Reading is one of the longest-lived activities in the history of the human being: the first engraved tablets of our knowledge date back to the third millennium BC, and from that moment the history of the book has evolved from papyri, manuscripts, printed books with movable type, then branching out into contemporary variants such as ebooks and audiobooks.
And reading (not intended only as an act of pleasure), with its ancient history, is an activity that continues to spread, so much so that we find ourselves able to say that there have never been so many people able to read as today .
At this point one may wonder on the one hand why one reads, and, given that it is a habit generally considered positively by society, why is reading good?
There are really a lot of scientific researches that over the years have dedicated themselves to finding the answers to these questions, demonstrating in various contexts what could be the numerous benefits of reading. And the results show that not only reading is good, but it is good in very different contexts: from health to sociality , passing through psychological well -being and the educational sphere .
We have therefore collected some reasons that explain why reading is important, which can serve strong readers and readers as motivations to strengthen their passion, or those who have always been a bit skeptical to try to give this habit a new chance.
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But first of all, let’s try to understand what reading is. Let’s get rid of the images of the lists of books requested by schools as readings for the summer holidays, as well as those of the passionate readers who in one night and without a thread of tiredness manage to read the entire Search for lost time. Although reading can also include these two experiences, reading is not the same thing for everyone: and above all it should not be experienced either as an obligation to be imposed , or as an activity that only a few and concentrated readers have the ability to carry out.
For some, reading may mean immersing themselves in short and quick detective stories on the beach as soon as summer arrives, for others it may mean nibbling on paragraphs of economics or professional growth books every day; for still others, reading could mean accompanying your children in their sleep with a bedtime story, or keeping yourself informed about the news of your work environment by devouring every essay that has just come out on the subject. And then again there are those who want to dedicate themselves only to novels that put you in a good mood during their commuter trips, and those who fill the library with new releases full of good intentions, but then always end up borrowing the goodies of the past recommended by friends. .
So reading can mean many things, and each one is legitimate: whether you like novels, essays, thrillers, fantasy, children’s books, comics or more, reading can still be an activity full of benefits: let’s see why.
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Reading can improve mental health
It is said that already on the Theban library an inscription carried the words “ Medicine for the soul ” and that Sigmund Freud also used the books for his psychoanalysis sessions. Nowadays, on the other hand, alongside art therapy and pet therapy, there is also bibliotherapy (or book therapy).
The benefits of reading are in fact one of the tools available to specialists to improve the well-being of the psychological sphere. Reading is fun, in the original sense of the term, that is, the same one expressed by Pascal in his theory of divertissement ; immersing yourself in a book allows you to divert attention from thoughts that worry , and which can be a source of anxiety, stress and deep sadness.
And it seems that reading can also give results on a physiological level : on the one hand reading is an activity correlated with a decrease in muscle tension and a slowing of the heartbeat, on the other it is an activity that stimulates the mind. By keeping the brain active, reading can therefore help slow down its natural aging process; of the studies have also shown how the reading of texts concerning active movements the areas of the brain delegated to motor activity, that of texts describing odors the areas related to olfactory reception, and so on, acting as a real training and potential prevention tool for neurological problems.
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Reading improves memory and concentration
We think of choral novels, full of characters, or of fantasy sagas in which dynasties and legends branch off, or even of detective stories, in which every little detail can prove to be fundamental for the resolution of the crime: reading inevitably helps to keep the memory trained , because it forces us to keep track of the names, events and junctions that develop in the stories told.
The mind also needs to stay focused to keep track of this information. It is recognized that new technologies have now considerably decreased our attention span, as well as the time we can devote to a single activity without feeling the need for a distraction. Reading counteracts this phenomenon: the passion that drives readers to want to “know how it ends” keeps even the most distracted glued to the pages, allowing them to train concentration and be more productive in other activities, such as work or study .
Reading means exploring new realities (real or imaginary)
Reading can lead to knowing, while standing still in a place, new places and horizons, not just imaginary ones, which for various physical or economic reasons some people may never have the possibility to reach. Furthermore, the inability to travel or to find a mental outlet in some difficult periods of life can in the long run become debilitating, or in any case negate situations of cultural and emotional enrichment, which are good for both the mind and the spirit. The books therefore offer an alternative to get to know new countries and cultures , both through novels set in distant places and times, and through essays and documentary stories that describe them in great detail.
