Experts agree: Americans are reading less often and for less time than in previous years. Books are being shelved in greater numbers as people look for different diversions – such as literature’s noisier and costlier counterpart, TV. Surveys show that youth between the ages of 15 and 24 spend at least 2 hours of their leisure time watching TV and devote 7 minutes to reading; meanwhile, 19% of young adults do not even read on a daily basis.
Grown-ups have little reason to gloat; The Associated Press’s poll on adult reading rates hit its most recent low in 2006, when 1 in 4 adults read zero books during the year, while the average adult only reads four books per year.
Though many Americans unwittingly exercise their reading skills by emailing, texting, and blogging, this doesn’t yield the same benefits that a book might. Besides, real literature doesn’t usually feature emoticons. With so little reading going on, it’s likely that you didn’t even realize there was a problem – but here are a few good reasons to care.
3 Reasons to Read More Books
1. Do it for your children!
Children learn best by exposure; kids who read regularly with their parents and by themselves will greatly improve their language and reasoning skills. According to the University of Washington, DC, “when [children] see proper grammar, punctuation, and word usage in stories and other written forms, they learn without trying to learn. They don’t necessarily have to study the rules of grammar if they have seen enough examples in books they love.”
Additionally, a study by John Hopkins University has shown that schoolchildren who read outside of school tend to avoid the “summer slide,” when student lose much of the knowledge and skills gained during the previous school year.
Clearly, a love of reading and a love of learning go hand in hand. The effect of reading on an adult brain isn’t quite as dramatic, though it does carry some serious benefits. Regular reading can greatly improve your vocabulary and can also lower your risk for Alzheimer’s by testing and exercising your memory.
2. Do it for your job!
Chances are, your boss wants you to be able to read. In fact, 2/3 of employers consider reading and writing skills to be “very important.” Without basic literacy skills, you’re likely to have trouble keeping a job or even staying out of debt. In a 2003 study from National Center for Education Statistics, adults with little to no reading ability were three times more likely to be below the poverty level than adults who could read well.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise; without basic reading skills, how could you understand bank statements, tax forms, or job applications? Likewise, literate adults tend to be better educated, highly skilled, and can adapt to a new work environment more easily (naturally, it helps to be able to read memos).
3. Do it for fun!
For the budget-conscious individual, reading is a habit well worth picking up. While TV sets and video game consoles can cost upwards of $500, the average paperback novel can be yours for around ten bucks – even less if you buy it from a used bookstore. Better yet, get a library card and enjoy unlimited reading absolutely free.
A single book can provide you with days of entertainment, as well as great conversation material. And if the mental health perks listed above weren’t enough, reading is often more enjoyable and relaxing than other forms of entertainment. Because of the fast, loud, and violent nature of most modern TV, adults who read after work tend to report lower levels of stress than their peers and often experience longer and more restful sleep.
The recent slump in adult reading is an unfortunate trend that could carry serious consequences. Reading should be an essential part of our daily lives; it should be seen as a right and privilege, not a chore. Regular reading can help people succeed in business and school, save money, increase their brain power, and relax. Sorry, TV fans, but the latest episode of Jersey Shore just isn’t going to compete with that…
- “Follow-Up to Reading at Risk Links Declines in Reading with Poorer Academic and Social Outcomes.” National Endowment for the Arts. nea.gov. 19 November 2007.
- “What Are the Benefits of Reading, and Why Is It Important to Your Child?” University of the District of Columbia. dcadultliteracy.org.
- Fram, Alan. “One in Four Read No Books Last Year.” The Washington Post. 21 August 2007. www.washingtonpost.com.
- Isaac, Brad. “The 26 Major Advantages to Reading and Why 3 in 4 People are Being Shut Out of Success.” Persistence Unlimited. www.persistenceunlimited.com. 5 December 2007.
nice article, i like it
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