Reading strengthens your brain
A growing body of research indicates that reading literally changes your mind.
Using MRI scans, researchers have confirmedTrusted Source that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks also get stronger and more sophisticated.
In one study Trusted Source conducted in 2013, researchers used functional MRI scans to measure the effect of reading a novel on the brain. Study participants read the novel “Pompeii” over a period of 9 days. As tension built in the story, more and more areas of the brain lit up with activity.
Brain scans showed that throughout the reading period and for days afterward, brain connectivity increased, especially in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain.
And speaking of sensing pain, researchTrusted Source has shown that people who read literary fiction — stories that explore the inner lives of characters — show a heightened ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of others.
Researchers call this ability the “theory of mind,” a set of skills essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships.
While a single session of reading literary fiction isn’t likely to spark this feeling, researchTrusted Source shows that long-term fiction readers do tend to have a better-developed theory of mind.
Reading researchers as far back as the 1960s have discussed what’s known as “the Matthew effectTrusted Source,” a term that refers to biblical verse Matthew 13:12: “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The Matthew effect sums up the idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer — a concept that applies as much to vocabulary as it does to money.
Researchers have foundTrusted Source that students who read books regularly, beginning at a young age, gradually develop large vocabularies. And vocabulary size can influence many areas of your life, from scores on standardized tests to college admissions and job opportunities.
A 2019 poll conducted by Cengage showed that 69 percent of employers are looking to hire people with “soft” skills, like the ability to communicate effectively. Reading books is the best way to increase your exposure to new words, learned in context.