Academic development and civic engagement also positively affected.
by: Paul Irish
Forget the cliche of the introverted bookworm: A recent report suggests people who read more may have better social skills than those who don’t.
A recently released report commissioned by the National Reading Campaign (NRC) titled Towards Sustaining and Encouraging Reading in a Canadian Society found that reading increases empathy, academic development and even civic engagement.
The NRC, a volunteer group of writers, teachers, librarians, parents and publishers dedicated to making Canada a country of readers, analyzed close to 100 domestic and international studies on the subject of reading.
Sharon Murphy, lead author of the paper and associate professor of education at York University, says reading — especially fiction — shows preferred behaviour by example (through characters, plots and situations).
“It helps the reader understand relationships better and how to act in our society,” she says. “Readers can become civic minded … they understand the concept of volunteering and co-operating.”
She also said sitting down with a book increases empathy and, of course, academic development.
As well, the research discovered that if children were allowed to choose what to read as children — instead of being forced to read certain texts — they would be more likely to read as adults.
Ben McNally, owner of the Ben McNally Books on Bay and Richmond Sts., said the findings don’t come as a surprise but agrees it’s refreshing to hear the message when it may be needed most.
“Yes, reading is good … but don’t confuse reading with that flash of information you get off your phone or computer,” he says. “Even to comprehend basic news — what’s happening in your community — needs more than a casual glance at a screen. It’s ludicrous to believe you can really understand the issues without spending some time reading.”
McNally says social media and the internet have their place, but the benefits following the nuances, plots and character compositions of a good novel aren’t likely duplicated by Facebook.
The report also confirmed that boys and men don’t read as much as girls and boys.
“It’s not quite clear why,” said Murphy. “It could be that they’re doing more online activity (than females) and it’s certainly an area for a lot more documentation leading to a bigger study.”
Lisa Heggum, the Toronto Public Library’s Children and Youth Advocate, said the library has been an enthusiastic partner and advocate for the NCR sharing the same goals.
“The important research that the NRC is gathering shows that choice, variety and access to reading materials are critical in promoting reading for all ages,” she says. “Libraries are uniquely and ideally positioned to provide universal access to a broad range of materials.”
Rick Wilks, vice-chair of the NRC, says the findings confirm reading creates benefits through all the social interaction linked to reading, including people connecting through book clubs.
“It confirms our understanding of the individual and societal importance of reading, but perhaps more importantly, it confirms that getting people talking about their reading is the best way to encourage others to read,” he says.
from: Toronto Star