The Benefits of Reading: Seven Tips for Reading More

Why spend time reading?

Just in case you need an excuse to read to your children (or just to read for yourself), the infographic below outlines a host of benefits of reading. Although there are many practical reasons to read daily, for me, the list of the benefits of reading begins with delight. There are few things more memorable and soul-nourishing than a great book. Beyond delight, reading can reduce stress, improve communication skills, increase empathy, build vocabulary, and so much more.

According to a study of identical twins reported in Science Daily, strong early reading skills seem to predict higher intelligence in adulthood. This finding isn’t new — the fact that reading builds brains is no surprise. What’s surprising is how little time is built into most people’s day for reading.

You don’t have to read for hours a day, though some of us would like to. According to at least one study, stress is reduced after only six minutes of reading. Just imagine what longer periods might accomplish!

If you have never said "Excuse me" to a parking meter or bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are probably wasting too much valuable reading time.

Seven Tips for Reading More

1- Read during breakfast. I know that many weight loss experts suggest focusing on your food at each meal, but I have eaten the same breakfast every morning for years,* so I don’t feel obligated to pay attention. Instead, I spend the time in spiritual and devotional reading, and start the day refreshed. When the boys were young, I had to get up pretty early to have this quiet time, but it made a huge difference in how the day went.

2- Read with your ears. Listen to audiobooks as you walk, run, clean house, drive, whatever. It’s not entirely the same as reading on paper, but the power of story or the fascination of learning from an expert is there. Some classics works are actually better heard than read — epic poetry such as Beowulf or Homer’s Odyssey, for example. These works were composed to be spoken or sung, so reading without listening misses some of the beauty of the original experience.

3- Read while riding public transportation. I spent my childhood school-bus rides reading as many chapters as I could possibly fit in, and every time I’m on an airplane or a subway in a major city, I see a significant number of passengers reading. It redeems time that might otherwise be tedious.

4- Read during the quiet hour. One thing I always tried to have with the boys was a quiet hour after lunch. It started when they were beginning to outgrow naps, but I still needed a bit of recovery time in the middle of the day. Quiet hour worked best for us when each boy settled in a spot where he could not see the others. Even a half hour of quiet reading is a refreshing pause in the day.

5- Read in community. Find a compatible family or two and start a reading group. Choose one good book a month, and meet once or twice to discuss it or do related projects, depending on the age of your children. If you don’t know anyone locally, you may be able to manage it online through a private Facebook page or Google Hangout. If you already do something like this, I’d love to hear about it.

6- Read before bedtime. Reading is an ideal part of an evening routine that helps families wind down and prepare for a good night’s sleep. This is where real books come in. More than one study has shown that screens of any kind — television, iPad, phone, etc. — reduce both duration and quality of sleep, so this is an ideal time for reading a real book.

7- You might even read while walking. I did it for years on the way to and from school, and even between classes in the crowded hallways. It’s perfectly simple to navigate with peripheral vision, but I’m guessing you might have to start young. If you do try it, just do so in a safe place until you know for certain you can manage without falling off a curb or running into a tree.

A lifetime of reading has taught me that as long as there is light available, books can be read just about anywhere, indoors or out. You’ll most likely be the first reader your children see, so be sure they see you reading for learning, for relaxation, and for sheer delight, because then they’ll know you really mean it when you tell them that reading is important. Happy reading!

P. S. You can read in a tree, floating in a pool, in the bathroom, on a rooftop, at the beach, in the mountains. Reading is fun!

Benefits of Reading Infographic

The benefits of reading can be intellectual, social, and spiritual.

Here are a few other resources about the benefits of reading:

Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report (PDF)

Helping Children Develop Good Reading Habits

Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books

For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

*Breakfast: 1 egg, pan-scrambled; 1 slice of Ezekiel Food for Life cinnamon raisin toast with butter; 3-4 oz. plain whole-milk yogurt; fresh fruit; and black coffee. It’s quick, I like it, and there’s no reason to think of something else! I like to simplify the routine things of life so I can fit in things that matter — like reading.


7 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    Hi, I tutor reading, writing, and math at a community college. Would love to print the infographic and post it in my office. Could you please email it to me?
    I agree, breakfast isn’t the same without a book. The only problem with reading before bed is if your taste runs to thrillers or murder mysteries…I’ve had some crazy dreams!

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