The Ericksons

Read Books, Be More Creative


Read Books

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!

About Heather Erickson

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.

Footnotes:

  1. 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
  2. Christopher Bergland. January 4, 2014. Psychology Today: Reading Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function
  3. Chandra M Johnson Published: October 19, 2016. Desert News In Depth, How the digital age changes literacy education;
  4. 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.

Have any questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! By commenting, you agree to the terms of my privacy policy.

10 comments on “Read Books, Be More Creative

I read 150+ books a year. I can’t imagine life without reading. This is an excellent post, Heather. Great job of summarizing the research and of detailing the link between reading and creativity.
Have a terrific day.
P.S. – I’d never think of not reading your blog. There’s great value in your writing, and I say that without having yet spent much time on your other blog site. I did however refer your other site to a woman whose husband has been diagnosed with cancer. I know that the reading, and the support, she’ll find there will be invaluable to her.

All of the above–such great reasons. What to do? Get more adults reading! They will pave the way for children. How to do that? Hmm…

Hi Karen, Thank you so much for your kind words, and for referring your friend to Facing Cancer with Grace I hope it is helpful.
Reading really is wonderful. It’s like having a passport to an entire world and the key to an amazing classroom. Have a wonderful weekend!

Hi Jacqui. Kids really do pick up the habit to either read (or not to read) from their parents. I recall one Christmas when we were too poor for my parents to afford gifts. My dad checked out library books and wrapped them up. He told us we had 2 weeks to read our books. After that, he could check out others. It might sound silly, but that was one of my most memorable Christmas gifts. My Dad was really giving us his passion for reading. Have a great weekend!

YES! Read. And read more… 🙂 Read aloud to your kids! And have them read to you too!!

I love reading – books are my favourite, but I’ll settle for my kindle or online on my tablet if it’s the way to get access to something I’m interested in. I am an absolute cheapskate and hate paying for books – the local library is a godsend!

Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
S for Stop Procrastinating

Hi Lee, when my middle daughter was 6, she still wasn’t reading. She was great with numbers but didn’t want to read. I wasn’t going to fight her on it because I wanted reading to be fun, rather than a chore or point of contention. So, I got her a subscription to Zoobooks, a magazine about animals. When the next one arrived, she wanted me to read it to her. I told her she needed to learn to read so she could read them to me. Right away she brought me her lesson book. Within a few months, she was a very good reader, able to read her magazines to me. Have a great weekend!

Hi Leanne. E-books count! I’m glad they do, because I too, mostly read on a Kindle. They are more affordable and very transportable. I love that my hands don’t get sore holding the Kindle like they do holding normal books. I have RA, so I have to use care. Have a great weekend!

I love reading Heather and fortunately this has passed on to my children. My daughter has read to my grandson (4yo this week) since he was born and always includes books for his gifts. She also makes a point of giving a book as a gift to any of her friends children or Ethan’s kindy friends. I love getting lost in a book and can actually find comfort even re-reading the same books when I’m having a bad day.
Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond.

Hi Sue, One of my favorite parts of early motherhood was reading stories to my kids that I enjoyed as a child. There really is a lot of comfort in that. Now, my kids, nearly grown recommend books to me. And, whenever we travel, I still read to the whole family to pass time on the road and around the campfire. Sharing stories, whether our own or those written by others is such an intimate thing. I believe it bonds people. You gave your daughter, and ultimately your grandson a wonderful gift- the love of books.

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