Science Says: Read More Books

I hated reading when I was small. I even distinctly remember the reading contest we had at school and my plan was to game the system by reading very short books that were, on second thought, probably board books from my babyhood.

Yeah … I didn’t get away with that. My parents forced me to start reading actual books and while I grumbled at the time, I grew to love reading very quickly. I would read all day long if I could. Summer afternoon on the beach? I’m going to have at least one book with me. (My e-book reader has made my packing much lighter over the years.)

If you’re a reader, you probably share the sentiment. Be warned – you might want to sit down for this part: More than a quarter of American adults freely admit to not having read even part of a book within the past year, according to stats from the Pew Research Center.

I don’t understand how there are that many adults who don’t read or enjoy reading, but I get that every person is different and has various interests and there are plenty of things these days to keep us occupied (thanks, internet streaming and social media).

However, science bears out that reading is good for your creativity, lifespan, career and more. Inc. has more:

Reading fiction can help you be more open-minded and creative

According to research conducted at the University of Toronto, study participants who read short-story fiction experienced far less need for “cognitive closure” compared with counterparts who read nonfiction essays. Essentially, they tested as more open-minded, compared with the readers of essays. “Although nonfiction reading allows students to learn the subject matter, it may not always help them in thinking about it,” the authors write. “A physician may have an encyclopedic knowledge of his or her subject, but this may not prevent the physician from seizing and freezing on a diagnosis, when additional symptoms point to a different malady.”

People who read books live longer

That’s according to Yale researchers who studied 3,635 people older than 50 and found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily lived an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. Apparently, the practice of reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, the sum of which helps people stay on the planet longer.

Reading 50 books a year is something you can actually accomplish

While about a book a week might sound daunting, it’s probably doable by even the busiest of people. Writer Stephanie Huston says her thinking that she didn’t have enough time turned out to be a lame excuse. Now that she has made a goal to read 50 books in a year, she says that she has traded wasted time on her phone for flipping pages in bed, on trains, during meal breaks, and while waiting in line. Two months into her challenge, she reports having more peace and satisfaction and improved sleep, while learning more than she thought possible.

Successful people are readers

It’s because high achievers are keen on self-improvement. Hundreds of successful executives have shared with me the books that have helped them get where they are today. Need ideas on where to start? Titles that have repeatedly made their lists include: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz; Shoe Dog by Phil Knight; Good to Great by Jim Collins; and Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson.

So, what are you reading right now?

Indiana Humanities Offers ‘Shelfie’ Challenge

I was a little too excited when I saw the Shelfie Challenge from the Indiana Humanities Quantum Leap program. A reading contest where you win a $10 Amazon gift card at the end? Sign me up!

Alas, I skimmed right over the information that the program is only for Hoosier middle schoolers in grades 5-8. So, I can’t participate, but maybe you know a middle schooler who might be looking for some new reading material this summer.

The 10 books in this challenge are all about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). A mix of fiction, non-fiction and graphic novel, but all about women and girls in science.

Here’s why it caught my eye initially: I have a 6-year-old little girl at home who is enthralled in the sciences and math! She’s always been a curious thinker and is a natural questioner of her surroundings, wanting to understand how things work and why.

Recently, we were flipping through the parks and recreation catalog for our hometown and while I encouraged her to look at the sporting options (I’m also always looking for ways to tire her out in the summer), she opted instead for the “All About Birds” STEM program. Of course!

And the other night there was a nature documentary on PBS about hummingbirds, so we had to stop and watch it, naturally.

This is a topic that really hits home for our family and even though I’m too old and she’s too young to participate in this particular challenge, I’m so happy to see a list of books on this topic – and you can bet we’re going to be adding these to our reading list anyway.

To enter the challenge, read at least five books from the list by the end of 2018. Take some notes about what you’re reading or how you feel about it and fill out an online survey and voila – that $10 Amazon gift card is yours!