I’m not going to lie, I judge someone a tiny bit if he or she answers the question “Do you like reading?” with a prompt, mindless “I don’t read.” My first thought is always why not? Reading is super fun and relaxing, and by reading more and more you will be amazed at the educational benefits that naturally come along with it. Obviously, some people find it to be boring, time-consuming, and a less appealing alternative to watching TV. However, most of these excuses are likely due to the sheer amount of boring literature that is built into most high school curricula, not because reading actually is boring — too much reading in school makes reading outside of school seem like work instead of leisure. For example, why bother reading a super interesting sic-fi novel if you have to read xx pages of Dante’s Inferno by tomorrow? Most people will opt to turn on the TV or take a nap instead of reaching for some good ol’ pleasure readin’. However, reading has so many benefits that can impact your stress levels, your grades, and even your SAT/ACT scores.
Scientifically Proven Stress Reducer
It’s been proven many times that reading can make you feel more relaxed, but by how much does reading a book actually lower stress? In 2009, researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%. Of course, you need to be reading something that actually makes you feel happy, relaxed, and interested in order for it to work, and preferably for around half an hour. I’d say 68% is a pretty high number considering reading isn’t hard or complicated.
It’s not really a mystery as to how reading could stimulate relaxation; you’re occupying your usually frazzled, worried, busy mind with someone else’s words and thoughts. It’s like you’re disconnected from your own brain for a precious window of time, consumed by emotions that don’t belong to you, provoked by words written by somebody else. In other words, reading can serve as a break from reality, and reality = stressful.
Those who read have a significant advantage in school over those who don’t read. Think about it: if you read more often, you become good at it, meaning you can process information faster. The ability to quickly process information helps enormously when learning new information, studying, and taking tests. All of these skills are necessary in order to get good grades, and it is clear that readers perform better than non-readers. There was a study done in 2013 by the Institute of Education backing this claim — the study found that “children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read”, indicating that reading for pleasure has a significant positive effect on cognitive development over the course of time. Even though reading has nothing to do with math, the children and teens in the study showed improved math scores because they were better able to absorb the information presented to them. So, if you’re looking to become a better absorber-of-information, do yourself a favor and pick up a book!
Standardized Testing’s BFF
The SAT/ACT and reading are real pals, you know. The study mentioned above found that those who read for pleasure retain a more expansive vocabulary than those who do not — this is clearly an advantage in the critical reading vocabulary section of the SAT where knowing prefixes, suffixes, and roots of words will help even if you have never seen a particular word before. For long single or double passages the reader will have the advantage in terms of time constraints and for all critical reading sections the reader will have an advantage in terms of comprehension.
Reading also helps with the writing section of the SAT: In The Power of Reading, researcher/author Stephen Krashen says that when children and teens “get “hooked on books”, they acquire, involuntarily and without conscious effort, nearly all of the so-called ‘language skills’ many people are so concerned about: they will become adequate readers, acquire a large vocabulary, develop the ability to understand and use complex grammatical constructions”, and even “develop a good writing style”. These skills are the backbone of the SAT writing section and help with critical reading as well. Reading comprehension and writing abilities come in handy for the ACT English, Writing, (even Math) and Reading sections too!
All in all, there’s no harm in picking up a book once in a while. A good place to start is during the summer months, over vacations from school, or before bed!