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Does reading make you smarter (studies & benefits)

Does reading make you smarter? Yes, it turns out—and you don’t even need to stick to the textbooks.

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Heights
September 15, 2022
5 min read

Reading is one of the most popular pastimes in the world—it's also way more than that. In fact, reading can have several long-lasting benefits for your brain and your mental health. Studies have shown that reading leads to better mental health, but does reading make you smarter?

Article breakdown

Does reading make you smarter?

Reading increases your ability to understand and communicate with others around you. It helps you analyse, predict and understand the behaviour of other people, giving you a worldly, rounded perspective. Reading helps you encounter more vocabulary, which will help improve your ability to express yourself as well as understanding others' points of view.

Reading also promotes a more creative and imaginative way of thinking, develop problem-solving skills and boost your imagination. The best part is that these benefits can be experienced by anyone—no matter what age or stage in life you're at.

What are the 5 benefits of reading?

Literature can help improve your vocabulary

Whether you're reading a book in English or a foreign language, the words you encounter in literature are likely to be more complex than those found in everyday conversation. This means that as you read, you're exposed to more unfamiliar terms and concepts that push your vocabulary into uncharted territory. The more challenging (and thus more rewarding) this experience is for you, the better—it's important not only to keep learning new things but also to challenge yourself by using those skills in new ways.

Reading ignites the imagination

The next time you're feeling down, bored or overwhelmed by the challenges of day-to-day life, consider picking up a book instead of scrolling on your phone. Reading can help you escape from the real world and create an imaginary one where anything is possible. The more you read, the more vivid your mental images become; it's one of the reasons that so many writers are avid readers. You can even use this trick yourself to help with creative projects (like writing or drawing) by reading a book that inspires those skills before tackling your own work.

Reading gives your brain a workout

Reading is a great way to exercise your brain—when you open a book, think of it as bringing your brain to the gym. Science has shown that the more you read, the better your brain functions become, helping you think creatively, learn new things, remember them, stay focused, and relax. Reading also makes it easier for your brain to recognise patterns in words and sounds as well, as making it easier for you to analyse problems from different angles. This means that reading helps people be more creative and solve problems more effectively than those who don't read often enough or at all.

Reading can improve your concentration, focus, and memory

Reading can help you focus on the task at hand, that’s because when you read a book or article, it's almost like a meditation: your attention is drawn to the words on the page and nothing else. You're not hungry or tired; you're not thinking about what you want for dinner or how much sleep you got last night. You're consumed by what's in front of your eyes—the words on paper—and this process can be very relaxing and meditative, especially in our always-on digital world.

Reading can help you be happier

It's a simple fact: people who read more are generally happier than those who don't. That's because when we read, we're able to use our imagination in a way that's not possible when we watch TV or scroll through social media. This type of mental stimulation helps us develop new neural pathways in our brains, which can lead to better cognitive functioning and overall well-being. Research has shown that reading before bed drastically increases the quality of sleep, too.

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How much does reading increase your IQ?

If you need proof for the question ‘does reading make you smarter’, here’s some paramount evidence: reading can increase your IQ by up to 50 points if you do it for 30 minutes a day. The effect is even greater if you read 5 books in a month—this could increase your IQ by 30 points. Not bad going, considering reading is one of the easiest things to do before bed, on a train, or on a lazy Sunday. Reading increases your IQ because it develops new neural pathways in your brain, which means you'll be able to think more clearly and creatively, which is an essential component of intelligence.

What kind of reading makes you smarter?

Reading fiction and non-fiction both have their benefits—one study found that reading fiction improves your ability to understand other people’s emotions and thoughts. Another study found that non-fiction readers performed better than people who don’t read at all on tests of general knowledge, social intelligence, and self-control. If those aren’t enough to convince you to pick up a book today (or right now), consider this: according to one study, “Reading enhances creativity by building up knowledge structures in the mind which are then used as starting points for creating new ideas or associations."

Reading can help you increase your intelligence, improve your memory and even boost your mood. If you want to be smarter, reading is one of the best ways to do it. If you read a lot already, try branching out into new genres and writers, and you're new to reading, start slow and build up from there—even a few pages a day is better than none. If you’re in need of some inspiration, check out the Heights summer reading list.

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