Reading is the cement of society. Reading stories and poems helps us to function socially. By reading fiction, we can empathize better, understand others better and establish new contacts more easily. The interaction with language and text itself also has a positive effect. Anyone who reads for pleasure in their free time – which can also be non-fiction – will see their vocabulary and language skills grow and will therefore read more often again.
Good reading skills contribute to prosperity
A high level of reading literacy is crucial for the Netherlands as a knowledge and information economy. There is a positive correlation between a country’s literacy scores and long-term gross national product growth (Willms & Murray, 2007). Skilled readers find it easier to find a job, earn a higher salary and have better prospects of a successful career (National Endowment for the Arts, 2007). A negative relationship between functional illiteracy and well-being is also known: low literacy children and adults are more likely to show risky behaviour and are less healthy. They have little knowledge of health issues, and the reason for this is that they are unable to read properly.
In recent years, more and more empirical research has been carried out into the social benefits of reading. Most of the results show that reading, and especially reading stories and poems, stimulates our social-emotional development. For example, our brains appear to make little distinction between the experiences we experience ourselves and those we read about: MRI scans show that the same areas of the brain become active. Moreover, our brain uses the same neural networks to make contact with other people and to understand and interpret stories . This explains why a person who often reads fiction benefits from it in his social life. Empathy with the story characters helps us to empathize with people in daily life.
Those who often read in leisure time become more and more skilful readers and, as a result, are going to read more often. In this way, leisure reading and reading skills reinforce each other like a spiral. For a frequent reader, this spiral is positive. But someone who doesn’t read much, sees his or her vocabulary and language skills decrease, and as a result, even less reading is going on here.
In order for the spiral to turn out to be as positive as possible, it is important to encourage people to often read for pleasure, because that leads to a high level of reading literacy. Click here for more reading tips