Although we take in tons of information through our smart devices, the fact is that people are reading less actual literature than in previous years. The National Endowment for the Arts has funded several studies and resources (like this one) and found that the number of adults who report reading literature has steadily fallen in recent years, from 47% in 2012 to 45% in 2013 and 43.1% in 2015. This is down from around 57% in 1982.
So people aren't reading as many books, but they are reading more aren't they? With all the devices we use on a daily basis, surely we are reading more overall? Although that may be true in some sense, there's a difference between reading actual books on paper when compared to reading social media posts on digital screens. A growing body of research suggests that there are numerous benefits to traditional "book-in-hand" reading. In this study, one piece of research cited from Norway found that students who read from actual books scored significantly better on reading comprehension tests compared to those who read from digital sources. The researchers believe this is because paper gives readers “spatio-temporal” markers when they read.
International Literacy Day is just around the corner (September 8th), so there’s no better time to believe in the value of reading for your child’s development. Reading is kind of a big deal for us because we know that reading more helps take a child's imagination to new heights. One of our very own Kumon students has recently given us a prime example of what's possible with the publishing of her first novel - and she's just starting grade 8 this year!
If you hope your children can reach similarly high heights, we strongly recommend you make reading a regular part of your family’s day-to-day, so we’re pulling out every trick in the book to give you 7 research driven reasons to read more literature.
1. Reading Builds Empathy
Reading can literally turn you into more of an open book. According to research published in Science Magazine, reading fiction has the power to build an individual’s tendencies towards the empathetic. The results are much more apparent in those who read fiction than those who read nonfiction. Get lost in a book, relate to the characters, and you’ll be able to relate more to people in your daily life!
2. Reading Books Increases Brain Power
Reading helps us acquire knowledge, but beyond that, it can actually help build real brain-power! Just like cardiovascular activity exercises our bodies, reading exercises the brain. As we age, we experience a decline in memory and brain function, but reading regularly may help slow the process, according to research published in Neurology.
3. Reading Can Relax You
Cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis told The Telegraph, "It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author's imagination." Getting your kids into the habit of reading every day could really help set them up for a lifetime of smooth sailing. One 2009 study by Sussex University researchers (as referenced by our friends in Kumon UK) showed that reading may reduce stress by as much as 68%.
4. Reading Raises Intellect
Getting into a great book opens the door to knowledge starting from a very young age. Children's books expose kids to 50% more words than prime time TV. These findings, taken from The Journal of Child Development, also say that exposure to new vocabulary not only leads to higher scores on reading tests, but also higher scores on general tests of intelligence. Plus, stronger early reading skills may mean higher intelligence later in life.
5. Reading Might Stave-Off Dementia
Your kids might be a long way from having to worry about dementia, but it doesn’t hurt to get them moving in the right direction early. Reading puts your brain to work, and that's a very good thing. Those who engage their brains through activities such as reading, chess, or puzzles, could be 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who spend their down time on less stimulating activities. The study, produced by PNAS, states that exercising the brain may help because it presents an alternative to inactivity. Essentially, use it or lose it – take care of those brains!
6. Reading Habits Rub-Off
As much as 75% of parents wish their children would read more for fun, and we couldn’t be happier to be on the same page! If you are among those who want to encourage their children to read more, one way to start is by reading out loud at home. The tendency is to stop reading out loud to kids once they can do it themselves, but a new report from Scholastic suggests that reading out loud to kids throughout their elementary school years might push them towards adopting the habit of reading more fully.
7. Reading a Real Book Before Bed Can Help You Sleep Better
Creating a bedtime ritual, like reading before bed, creates a signal to your body that it's time to wind down and go to sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is in direct opposition to how we react to digital surfaces. Screens like e-readers and tablets can actually keep you awake longer and even hurt your sleep. As parents, it’s a great idea to lead by example as often as you can. The Journal of Pediatrics, according to this research, says that 54% of children sleep near a small screen, and clock 20 fewer minutes of shut-eye on average as a result.
Why would you suggest reading actual books instead of reading from a digital screen? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to get more kids reading? Share this infographic and let's give books a little more love! Take a look below (or click here to view it full-sized in another tab)
Kumon can also help you understand where your child stands academically, figure out their learning priorities and establish the routine needed to succeed. Schedule a parent orientation session to find out more.