Reading is an activity which you may take for granted, but the ability to derive meaning from letters on a page or screen (if e-books are your thing) can be life-changing. Here are several ways researchers say reading books is good for you.

It helps you get a better job

A researcher at the University of Oxford analyzed the survey responses of 17,200 people born in 1970, and determined that people who read books at age 16 were more likely to have a professional or managerial career at the age of 33. The questionnaire asked respondents about other extra-curricular activities such as sports, cultural outings, computer gaming, cooking and sewing, all of which were not found to be linked with future career success.

It’s a workout for your brain

That’s according to Ken Pugh, director of research at the Yale-affiliated Haskins Laboratories, which studies the impact of spoken and written language. He says that reading books is an activity which activates all the major parts of the brain and strengthens skills in language, selective attention, sustained attention, cognition and imagination. And books which tell a story through fiction or narrative non-fiction are particularly useful for building imagination and thinking ability which other kinds of reading can’t.

It develops communication skills

According to a study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, reading just one picture book to a child every day exposes them to about 78,000 words a year. Researchers have calculated that in the five years before kindergarten kids who live in literacy-rich homes hear about 1.4 million more words compared with children whose caregivers don’t read to them. This is important for their future selves because the ability to communicate well is a skill which employers most often cite as something they value in prospective employees.

It helps you be a better leader

That’s the opinion of John Coleman, coauthor of the book Passion and Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders in a story he penned for Harvard Business Review. He writes:

Reading increases verbal intelligence, making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator. Reading novels can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others -- traits that author Anne Kreamer persuasively linked to increased organizational effectiveness, and to pay raises and promotions for the leaders who possessed these qualities. And any business person understands that heightened emotional intelligence will improve his or her leadership and management ability.

He suggests reading books within a variety of genres, joining a book club which will expose you to titles you might not have picked on your own as well as reading neuroscience or psychology books which can give you new perspectives on problems you may be having at work. Or, just read for fun as a way to relax, a pastime virtually everyone can benefit from.

Published on: May 22, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.