How Reading Can Boost Your Mental Health

Dr. Angela Seabright
Elise LaPointe

| 3 min read

Fanned book
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go” – Dr. Seuss
Everyone knows that reading is important to development and memory, however, a quarter of the United States population failed to finish reading a single book within one year.
Michigan third graders also had a difficult time meeting the state-set standards for reading; in fact, 55% failed to meet these standards. Dr. Seuss’ quote highlights the importance of reading to better the overall quality of life, however studies show that frequent readers can also enjoy significant health benefits, too.
Kids who read or are read to on a frequent basis experience many health benefits later down the road. The development of a child’s brain is profoundly impacted when they are read to because the greatest amount of brain development and growth occurs between birth and 5-years-old. Reading to children helps to stimulate language and cognitive skills, build motivation, peak curiosity and boost memory. By the age of three, 85% of the brain has been formed, which further highlights the importance of nurturing the growing mind.
Since reading promotes positive brain development, school scores and education can also be affected by reading. Reading to children three times per week can double the chance they will score in the top 25th percentile range in reading, however lack of reading can cause a child to have a below-average I.Q. Education can also be extended based on book availability; children that grew up in a home with at least 20 books available to them received on average three years more of education than those who didn’t.
Not only do kids benefit from reading, but parents and adults can, too! Regular readers notice an increase in knowledge, analytical and writing skills, focus, concentration, quality of sleep and vocabulary, which can improve job performance. Sleep is improved because the amount of time spent looking at sleep-inhibiting blue light is reduced if you read before bed. Since books exercise the parts of the mind that involve memory, frequent readers also have a 32% reduced chance of experiencing mental decline later in life.
Stress reduction is a major benefit for readers, as well. Reading engages the person in the story rather than allowing them to dwell on their day-to-day stress. The reader must focus concentration to the story rather than thinking about bills or schedules. Not only is reading beneficial to your physical and mental health, but it can also impact the amount of reading time your child receives. About 82% of kids who are frequent readers say they are surrounded by people who also enjoy reading.
If you’re finding you have little or no time to read during busy weekdays, you can take the time to read while your children are doing homework or reading. The house will be quiet so you’re able to concentrate better, and this will promote your children to have a positive attitude toward reading. If you find it hard to read at home, you can keep a book on hand, either in your car or purse, to read during your lunch break or a long public transportation commute. Book clubs are a social setting to prioritize reading outside the home, as well.
How do you cut back on screen time in your house and hit the books? Share your tips in the comments.
If you enjoyed this blog, make sure to check out similar ones:
Photo credit: Caio Resende

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.