In the last month, I have been to the Virgin Islands, France, and now the state of Washington. I have hung out with magazine editors, famous arborists, photographers, a temperamental world renowned surgeon and a stay at home dad, and I continue to watch a crime investigation unfold. Before you assume I am a consummate traveler, who has left her full-time responsibilities of being a wife, mother, social worker, and freelance writer behind, let me just say I have taken flights of fancy, literary style. For me, outside of being there, reading is truly the next best thing.
This quiet season lends itself beautifully to extra time for reading. While I enjoy getting outside during winter and some good TV like the next person, there is something to me about the cold, a couch, a cuddly blanket, and a great book. Throw in a blizzard, soup on the stove, and an engrossing novel, I can hygge like a champ.
This is anomalous when it comes to our country. Both anecdotally and statistically, Americans are reading far less than they once did. I lament the words I hear about reading being dead or not necessary like it once was. I do know some folks are plenty happy receiving all information for education or entertainment in a digital format. I get them, kind of like I get people who enjoy going to the dentist. Statistics hold up the anecdotal information. A Pew Research article entitled “Who Doesn’t Read Books in America,” by Andrew Perrin found that 24 percent of Americans report they have not read a book in whole or in part in the past year, in all its many modern formats. Gender, race, educational attainment, and income status are variables that impact this phenomenon, with higher education and income status predicting greater reading rates.
Beyond its obvious pleasures, there are so many reasons to still read today. From giving our children the cornerstone of education and improving the bedrock skill of our own in our lifelong pursuit of learning and living healthier lives, to increasing emotional intelligence and helping us de-stress better, you can argue you can not afford to not read. An article at “Real Simple” magazine by Abigail Wise, entitled “Eight Science-Backed Reasons to Read a (Real Book)” explains why. Some things to consider from this article include: children’s books expose them to 50 percent more words than prime time television; exposure to new vocabulary via books leads to both higher scores on reading tests; it contributes to higher scores on general tests of intelligence, and therefore it helps build higher intelligence later in life. The article also discusses how reading not only boosts intelligence, but also brain power as we age — specifically memory function by as much as 32 percent. The article also illustrates how reading can improve our emotional intelligence, as we increase our understanding of other people’s cultures, ideas, personalities, struggles, etc. Lastly, it is a wonderful stress fighter, as the articles cites stress reductions rates as upward as 68 percent in those engaging in reading and also better sleep, as it can help us wind-down our over stimulated, constantly plugged in selves for a more restful night.
Reading can truly help us be healthy and wise on every level. Given the choices to binge on TV or a book right now, my pick is a good book, hands down.
Nicole Kelly is a licensed social worker and stay-at-home mom. She lives in Genesee County.
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