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The More that You Read, the More Things You will Know

March 24, 2020
By Kelsey Bourquin

 Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  As teachers, our hearts pitter-patter when we hear this phrase because we know it’s true.  Students who are “true readers” tend to exhibit some or all of the following generalizations in our middle school classrooms:  
 
1. Strong, unique writing skills  2. Higher academic vocabulary  3. Faster and higher comprehension of nonfiction content reading  4. More creative  5. Can think within, beyond, and about the fiction books read and discussed in class  6. Can share their thinking about reading with partners, small groups, and whole class  7. Brings a plethora of ideas when it comes to a new project, task, or assignment  8. Scores high on standardized tests. 9. Not likely to be a behavior issue in class  10. Responds thoughtfully to written reading responses  
 
Being a language arts teacher, it has been my honest observation that students who like to read and are constantly devouring books show qualities from the list above.  
 
     So, why should we continue this love for reading as an adult? Reading for just 30 minutes a day has been proven to change our health for the better. I am not taking about reading an Instagram or Facebook feed; I am saying if you read an actual book. According to Yale researchers, not only can reading add years to your life but there are many more ways reading does a body good. A great novel can take you to a far-away place or a long-lost time, it can make you think and laugh, and even teach and inspire you. 
 
1. Reading can boost Brainpower- Becoming engrossed in a story has been shown to enhance connectivity in the brain, which improves brain function. Using MRI scans, neuroscientists at Emory University found that when a person is reading fiction, it stimulates and strengthens the language-processing parts of the brain. It also increases connectivity in areas associated with physical sensations and movement.  
 
2. Reading may help keep away Alzheimer’s- No matter how old you are, reading books can help preserve memory, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. Just like muscles in your body, the brain needs its version of exercise to keep it strong and healthy. Consider curling up with a book to be that perfect workout! Researchers found people who frequently exercised their minds later in life—by reading, writing letters, or visiting the library—had a 32% lower rate of mental decline compared to those who didn’t engage in such activities.  
 
3. Reading improves your empathy- Getting sucked into a good fiction book may make you more empathetic, or able to understand what others are thinking and feeling, according to research. One study showed that reading literary fiction, specifically, can improve your 
capacity for empathy, where reading nonfiction or popular fiction doesn’t have the same effect. 
 
4. Reading reduces stress- Reading can ease your stressed-out nerves by as much as 68%, according to reports by researchers at Sussex University. They found reading was more effective at fighting stress than listening to music, sipping a cup of tea, or even taking a walk. And it only took six minutes for the study subjects to relax once they started flipping pages! 
 
5. Reading helps you fall asleep- Experts agree that establishing a relaxing bedtime routine helps calm your mind and signal your body that it’s time for shut-eye. Reading is a great way to wind down—as long as you’re snuggling into an old-fashioned paperback or hardcover, not an e-reader or tablet. The blue light that’s emitted from electronic devices actually activates the brain and *suppresses* the release of melatonin—a hormone that induces sleep. Research shows reading from a screen can make it harder to fall and stay asleep, so stick to paper books. 
 
     We can all agree that a longer life would be great, less stress would be ideal, more sleep is needed, and having a stronger mind is necessary. So, step away from your computer/phone for a little while, crack open a book, and replenish your soul for a little while (at least 30 minutes).

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