The Benefits of Reading

By Leo Publishing

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“We read to train the mind, to fill the mind, to rest the mind, to recreate the mind, or to escape the mind.”  Holbrook Jackson. 

“Reading furnishes our mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” John Locke.

 Just as the body needs exercise to remain flexible, strong, and youthful, so does the brain.  The human brain, without a doubt the most complex device that we currently know of in the universe, requires input and continued development to remain sharp and creative throughout our lives.  One of the best means of keeping the mind young is to read. Reading has long been thought to maintain intellectual acuity.  However, modern science, with instruments such as the PET scan (Positron Emission Topography), and MEG (Magnetoencephalography),  has allowed researchers to actually see inside to a living human brain and observe the effect that reading has on a person.  The solitary activity of reading silently shows a significant increase in frontal lobe activity that indicates high level thinking, as words on the page are transformed into vivid images within the brain.  Other results show the connection between visual symbols (written language) and the motor areas of the brain that control speech and the use of verbal language. Reading will not only make you more intelligent by exposing you to different ideas as well as fictional or real situations by vicariously using your imagination, but also it is the very act of reading that actually enhances the ability of your brain to even grasp these ideas and concepts that exist on the printed or the electronic page.

Reading starts early.  Children whose parents begin reading to them early and often continue to demonstrate the benefits as teenagers.  Studies in 14 counties show that early parental involvement in reading to their children was a significant trigger in development of the child’s own enhanced reading skills, intelligence level, and abstract thinking abilities as they grew and went on in school.  These studies indicated it was important for parents to not only read to their children but also to talk about what they read to them, allowing that knowledge to trigger independent thought.  The long term effects are children with enhanced reading ability and enhanced thinking skills once they are able to read on their own.  Children like to copy their parents.  When they see their parents reading a book, this will help to foster the same behavior in the child.

 “Reading to children at night, responding to their smiles with a smile, retuning their vocalizations with one of your own, touching them, holding them--all of these further a child’s brain development and future potentials, even in the earliest months.  Research demonstrates that the early responsiveness of caring parents sets the tone for future self-esteem, trust, problem solving, ability to communicate successfully and motivation for future learning,” said T. Barry Brazelton, Pediatrician.

Reading and memorization keeps the mind sharp. It is very helpful to read poetry to children to enhance their appreciation of the written word.  A child should also take time to memorize poems, as this helps to train the mind to more effectively use our capacity for memory.

We live in a time where the pace of life is fast and day to day stress is high. Reading is an excellent stress buster.  British research reveals that spending just six minutes a day reading about other people’s lives slashes stress an impressive 68%, making it better and faster than other popular stress-busters, such as sipping a cup of tea (54%, reduction), taking a walk (42% reduction) or playing a video game (21% reduction).  Reading about the lives of real people or fictional people distracts you from your own day-to-day concerns, bringing down your heart rate and easing muscle tension.

Do not slack off in reading in your adult years.  Many people state that they do not have time to read for enjoyment, but that is setting one up for potential problems as we age.  There are few diseases more sinister than Alzheimer’s where one’s memories are erased like an old video tape and the ability to make sense of the world that surrounds one slowly ebbs away.  Reading, while not a cure for this dreaded disease, can act to prevent or at least minimize the effects of it as we age. Reading is uniquely beneficial for the brain, as it requires active engagement of the mind and imagination, powerfully stimulating both of the brain’s hemispheres. The bottom line is that thinking can improve the connections in your brain and thus improve your memory. Almost any mental activity will fulfill the brain's needs, but the brain especially enjoys exercise in the areas of language, numbers, reasoning, and spatial organization. “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body,” said Joseph Addison and Richard Steele.

Read for your child and have your child read for him or herself.  Read as an adult to improve your mental abilities and your cognitive skills as well as to reduce stress in your life, and finally, read as you age to keep mentally sharp and hold at bay the effects of aging, which can include reduced mental abilities and loss of memory.

“Reading not only enlarges and challenges the mind; it also engages and exercises the brain.” --Richard M. Nixon.


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