In these device-drenched days we spend more time looking at screens than reading paperbacks, but recent research shows that we may be robbing ourselves of some superb benefits. A regular reading practice not only increases intelligence by broadening your vocabulary, it also improves recall, brain function and prevents the onset of Alzheimer's.
Then, there are the emotional benefits. Good fiction acts as a portal into character's lives, allowing readers to experience how people other than themselves think and feel. By understanding the view point of different religions, ethnicities, politics and lifestyles, readers are able to develop a greater sense of empathy.
If improving your reading routine is something you would like to do, these five tips will help get you started:
Always have a book with you.
If you want to read more, this one step alone will increase the number of book you read per year. There are numerous pockets of time throughout the day: waiting in line at the grocery store, doctor's office, school pick up or drop off are just a few examples. By keeping your current read readily at hand, you can fill these awkward time gaps with the well-written words of your favourite author.
Read before bed.
While the above tip is the most effective, this tip is the easiest. Chances are, those 30 minutes before you fall asleep at night are the least interrupted minutes of your day. If blocking out a half-hour sounds like too much, that's okay, you can start small by reading for just a few minutes before hitting the lights. Over time, you can slowly increase this by heading to bed a little bit earlier every night. The added bonus here is that reading before bed can improve the quality of your sleep.
Start or join a book club.
Studies show that our commitment to any activity is improved when it is combined with a community. The reason for this is simple, we don't want to 'let the team down.' Most libraries and independent book stores host regular book club meetings. Of course, you could also have a look online for clubs in your region or even start your own book club.
You may find that conversation steers away from the required reading, but that's okay, because the biggest benefit of joining a book club is the incentive to get the reading done.
Create a reading space.
While reading in bed is a great addition to your evening routine, creating a comfortable reading space may help draw your practice into daylight hours. The key here is location. Your reading space should be in a quiet, less populated area of your home, not the living room. Consider dedicating a corner of your office, spare room or deck to this endeavour. A comfortable chair and good lighting is a must, but additions like a side table or bookcase (if space permits) may make your reading corner more inviting.
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Only read books you like.
This is the most important tip. One of the biggest reasons why people don't read is because they think reading is hard, boring, or that you should only read particular books like the classics or the latest bestseller. This isn't high school, there are no assignments or end of term exams. You can read whatever you want and there are a lot of books out there.
If you were to read 50 books a year (approximately one per week), you'd only read 2000 books in your lifetime. So, don't waste time on a book you're not enjoying. If you're not sure what kind of works you would like, look towards the movies and television shows you watch. Plus, there are a ton of great online resources, literary lists and review-based websites that could help lead you in the right direction.
By implement a few of these tips into your daily or weekly routine, you may be surprised by how much additional reading you get done. So, pick up that dusty paperback from your bedside table and get started.