Ask yourself this. Do books still matter? If, like me, your home is a shrine to the paperback, the guide book, the self-help book, the recipe book, the gardener’s almanac, the answer may seem obvious.
However, if you’re one of the 31% of adults who don’t read in their free time, or one of the 46% of 16-24 year olds who don’t read, the answer becomes less clear. Perhaps the question is better phrased as why do books matter? If you’re still on the fence, spare two minutes to hear me out, because of course I believe books matter. And here are my five reasons to read – whatever your age:
Once upon a time, life felt easier somehow, with more time to read and relax. Our world and lives today are hectic. The pressures of working life, raising families and maintaining relationships have always been there, but today’s backdrop of social media and instant information, 24-hour news, misinformation and Netflix shows, constantly evolving attitudes and trends that are here one week, gone the next, means…the world seems pretty chaotic and fast.
Breathe. Take a moment, or a few, for yourself and grab a book. When you’re lost in a volume of lore, suddenly the world doesn’t seem to matter so much. Navigate your way through an adventure, terrify yourself with horror fiction’s latest ghoulish thriller, or laugh yourself silly with some witty poetry. Whatever your antidote, just lose yourself.
16.4% of adults in England, or 7.1 million people, can be described as having ‘very poor literacy skills’. A shocking statistic. Or is it? Consider the pressures of modern lifestyles, the smart device glued to our hands, the disproportionate work-life balance and things start to add up.
How many children are disinclined to pick up a book whilst in school? Simply being around books gives you a better chance of picking one up. According to a Reading Agency study into the benefits of reading for pleasure and empowerment, of the children with fewer than 10 books in their homes, 42% claim they dislike reading.
How many people leave school and don’t pick up another book? You wouldn’t do this with your physical health. The brain is a muscle and needs to be worked and what better way to flex those muscles than by reading. Benefits include better spelling, broader vocabulary, improved brain connectivity and concentration. Need I say more.
Everyone is different. Genres allow you a massive scope of choice, but if stories aren’t your thing then why not read autobiographies, travel books, books that accompany that TV show you love, books on the natural world? The list is endless. Find what you like and read it.
Books improve your mental health by reducing stress. Think about going on holiday. How many people lazing on sun loungers around the pool have a book in their hand, or a magazine? For many of them, it might be the only book they read that year. Why? Possibly because it’s the only time they are relaxed and have no other ‘jobs’ to be getting on with. Why not harness that sense of relaxation back at home by setting aside time every day – even ten minutes before bedtime – to escape into a book.
Books help to prevent cognitive decline, help with depression and aid in sleep readiness. Reading boosts self-esteem, expands our knowledge of other cultures, helps us develop empathy, instils a motivation to learn, engenders self-expression, reduces symptoms of depression and can even help reduce dementia symptoms.
Book Clubs are a great way to reach out to other people and prevent loneliness. Reading gives us something to talk about.
Going to the book shop, thumbing through the shelves and finding the gem. Sniffing the newness of the book and feeling the anticipation about reading it. You’ve picked your spot, picked your beverage and that’s you checked out for a few hours. Read on the train, read by the pool on a Kindle, read on the loo! Whatever you read, whenever you read, wherever you read, your brain will thank you for it.