People who read for pleasure have more self-esteem, less depression, better sleep

Recent UK research has shown that reading for pleasure has benefits that go way beyond increasing the knowledge base of children and adults.

The research demonstrated that reading helps people enjoy social occasions more; boosts the emotional understanding of children; and provided escapism that was associated with relaxation.

The report, conducted by BOP Consulting and funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, brings together a strong and growing body of research that shows how and why reading for pleasure can bring a range of other benefits to individuals and society.

The study involved research on 4,000 individuals, and the results were published on the UK’s The Reading Agency website.

Among the benefits established by the research are improved social capital for children, young people and the general adult population; better parent-child communication; and reduction of depression and dementia symptoms among adults.

One caveat that the research unearthed is that the benefits only come naturally to those who actually enjoy reading.

When reading is forced on those who don’t enjoy it, the benefit of increased knowledge may be present—but apparently not the peace-of-mind and self-fulfillment benefits.

“Another key finding of the report is that enjoyment of reading is a prerequisite for all these positive outcomes: people who choose to read, and enjoy doing so, in their spare time are more likely to reap all of these benefits,” The Reading Agency reported.

The UK study also cited earlier research carried out in Germany, with children aged seven to nine, that looked at possible links between literacy and emotional understanding.

That report focused on the impact of after-school literacy sessions in which children’s books with emotional content were read and discussed by the group.

It found the scheme enhanced the children’s emotional vocabulary, knowledge and understanding of emotions.

Author Phillip Pullman, who is President of the Society of Authors—one of the organisations involved in the UK project—summed up the benefits of this kind of research, and reading in general:

“I agree whole-heartedly 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.

The writer Samuel Johnson apparently didn’t say this, but someone did, and it remains true: ‘The true aim of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it’.”


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