But the worlds that reading can lead us to know are not only the distant ones. At a certain point in life one comes to terms with the fact that not all dreams, small or large, are achievable in a single existence: and so those who had to give up their ambitions as an explorer could relive the passion through reportage , those who have not managed to break through in a musical career could experience the joys of the stage through memoirs, enjoying the positive sides (but also discovering the negative ones), of the alternative paths that they have chosen not to take.
Reading allows you to create new bonds or improve existing ones
Books are a perfect spark from which to start conversations with people you want to know better: they allow you to open up in a profound and personal way, telling your point of view on the stories, without revealing too much about yourself. And it is precisely from this kind of conversation that new friendships can arise: contrary to the stereotype of the solitary reader, various scientific researches also show that reading makes people more sociable.
In this sense, reading is also good from a social point of view: reading habits are a starting point to make conversation and dissolve embarrassment, or a way to approach other readers who do not know each other. It is not uncommon then that readers are sometimes approached by someone who wants to know more about the book they see them read, or who wants to say they have already read it to share their opinion on the plot.
And once you start reading, the desire to talk about your discoveries with other people is spontaneous: this is why, for example, book clubs are born , which also allow you to share titles and reading times, as well as being a great source of new friendships and literary ideas and advice.
Finally, reading can improve social relationships also because it allows you to develop empathy , making readers identify with the joys and sorrows of imaginary characters, even those very different from us. By training this feeling it becomes easier to empathize with the people who are close to us and with those with whom we seem to have nothing in common, improving existing relationships and creating solid foundations to build new ones.
Reading allows you to learn to face the “sad endings” of life
It happens to many readers, faced with a plot in which one feels particularly involved, to grieve for an ending in which the protagonist does not get what he wants, or worse in which he loses something that he cares a lot about. This feeling of pain can accompany the reader for a few days, and remembers (to a very limited extent) the pain that can arise when the same happens in real life. The books therefore represent a sort of sentimental education , which prepares you to face difficulties and disappointments by experiencing them first on the skin of your favorite characters.
Also in the therapy book that we mentioned earlier, one of the principles is that of being able to assimilate through reading some negative aspects of life experiences, training at the same time to re-evaluate the moments in which they do not affect us. This is the same principle that parents and educators sometimes choose to tackle difficult and painful topics with children by reading a themed book, which allows you to shift your focus to the story character’s experience instead of focusing on it. personal.
By reading you learn from others and from the past
Reading is certainly one of the greatest sources of knowledge for the human being: you learn with essays, manuals, textbooks, but not only. Even stories, whether they are true or invented, allow us to assimilate the experiences of other people (usually those of the writer, who re-elaborates them in narrative form). Since its inception, communication has played precisely this role: to ensure that everyone’s experiences act as a warning for others as well, so that not everyone in order to learn was forced to make the same mistakes.
Then we think of all the books written in past eras, which tell us about the way of thinking, living and behaving of other times, often also teaching us a lot about the history of the period. The same goes for books set in places very different from the one in which one lives, which open the gaze to realities that were not known.
Reading therefore means being able to learn from the past , in terms of history and politics, and learn from others , in terms of life choices. But reading also has another power: to challenge one’s own certainties by reading books in which the writers (or characters) express opinions different from those of the reader. The clarity of the reasoning and the timing of the writing in fact allow you to deepen the ideas of others better than in a question-and-answer conversation, thus helping to better understand the points of view far from your own, even if you do not share them.
Reading helps you learn to write and speak better
Reading, in addition to increasing knowledge, expands the vocabulary : even as adults it is not uncommon to find unfamiliar words in books, which, once you have searched for the meaning, are added to your repertoire. But not only that: there is a large class of words whose meaning we know but which we do not actively use (think for example of the infinite synonyms of verbs as to do and nouns as what; you will never stop learning new ones). Reading therefore also helps to broaden the spectrum of words we use, making both written and spoken language richer .
Furthermore, if you have ever taken part in a writing course, or read the advice of famous authors, you will have noticed that at the top of the methodologies for learning the trade, it is advisable to read, indeed to read a lot. The act of reading in fact allows you to integrate without realizing the fluidity of the structures of clearer sentences, the use of punctuation regulated by the right times, the essentiality of the sentences, and all those characteristics that make the writing of the great authors pleasant and compelling. .