Do people still read? Who still reads? Why read?
I get questions/comments like these a lot. When you have that split second to actually answer, I never can. As a reader, pleasure reading (or “reading for fun” or “leisure reading”) is something I simply enjoy. As an LIS student, it’s a topic I need to be able to address. So let’s dig in! First, let me clarify that when I say “reading,” this may involve books, ebooks on any type of screen, audiobooks, and any other format in which you interact with the story. Now, here are some of the benefits of reading for pleasure.
Reading for pleasure brings us pleasure and, while that sounds obvious, it is important. As an evolutionary and cognitive function, the pleasure from reading is considered unique to humans and acts as an interface to the “pleasures of language and music.”1 Basically, our brain enjoys reading at a place where the pleasures of language and music meet. That’s pretty cool. Even when leisure time is limited, Gilbert and Fister’s2 survey of college students found over 90% of respondents stated they enjoy reading for pleasure. I know our culture has an odd relationship with pleasurable activities, but reading is a pretty good option in my entirely biased opinion.
Creativity is key
People who read for pleasure tend to be more creative. Kelly and Kneipp3 found the more people read for pleasure, the higher they scored for creativity on the Scale of Creative Attributes and Behaviour. Also, most students will benefit from creative writing assignments along with other assignments to improve writing skills. Kelly and Kneipp note that while not everyone is a creative person, most people do have the ability to be creativity. Reading can help foster that ability!
Pleasure reading is worth it, even when you have to read for work or school
Pleasure reading rounds us as people. Reading beyond your specialty provides fresh perspective and creates emotional responses.1,4 This is supported by a study that found medical students value pleasure reading for inspiration, increased awareness outside personal experience, and evoking emotional reactions.5 Pleasure reading also supports academic achievement and improves reading skills.6,7
We all know factual information can be found in fiction and, as mentioned above, new information becomes part of your overall understanding. Travel fiction or historical fiction are two examples of stories that usually contain well-researched detail. Cognitive learning theory states: “as we gain new knowledge, we automatically make connections with what we already know.”4 New information, even when gained from fiction, adds to your understanding of the world. In the classroom, creative students can benefit from factual information relayed through fiction, as long as it is carefully selected.3 Information can also be indirectly given, such as a story that provides personal or emotional insight when it is read at the ‘right’ time for the reader.8 Lifelong learning of all kinds!
A few more fun facts
People who spend time reading for pleasure tend to:
- Feel less lonely.9
- Exhibit high emotional stability.10
- Tolerate complexity well—which is pretty important in our increasingly sensationalized culture—and share the personality trait of being more open.11
Again, these are just a few of the benefits of reading found through research. Personal anecdotes provide many more. How does reading benefit your life?
Juno Bonus Round!
As a shout out to Juno’s new and current orbit around Jupiter, it’s interesting to note that people who read for pleasure also tend to be interested in watching the night sky.12 This may seem curious, but I watched the livestream of Juno’s orbital insertion so I can’t talk. Anyone else enjoy gazing beyond our atmosphere?
References (also listed on the References & Sources page under “Benefits of Reading Post”)