It might seem like common sense: reading makes you smarter. But it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. Studies have proven not just the fact that the information contained within books can make readers into more knowledgeable, well-rounded learners, but rather that the active process of reading can alter the brain for the better. Dan Seitz with Popular Science takes that good news even further by providing an in-depth look at ways to get even more reading time into your busy day.
First, the good news: while there are certainly specific genres you may want to read if you’re going head-to-head on Jeopardy!, the process of reading is the key here. However, different types of reading may have been shown to exercise different parts of your brain. Spending a little time with a new biography or a new look at history will boost one part, while skimming through Facebook posts while waiting for the bus can stimulate other parts.
But that doesn’t help busy consumers create more hours in the day in which to read, or lighten their stress-load in order to free up some leisure time. Seitz has a plan for that:
“When setting a new goal, you should aim for a concrete task that you can build on later. So start your habit by reading, say, five pages of a book that interests you every day. Once you’re hitting five pages a day, try ten, then twenty, and keep pushing your goal horizon upward.”
Interestingly, studies have shown that reading before bedtime can produce more effective sleep, although some of that benefit may be attributed to turning off a blue light screen before trying to fall asleep. But what constitutes recommended reading, at any time of the day?
“Focusing on your own interests is key. Don’t jump right into The Brothers Karamazov just because it’s Serious Literature—you can still get those aforementioned brain benefits from your favorite science fiction. Reading a book of your choice makes the activity a pleasure rather than a chore, so you’re more likely to do it.”
Fortunately, while there has been some research conducted on students and reading comprehension when it comes to print versus ebooks, there’s been no correlation in other areas of study. That means simply taking out your smartphone or ereader can produce the same brain exercise as a paperback.