DROP EVERYTHING AND READ -- by Jane Kelley
Drop Everything And Read sounds like a command. Do we really have to be ordered to do something that we enjoy? Unfortunately, yes.
Many people who love reading treat it as a guilty pleasure. Something to be done after work, only when all emails have been answered, the house has been cleaned, and teeth have been flossed. And even then, one should only read something educational while doing twenty thousand steps on a treadmill.
But guess what? Reading fiction is actually good for you! Just like eating leafy greens, it's good for your brain. And I don't just mean by exposing you to some facts you didn't know.
Reading strengthens your brain in ways that can prevent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. This is because the act of reading is challenging. Reading started just 5,000 years ago. Our brains weren't really designed for it.
|Image from Horowitz-Kraus, T and Hutton, J.S. From emergent literacy to reading: how learning to read changes a child's brain. 2015|
All these regions of the brain are needed for reading. The red areas are used for attention, concentration, memory and thinking. The green areas use vision to actually see the words. The blue areas are needed for language. The dark blue are for sounding out the words. The yellow are involved with creating meaning. Using so many regions of the brain strengthens the brain by improving the quantity and the quality of neurological connections.
That's not the only activity in our brains. Thanks to MRIs, neurologists have been able to observe that whenever we read words that reference a smell or a touch or a taste, those sensory areas of the brain are also activated. For example, if you read: "the singer had a silky voice" -- then the part of your brain that processes actual touch will be activated. This is also true if you read about an action. Whenever you read something like "I jumped up and down" -- that area of your brain will get involved.
Now that I know this, I'm going to include more sensory and mobility treats for my readers' brains in whatever I write.
But what I love most about reading is how it enables me to empathize with characters. It turns out that walking in a characters' shoes is very good for our brains too. Researchers Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar reported that those who frequently read fiction are better at understanding other people and seeing the world from their point of view.
Reading doesn't just make connections inside our brain. It also connects us to each other. Maybe you shared a book with a friend. Maybe you joined a discussion group. Maybe you were inspired to reach out to people whom you might otherwise have overlooked.
For ALL these important reasons then, DROP EVERYTHING AND READ.
Wait, I forget the best reason of all. Reading is fun.