The Magic of Reading
"Now for it! Now for the last gasp!" said Sam as he struggled to his feet. He bent over Frodo, rousing him gently. Frodo groaned, but with a great effort of will he staggered up, and then he fell upon his knees again. He raised his eyes with difficulty to the dark slopes of Mount Doom towering above him, and then pitifully he began to crawl forward on his hands.
The ability to read gives us access to information, it gives us a glimpse into our history, the way of life and the thoughts of people who lived before us and of people who live far away. But reading does even more.
5 benefits of reading
1. Reading reduces stress.Research from the MindLab at the University of Sussex shows that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, even better than taking a walk or listening to music. Reading a good book slows your heartbeat and eases muscle tension, results that psychologists attribute to the mind's concentration on something other than daily worries and demands.
2. Reading sharpens our minds.Neuroscientists at Northwestern University have shown that reading stimulates neural networks in the brain that improve our conceptual processing of abstract content. That's because we're imagining the characters, settings, and action – constructs built by words, but created in our mind's eye. There's also evidence that regular readers experience less cognitive decline as they age than non-readers.
3. Reading fiction before bed improves sleep.When the last activity of the day disengages you from the tasks on your to-do list, you sleep longer and more deeply. Fiction rouses the imagination and demands attention, allowing us to stop planning and projecting into the future.
5. Reading helps us think, feel, and reimagine who we want to be.In a study published by the Annual Review of Psychology, researchers showed that when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through that experience themselves. So reading increases empathy, and it allows you to give up some of your own habits and thoughts as you contemplate people and circumstances different from your own.
Books become part of us.
One of the reasons we may find it difficult to part with books we own, even if we have no plans to re-read them, is because the contents of those books have become part of our identity. Books contain ideas we have absorbed, and help us become who we are. They're valuable parts of our past and present experience, which may make us cling to them the way we hang on to old photographs and personal mementos.
Reading is the magic that unlocks the messages that so transform us.
As J. K. Rowling stated in her 2008 Harvard commencement address, "Unlike any other creature on this planet, human beings can learn and understand without having experienced." This is because we can communicate through writing and reading. And Rowling's character Albus Dumbledore reminds us, "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic."