‘Tis The Season To Read A Good Book
Living in an electronic world of iPhones vs Androids, social media often trumps good old fashioned reading. But, as it turns out, reading is good for you and has some great benefits for your brain and overall well being.
And what better time to boost your brain than during the holidays. So here is a list of three science-backed reasons why you should pause the drinking, eating and shopping, and pick up a book.
1. Reading Improves Theory of Mind (ToM)
Theory of mind is a social-cognitive skill which is defined as “human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that they may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.” The general idea is that books which feature “in-depth” representations of characters, their inner feelings and thoughts, help us to understand others and ourselves better.
In a report published by The New School for Social Research, David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano write on the importance of theory of mind: “Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies” demonstrating why reading is a necessary skill we should practise regularly. In the report, Kid and Castano present five experiments. The experiments show how reading literary fiction leads to better performance on tests of affective ToM, cognitive ToM and overall can enhance ToM versus other forms of literature and not reading at all (Kidd and Castano, 2013).
2. Reading Could Help You Live Longer
We don’t mean living forever here, or in a Wolverine kind of way, but according to a Yale University study, those who read books often live for around two years longer than their non-book-reading counterparts.
This study suggest reading books has a “survival advantage” that was “significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines.” Book readers had a huge 23-month advantage than those that read newspapers or magazines (Bavishi, Slade and Levy, 2016). This is because reading can help engage and improve cognitive processes and abilities, such as empathy and emotional intelligence.
The survival advantage of reading books works through a cognitive mediator(Bavishi, Slade and Levy, 2016)
3. Reading Builds Your Vocabulary
As well as improving your cognitive abilities and helping you to live longer, reading helps to build your vocabulary and linguistic skills. The Oxford Language report, produced by the Oxford University Press, surveyed more than 1,300 teachers in the UK. Out of those surveyed, half of the teachers reported that “at least 40% of their pupils lacked the vocabulary needed to access their learning.”
Furthermore, a study published in 2015 titled The Influence of Reading on Vocabulary Growth: A Case for a Matthew Effect suggests how “Individual differences in vocabulary development may affect academic or social opportunities.” The study used and collected a sample of 485 assessments of written word reading skills and oral vocabulary knowledge from kindergarten, 4th grade, 8th and 10th grade. The results revealed that “above average readers experienced a higher rate of vocabulary growth than did average readers.” Research from this study highlights how reading is crucial for your vocabulary growth and learning opportunities.
So why not pick up a book over the Christmas holidays, there’s no reason not to and your brain will thank you for it. Or why not give the gift of knowledge and share the joy of storytelling with Peak’s list of books to read and gift this Christmas:
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- The Elves and the Shoemaker by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
- The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
- Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
Kidd, D. and Castano, E. (2013). Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. Science, 342(6156), pp.377-380.
Bavishi, A., Slade, M. and Levy, B. (2016). A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity. Social Science & Medicine, 164, pp.44-48.
Duff, D., Tomblin, J. and Catts, H. (2015). The Influence of Reading on Vocabulary Growth: A Case for a Matthew Effect. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 58(3), pp.853-864.