From scrolling through posts on one’s social media accounts to flipping through pages in a variety of novels, humans are estimated to read thousands of words each day (1) and at an average rate of 300 words per minute for at least 98 minutes (2). This is a superb feat when one contemplates about how many words are read every year (whether it is done purposefully or unconsciously), but what is the point of doing so? Why exactly are our minds so captivated by the myriad combinations of letters strung together to form such intricate, enticing words?
Well, other than the notable fact that reading is simply an enjoyable way to pass time, researchers have proven that reading can improve one’s mental health; with up to 68 percent of one’s stressed levels being reduced from reading (3) it is not surprising to see that in the U.S alone there is an average amount of 12 books being read per year (4). In addition, a study done at Emory University has illustrated that reading fiction allows us to feel engrossed in another’s perspective, which results in us being more empathetic as we are more acclimated to understanding another individual’s emotions. When we read about a situation, it is similar to experiencing it for one’s self because the regions of our brain that are stimulated by reality are also affected by words (5). In short, the complex emotions that erupt from us after reading a well-written novel or a truly inspiring post on social media is our brain’s way of saying, “Hey, imagine if we were in that situation right now! What would you do? How would you feel?.”
All throughout our brain, from the region that controls our interpretation of languages to the olfactory cortex and sensory cortex, we become intensely stimulated when reading. The complex cognitive functions that result from reading allow our brain to grow much more than when listening to music or watching TV (5) because our brain initiates a “workout” that benefits the reader. Unlike most organs in our body, our brain continuously becomes influenced and grows even after one reaches adulthood. With this in mind, reading can benefit even those who chose not to read in early stages of their life. Being able to learn from the experiences depicted in various forms of social media and novels is genuinely wonderful for all of us because we will never truly be at a standstill, but rather continue to be innovative and evolve to (hopefully) be influential in a positive manner to the world around us.
So, when one chooses to relax and unwind by reading it not only promotes growth in our brain, but our mindset as well because we learn to be more “human” or accepting and compassionate towards others. We may not always be reading for our own enjoyment or for a specific purpose, but it is riveting to know that reading provides an outlet for many of us as we are able to delve into other aspects of life, fictional worlds, and learn overall.
In a world full of corruption, reading helps us to learn more about the endless possibilities we each hold to be the beneficial change in our world— we can impact one another greatly, one word at a time.
(1) Lakeland Library Region Staff. How many words does the average person read in a day? Battlefords News Optimist, Mar. 2, 2012.
(2) Nelson, Brett. Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful? Forbes, Jun. 4, 2012.
(3) Thorpe, JR. 7 Ways Reading Affects The Brain, From Increased Empathy To Feeling Metaphors
(4) Perrin, Andrew. Book Reading 2016. Aaron Smith Pew Research Center. Sept. 1, 2016.
(5) Why Do We Read? And What Are the Benefits? Vearsa. Sept. 9, 2015.
(6) Image obtained from: Dr. Biology. What’s Your Brain Doing?. ASU – Ask A Biologist. May 9, 2011. ASU – Ask A Biologist, Web. 13 Jun 2018.