Book Lover's Day 2022
- Culture & Society
- VOICE Head Office
Reading. Is it Really That Important?
As a massive book lover, I’m always looking for book recommendations. When I learnt that there was a special day dedicated to readers like me, I couldn’t pass up the chance of getting VOICE involved one way or another. At first it looked like I was just trying to use this opportunity to grow my “to be read” list, but the more I looked into the day and what it can represent, the more it seemed vital that this was shared with all of our VOICE members.
When I was at school, I was an avid reader. Not much has changed since then. However, what nobody seemed to be able to add up was how I was able to read so many books and yet my grades in English never seemed to improve. It led me to believe that reading was just an enjoyable past time, but it seemed to provide little benefit to my cognitive learning. How wrong was I?
There have been multiple studies1,2 to show that reading actually benefits our cognitive health as we grow older. Whether the book you’re reading is non-fiction, and you’re learning about a brand-new city, country, or historical event. Or perhaps you’re reading a fictional book, taking you on an exciting adventure to the other side of the world or a faraway land. Either way, reading activates our brain and makes us think about and imagine situations right from the comfort of our favourite chair.
In a study, by Wilson et al (2003)3, 4,000 participants were asked to track and score how often they engaged in reading, or another similarly stimulating task. Over the course of three years, researchers found that those who took part in these types of activities most frequently, had a reduction in their cognitive decline in follow-up meetings. This result stayed the same when participants were controlled for depressive symptoms and chronic medical conditions, proving that reading really can help us age gracefully.
Not only does reading slow our cognitive ageing, but it has also been proven to increase our focus and concentration in everyday life. Kweldju (2015)4 began studying what part of our brain is activated when we read. They found that the area associated with memory, attention, planning and decision-making is stimulated during these events. Kweldju believed this is due to our brain searching our learnt knowledge of letters, words, and grammar in order to understand the information put in front of it. Therefore, since reading keeps our focus areas operating, it is no surprise that the more you read, the better your concentration becomes.
Finally, reading provides the perfect excuse to meet up with a friend and have a natter. Although reading is often thought of as a one-person job. Having the opportunity to share what you have read with others allows us to stimulate our minds and grow our social connections. As human beings we are designed to be social animals (although we may not always want to be), and so being part of a book club, or just having that excuse to speak to someone about what you’ve read, provides that social interaction we need and reduces our feeling of loneliness. We’re always told that sharing is caring, and sharing what happened during a book, how it made us feel, or the dates of a historical event you read about, you’re activating that memory again leading to healthy cognitive ageing and caring for yourself.
So, on this national book lover’s day (or whatever day of the year you happened to have stumbled across this blog), pick up that book that’s gathering dust, finish that final chapter, and share your key insights with someone.
For book clubs please see information below:
- Reading Groups for Everyone – an online community where you can share your reviews with people across the country: https://readinggroups.org/
- Good Reads – like Reading groups for everyone, this provides you with the opportunity to write and respond to reviews, receive book recommendations, and learn about your favourite authors.
- Beth’s Book Club – an online membership set up to connect people all across the world with their love of reading. Read more here: https://bethsbookclub.com/
- Rebel’s Book Club – They read only non-fiction books and try to match members with each other based on location and area to meet and discuss what they have read. Learn more here: https://www.rebelbook.club/
North East England
- Book and Brew – This reading group meets once a month in Newcastle to debate contemporary fictional books. See more at their twitter.
- Pass it on – A book club in Newcastle which asks you to bring a book, share what you thought about it, pass it on to someone else and collect a new book while you’re there.
- Tyneside Book Club – The Tyneside book club was founded in 2004 and meets once a month in a pub in Gateshead. Each month a member gets to choose the title the group will read ahead of their next meet. Read more here: https://www.meetup.com/the-pass-it-on-book-club/
- Wilson, R.S., Boyle, P.A., Yu, L., Barnes, L.L., Schneider, J.A. and Bennett, D.A., 2013. Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging. Neurology, 81(4), pp.314-321.
- Wilson, R.S., Segawa, E., Boyle, P.A. and Bennett, D.A., 2012. Influence of late-life cognitive activity on cognitive health. Neurology, 78(15), pp.1123-1129.
- Wilson, R.S., Bennett, D.A., Bienias, J.L., De Leon, C.M., Morris, M.C. and Evans, D.A., 2003. Cognitive activity and cognitive decline in a biracial community population. Neurology, 61(6), pp.812-816.
- Kweldju, S., 2015. Neurobiology Research Findings: How the Brain Works during Reading. Pasaa: Journal of language teaching and learning in Thailand, 50, pp.125-142.