The September 2017 issue of Reader’s Digest is titled “Genius Issue – Secrets to a Sharper Mind.” The article “Why It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” on pages 66-73 begins with a question.
“How many hours did you spend reading books last week?”
In 2016, researchers at Yale School of Public Health began analyzing data collected from 20,000 people every other year since 1992. They narrowed the focus to the 3600 respondents over 50 years of age. Included in that data was an answer to the above question gleaned from over 20-years of data collection.
- “People who read books—fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose—for as little as 30 minutes a day over several years were living an average of two years longer than people who didn’t read anything at all [emphasis mine].”
Other research included suggests that
- “[C]hildren as young as six months who read books with their parents several times a week show stronger literacy skills four years later, score higher on intelligence tests, and land better jobs than nonreaders.”
The article goes on to discuss the benefits of reading in adults. Summary:
- Reading books is more beneficial for adults [maybe everyone] than reading newspapers and magazines.
- Brains build many connections and pathways when keeping track of chapters and storylines. This doesn't happen when skimming headlines, as is common with newspapers and magazines.
- Empathy and emotional intelligence scores increase after reading even only a part of a chapter in a story.
Another concept discussed is “cognitive reserve”—your brain’s ability to damage. More reading, more ability over a wider range of damage types.
Shocking to me was
- “This [cognitive reserve built up by reading] could explain why, after death, many seemingly healthy elders turn out to harbor signs of advanced Alzheimer’s disease in their brains despite showing few signs in life.”
The article takes a turn in its story arc for the last part. Benefits of bilingualism are presented. That's another blog, someone else's blog.
Chances, if you are reading this post, you are a reader. There’s a different level of probability involved with you being an author—but you might be one of those, too.
- If you’re a reader, you should be fired up by the above content—especially if you read books.
- If you’re an author, I hope you’re inspired by how you are contributing to more than just the list of books in print.
- I suspect that writers' brains have good-sized cognitive reserves.
I taught high school and college biology for 39 years. From what I know about brain function
- An author’s brain must build connections while determining the plot, fleshing out characters, and developing a plausible setting—while writing.
- The number of those connections must be at least as many as a reader builds while following those plots and characters in that setting—while reading.
Writing and editing are disciplines.
- Accept that discipline is required to write a good story.
- Don’t rush to finish a story.
- Do all that you need to do to produce a story that sucks readers in.
- Disciplined writing helps readers develop healthier brains.
Write on!SEO: Reading, brain, brain function, books, benefits of reading