Reading, we recently reported here on Inc.com, is not only a great way to stand out from the crowd, but also comes recommended as the best way to exercise your intellectual muscles by some of the top names in the world of business. But apparently, the advantages of reading don't end there.
According to an in-depth trend piece about the "slow reading" movement in the Wall Street Journal recently, reading can actually boost your brain function--at least if you do it regularly and right.
Online Reading Just Isn't as Beneficial
The fascinating article by Frida Sakaj lists the many scientifically proven benefits of reading for your brain, including fighting dementia in older folks and even, in the case of great literary works, boosting our capacity for empathy. Supporters of regular reading note it "improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels, and deepens their ability to think," Sakaj writes.
But, she goes on to explain, the way many of us read these days is impairing our ability to reap the amazing benefits of a good book. Crowded screens and pinging notifications encourage us to skim text and skip around, compromising our concentration and engagement and lessening the advantages of spending time absorbing the written word.
"One 2006 study of the eye movements of 232 people looking at Web pages found they read in an 'F' pattern, scanning all the way across the top line of text but only halfway across the next few lines, eventually sliding their eyes down the left side of the page in a vertical movement toward the bottom. None of this is good for our ability to comprehend deeply, scientists say," Sakaj reports. "Reading text punctuated with links leads to weaker comprehension than reading plain text, several studies have shown." And sorry to say, multimedia fans, but presentations that mix "words, sounds, and moving pictures resulted in lower comprehension than reading plain text."
Read Like It's 1989
The takeaway here--as much as it pains someone who writes for the Web to say it--is that the best sort of reading is probably the most old-fashioned: just you, a book, and a quiet room for an extended period of time.
"Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers. Some suggest scheduling a time. Many recommend taking occasional notes to deepen engagement with the text," writes Sakaj. Even e-readers are out of favor with some purists--supposedly because they impair recall--but most experts say your Kindle or iPad is fine given it isn't connected to the Internet when you're trying to read.
Do you read as deeply and as often as you should?