I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is R is for, Read Books, Be More Creative.
You gain knowledge when you read books
People seem to be moving from reading books to reading short pieces on the internet such as this blog. I am by no means advocating unfollowing this blog (heaven forbid that!) but it’s important that you don’t replace reading books with reading blogs. They each serve a different function. Books are built to last. They will give you knowledge on a deeper level. As you will read in this post, when you read a book, you change your mind—really.
Reading increases your vocabulary.
This is particularly true for fiction readers, likely because fiction tends to use a larger variety of words than non-fiction. In fact, in people who already read somewhat, and then increase their level of reading, their vocabulary by 2,000 words. However, when they go from reading “somewhat,” to reading lots and lots of fiction, their vocabulary will jump a whopping 8,000 words! And once you start reading it stays with you. You can find out more about these findings HERE. And you can take the vocabulary survey that has contributed to these finding to see how your vocabulary rates.
Readers sleep better than people who don’t read.
Most people know that reading books is a wonderful escape. You can be transported to another place and/or time. This has more than entertainment value. It can help you sleep better. After 6 minutes of reading your heart rate slows and your muscles relax. Fiction, in particular, is a great way to top off the night before going to bed. It pulls your focus away from the stressors of your day and engages your mind in an imagined place.
When you read books, you are able to see the world in a whole new light
Your mind is opened to new ideas and ways of doing things. You can think beyond your normal routine and patterns. Lisa Bu, shares in this short TED talk, how reading books changed who she was by opening her mind, especially when she left China and was able to read books banned in China. Books helped connect her to people from the past and the present.
You gain empathy.
The brain networks that are used for understanding stories are the same ones that are used when interacting with other people. That same study showed that the more television a child was exposed to the worse they performed on theory of mind tests. There is a lot of speculation as to why this is. Suffice it to say, it’s better to read a book. (1)
Mar states, “Experiences that we have in our life shape our understanding of the world…and imagined experiences through narrative fiction stories are also likely to shape or change us. But with a caveat–it’s not a magic bullet–it’s an opportunity for change and growth.”
Immersive reading can really boost your imagination.
This ability helps us in our daily social interactions, much the way an airline pilot is aided by using a flight simulator. We are able to think of how we would react to various situations. In fact, neural changes that are associated with physical sensations suggest that when you read a novel, you truly are transported into the body of the protagonist. For example, just thinking about basketball activates the same neurons that are associated with actually playing basketball. (2)
For writers and artists in any creative field, is essential to read books in order to enlarge your world, enabling you to reflect it more brilliantly in your creative work.
Unfortunately, too many people don’t read books
Check out these reading statistics from the website, Static Brain. One shocking example: “42% of college graduates never read another book after college.” Why are literacy statistics so dismal? There is a lot of evidence to point to the fact that we are trying to prepare our children to become digitally proficient at the expense of traditional reading skills. We have started putting tablets in their hands instead of books. One study observed more than 300 kindergarteners across the Midwest that had iPads in the classroom. It found that the group of kids who had to share iPads in class scored 28 percent higher in literacy testing than children who had their own iPads or no iPads. (3)
The problem of the internet and other media such as TV
Television during childhood is considered detrimental to intellectual development.(4) It has been associated with lower IQ and higher levels of aggression. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting all screen time for kids aged two and under, to use for human interaction such as video chatting in moderation. But, what about Sesame Street? Yes, there is a Sesame Street exception for kids ages 2-5, and their parents. At this age, up to an hour of this type of educational programming is okay. Parents should be interacting with their child while they watch, however. Programs should have a Mister Rogers pace.
So, what are we to do?
I’m not saying that you should cancel your Netflix subscription or throw out your IPad. Limiting your use of digital media and increasing your fiction reading will help you to think more deeply and help increase your creativity. I personally know this to be true. I did a month-long digital detox in January and experienced a huge change in my creative and personal life.
We have the ability to learn as much as we want to through books. You aren’t limited to a high school or college education. And books are free at your local library! Read one today.
What are YOUR thoughts?
I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.
I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.
- Raymond A. Mar, Exposure to media and theory-of-mind development in preschoolers. Science Direct, Cognitive Development Volume 25, Issue 1, January-March 2010, Pgs. 69-78
- Christopher Bergland. January 4, 2014. Psychology Today: Reading Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function
- Chandra M Johnson Published: October 19, 2016. Desert News In Depth, How the digital age changes literacy education;
- Ridley-Johnson R Cooper H Chance J. 1983. The relation of children’s television viewing to school achievement and IQ. J Educ Res. 294–297.