Pick up a good book, lose yourself in its story, its history, its education, and you’ll feel the benefits of increased empathy for others, a boost to your relationships, and an enhanced sense of wellbeing. At least, that’s the results of a study from The Reading Agency, which – by living up to its name and reason for being – is promoting the benefits of reading. They would say that, wouldn’t they? But look beyond the headlines and the benefits of reading for pleasure aren’t just lofty claims to support a promotional message. The benefits have been identified by studying more than 50 studies and reports over the last 10 years, and across a range of age and cultural groups.
For children the benefits of reading touch on social skills. For adults, it can help improve relationships and confidence levels. For parents, it helps them to communicate better with their kids. And for older adults, reading for pleasure can help reduce symptoms of depression and dementia. Importantly, engaging in a book can help you engage more fully in other relationships, and become more empathic towards the ways other people live their lives.
The key point, however, is not to rock up and read a book because you have to, out of endurance. It’s about truly enjoying the pleasure of reading. Only then can you have have the opportunity to reap the benefits identified by the study.
I’ve enthused about this topic before, in my post on Why reading a good book can be therapeutic. I think you can’t beat reading a good book where you can lose yourself in time and space, and enter into a new world, for helping you relax, de-stress, and gain fresh perspective on the world you inhabit.
However, I’ll leave the last word on this topic to an expert. Author Phillip Pullman, President of the Society of Authors, which is involved in this project, said: “I agree wholeheartedly with what this report is saying about the importance of reading for pleasure. When I write a story I hope to beguile, to enchant, to bewitch, to perform an act of magic on and with my readers’ imaginations. [This quote] remains true: ‘The true aim of writing is to enable to reader to better able to enjoy life, or better to endure it.'”