that in well-written literary fiction the characters are incomplete, which draws us into trying to understand the minds of others, rather than simply being entertained.

Develops our brain

Cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert, Mayanne Wolf from Tufts University, wrote a book called ‘Proust and the Squid’. It explains that. unlike sight or taste, reading is not something we are born with. As we develop the ability to read, we develop our brain. Early humans did very little reading and their brains were very different to those of today, where we are so constantly immersed in reading.

Expands your vocabulary

Reading introduces us to new words and we can usually figure out their meaning from the context of the story. It also repeatedly exposes us to words we’ve already met, which helps us to remember them with ease. With more words in our ready-to-use vocabulary, our writing and conversations become more expressive and interesting. These are valuable life and career skills that can help you to win friends and influence people.

Boosts and preserves your memory

Keeping track of the characters, names, events and places in a book is an essential part of reading. It also helps your brain to develop new synapses (pathways) and strengthen existing ones. This ‘brain training’ boosts your short-term memory in everyday life. Research has also shown that taking part in mentally challenging activities, such as reading, from childhood through to old age, can help compensate for brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s, dementia and ageing[3].

 Increases general knowledge

Books expand our knowledge and understanding of the world, as they lead us to new ideas or teach us more about the things we already knew. Instead of limiting your reading to your usual interests, try to choose books on completely new topics from time to time. They’ll open doors to fresh ideas and skills that can enrich your life and help you become a happier, more interesting and more successful person[4].

Develops critical thinking

Our ability to analyse and evaluate experiences or information supports our ability to make logical, well thought-out judgements. It’s an essential life skill that helps us to find deeper meanings and avoid jumping to the wrong conclusions. Reading fiction engages our attention and forces us to think more deeply about the characters and plot. So it’s clear that reading a quality book with your child and pausing to discuss their thoughts is a great way for you both to develop critical thinking skills[5]. You could discuss things like what a character’s action reveals about their personality or why the author chose a particular setting. Ask questions that don’t have simple yes or no answers and remember there’s no right or wrong.

Improves focus and concentration

Our fast-paced world is full of distractions that demand our attention. By constantly flipping from one thing to the next, we lose the ability to stay focussed on a task for any length of time. Simultaneously checking social media, watching TV, talking, texting, eating dinner and ‘doing some homework’ is an all too familiar occurrence these days. Reading a book develops our ability to shut out distractions and focus on the task at hand. We start to achieve more in less time and gain more from each opportunity. For your child, being able to focus their attention is particularly important for classroom learning.

Extends our imagination

Reading stimulates the right side of our brain, opening our minds to new thoughts and possibilities, which broaden our imagination. Neuroscientists at Emory University[6] in the USA found that reading fiction improves your imagination in a similar way to muscle memory in sports, where repeated actions can eventually become subconscious. In 2017, a Chinese government delegation visited the highly innovative companies Apple, Microsoft and Google. They found that all the employees had read science fiction when they were young. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”

Need help with your child’s reading?

If you have concerns about your child’s reading ability, or you think they’ve simply lost reading confidence, a boost from after school tuition could make all the difference.

At NumberWorks’nWords, we offer a free no-obligation assessment of your child’s reading strengths and weaknesses. They can also try a free lesson with one of our tutors. If you choose to continue, we’ll create an individual learning plan for your child and regularly report on progress. If you don’t choose to continue, that’s fine.  At least you’ll have a good idea of where your child is at and some direction for appropriate goal setting.

Book your free no-obligation assessment today.


How good health boosts learning

Read full post