Follow my blog with Bloglovin Quick Reads is a UK-based initiative that aims to encourage adult engagement with reading. It commissions big-name authors to write shorts – little books that are quick and easy to read, so that the one in six adults in the country who struggle with reading may build their confidence. Its website reports that since 2006 it has distributed more than 4.5 million books and registered 3 million library loans.
The ethos at the heart of Quick Read’s work is that reading is beneficial to everyone. A broad statement, though –what exactly are the benefits? A recent research project illuminated a massive one: that reading improves self-esteem.
The research was carried out by Dr Josie Billington at the University of Liverpool. She engaged with 4,164 people online, and weighted the results statistically against the information on age, gender, region and education from the last census, so that her findings represent the population as a whole.
Crucially, she found that people who read for half an hour a week or more are more likely to have greater life satisfaction and good self-esteem, and less are likely to be depressed, than those who don’t read.
Interestingly, the study highlighted that a reason non-readers cite for their lack of interest in books is a difficult event in their lives, such as ill health, death or getting divorced, and some 1.2million adults have stopped reading as a result of some form of depression. So depression may stop a person reading – the loss of engagement that’s intrinsic to the illness – but it could also be an important factor in helping a person out of that depression.
What is it about reading that makes a person enjoy life more, feel better about him-/herself and be better protected from depression? I think it comes down to these things:
- Connection:‘We read to know we’re not alone,’ wrote William Nicholson. Books are a means of connecting to places and times and, importantly, people. Connections are essential to self-esteem and fulfilment. People write books; people are intrinsic to the plot or subject matter of any book – therefore, whatever book you read, you are undertaking the act of connecting.
- Enjoyment: Is there any better feeling in the world than reading a book you love (and is there any feeling more bittersweet than finishing that book)? Books bring pleasure.
- Knowledge: A person who’s growing is a person whose self-esteem is sound. Non-fiction books are designed to educate, which is a powerful foundation for growth. Even novels build knowledge, though; sometimes of the outside world, but often of the inner landscape. We’re moved by the story – we smile, we laugh, we cry, we’re utterly gripped – and that is transformative because it forces us to explore why,what is it that affects us? Take romance, for example. You read so that you grow the romantic part of you. And that self-knowledge builds your sense of self, and self-esteem.
What do you think? Is reading an important part of your life? Do you feel lost and lonely without your weekly (or daily, perhaps) dip into a book? I would love to hear your thoughts.