24th Apr 2023
3 Min Read

No better brainfood than a book

Elle Bradley-Cox
Elle Bradley-Cox
IC & Engagement

One in five children in England don’t own a book of their own. Can anyone be as lonely as the child who hasn’t got the papery keys to unlock their imagination? Senior editorial consultant Elle Bradley-Cox shares six solid reasons why books matter – and how they can improve your writing (and your life).

Deep reading gives your brain a workout.

    Concentrating on a book causes your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to another. As you make these connections, your brain forges new pathways in all four lobes and both hemispheres. Over time you’ll think quicker – and these neural networks will shore up your brain’s defences against the worst effects of cognitive decay.

    Literacy feeds aspirations.

      This ‘Books are Forever’ study found that men brought up in households with less than a shelf of books earned only five per cent more after an extra year of education, compared with 21 per cent more for those who had access to a lot of books. Those with access to books are more likely to move to cities, where better-earning opportunities are, compared to those without.

      Books make better humans.

        This study found that participants who read just the first part or chapter of a story showed a noticeable increase in empathy one week later, while news readers showed a decrease. So what does increased empathy bring? Believe it or not, it boosts your wellbeing. The world’s largest study into the everyday experience of kindness found that the word most associated with empathy is kindness: those who said they receive, give or notice more acts of kindness also reported better overall wellbeing.

        Books help you say what you want.

          Save the Children works in rural communities where the school library is the only place children can get their hands on a book. The charity says: “By the time they’re three years old, children from low-income families have been exposed to 30 million fewer words than their more affluent counterparts.” So when it comes to expressing what they feel or need from the world, they don’t have the vocabulary.

          Read more, live longer.

            Honestly. Yale University’s School of Public Health found that people who regularly read books (fiction or nonfiction; poetry or prose) for as little as 30 minutes a day live, on average, two years longer than people who don’t read anything at all.

            Bigger readers make better writers.

              “Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life. We read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten … to measure ourselves against the great to get a sense of all that can be done.” In On Writing, Stephen King reveals that he reads between 70 and 80 books a year to learn style, graceful narration and truth-telling from other writers. It takes dedication to stay away from your screen: “Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.”

              If I haven’t convinced you to put away your device and pick up a book by now, that’s ok. Not everyone has to be a great writer. They just have to know one. 😉

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