Jae Faber author of this 2017-2018 MLHS senior student editorial
Over 20,000 pages filled with words stuffed into 80 books sitting on my bookshelf, and I still find myself drawn to more books. My obsession with reading began years ago when my mom handed me a book about a young boy left on a doorstep on Pivot Drive. Since reading the Harry Potter series, I have learned that reading fiction provides emotional, intellectual, and lifestyle benefits.
The emotional benefits of reading include stress relief and more empathy for others. Research from the University of Sussex shows that reading is more effective in relieving stress than other methods such as taking a walk (100% more, in fact) and listening to music; six minutes of reading slows down the heart and releases tension in muscles by 68%. Additionally, reading reduces stress 600% more than playing a video game. Studies show that imagining stories activates the part of the brain that is responsible for understanding others, increasing empathy, which is feeling and understanding the feelings of another. Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis scanned the brains of fiction readers and found that the readers reacted as if they were living the events they were reading about. When we read, we engage our capacity to identify with characters and their feelings and emotions.
Along with emotional benefits, reading fiction offers numerous intellectual benefits, such as increased memory, vocabulary, and creativity. Evidence that readers have better memories has surfaced over the past few years because reading keeps the brain stimulated, and researchers found that readers bear fewer symptoms of Alzheimer’s throughout life. Also, the brains of readers show more activity in the area in charge of understanding language, meaning that reading increases vocabulary. More than that, reading fiction allows for more growth than reading non-fiction because the authors of fictional books tend to use words not used by non-fiction writers. Because fiction endings are unconventional, lacking closure or not ending the way we wish them to, they allow our brains to fill in the blanks using our imaginations, encouraging creativity.
Reading fiction also provides lifestyle benefits like pleasure and a deeper understanding of others’ mental states, forming stronger relationships. One of the most popular reasons people read fiction is for pleasure, and surveys show that those who read regularly are happier and more satisfied with life. Reading allows people to escape their reality and live in someone else’s. When reading, an understanding of how the characters think, see, and feel develops, and this, in turn, allows readers to better understand how people around them think, see, and feel. Fiction, opposed to non-fiction, is a reality simulation of sorts, making it useful for understanding the complexities of the social world. Comprehending change by observing characters’ struggles and how they deal with problems can help people learn how to deal with problems in their own lives.
In the end, whether or not you like to read, the emotional, intellectual, and lifestyle benefits are undeniable. Stress relief, increased memory and vocabulary, and improved relationships are substantial benefits to help in life at any age.
Now, excuse me while I go finish my book.