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Monday, April 3, 2017

The Benefits of Reading


I’ve already  written about how studies have shown that people who regularly read literary fiction possess more emotional intelligence (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2016/08/literary-fiction-and-emotional.html) and that book reading is associated with an extra 23 months of survival (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2016/08/book-readers-live-longer.html). 

I was interested, therefore, to come across an article that argues that reading improves mental health, something that most readers certainly believe.  “Books have long-since been one among many art forms that have provided comfort and support.  Reading is certainly not a cure-all for people's mental health concerns but it can improve overall mental health” (https://www.bustle.com/p/5-proven-ways-reading-can-improve-your-mental-health-43367).  I found a similar argument in an article in The New Yorker:  “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers” (http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/can-reading-make-you-happier).

Last November, The Expert Editor had an infographic of 14 ways the body can help the mind and body: https://experteditor.com.au/blog/brain-books-benefits-reading/

Bibliotherapy has become quite popular.  Bibliotherapy, the practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect, takes many different forms, from literature courses run for prison inmates to reading circles for people suffering from dementia.  The New Yorker article mentioned above discusses the history and practice of bibliotherapy. 

This article also mentions a book, The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies, written by Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud, two bibliotherapists.   I actually discussed this book in one of my first entries in this blog:  http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2015/07/some-literary-prescriptions-for-your.html.  I was unaware, however, that the book, which has been translated into several languages, has different reading recommendations to fit each particular country’s readership: “In the Dutch edition, one of the adapted ailments is ‘having too high an opinion of your own child’; in the Indian edition, ‘public urination’ and ‘cricket, obsession with’ are included; the Italians introduced ‘impotence,’ ‘fear of motorways,’ and ‘desire to embalm’; and the Germans added ‘hating the world’ and ‘hating parties’ (http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/can-reading-make-you-happier).

And now Elderkin and Berthoud have written a children’s version, The Story Cure: An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise.  It’s described as “a manual for grownups who believe that the stories which shape children's lives should not be left to chance.  In these pages bibliotherapists Ella and Susan recommend the perfect children's book - from picture books to YA novels via the golden world of chapter books - for every hiccup and heartache. Whether the young child you know is being bullied, the toddler can't sleep, or the teenager has fallen in love for the first time - or just doesn't know what to read next - the right story will help them feel themselves again” (https://www.amazon.ca/Story-Cure-Z-Books-Healthy-ebook/dp/B01E7JWITU/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489597386&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=a+spoonful+of+stories+Berthoud+and+Elderkin).

Well, I’m off to self-medicate!