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World Book Day  – why we are celebrating our love of reading

Posted 3rd March 2022

It’s the 25th anniversary of World Book Day on 3rd March 2022 an initiative developed by UNESCO designed to change lives through a love of books and shared reading. Their mission is to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.

Reading is beneficial for people of all ages and whiling away a few hours engrossed in a book is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s also been shown that regular reading improves brain functions and can improve memory as well. It boosts brain activity, improves cognitive health and allows people to stay mentally active and productive.

Below are five reasons why reading should become a regular habit in later life:

Reduce your stress levels

Reading helps your muscles relax and slows down your breathing and heart rate, which in turn can make you feel much calmer and reduce stress. A study by the University of Sussex found reading for as few as six minutes reduced stress by as much as 68%.

The study also found that reading reduced stress better and more quickly than other methods like listening to music (a 61% reduction), drinking tea or coffee (a 54% reduction), or going for a walk (a 42% reduction).

Improve sleep

Often as we get older, some of us have more trouble sleeping. Lower levels of growth hormones can mean people experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep (an especially refreshing part of the sleep cycle). When this happens people produce less melatonin, meaning they’ll often experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more often during the night.

However, reading before bed, instead of watching TV, can help people relax and promote better sleep. And, if you find yourself waking in the night and have trouble getting off again. 20 minutes or so reading can help your mind wind down and nod off.

Increase empathy and compassion

Various studies have shown that reading can make us become better people. Reading novels can make people better than average at reading other people’s emotions and more empathetic. It’s suggested this is because reading enables people to see the world through the eyes of another and imagine things from a completely different perspective than our own. This can help us become less centred on ourselves and think more about what others may be feeling.

Build friendships

Reading can help people build stronger, longer-lasting relationships as it can help them develop better social skills. Asking for book recommendations or chatting to people about the last book they have read gives people an excuse to start a conversation. For older people living in a retirement community this is the ideal place to start a book club. Most have communal lounges so organising a monthly meet up to discuss a book can be a great way to make new friends too!

Reduce the risk of dementia

The Alzheimer’s Society lists reading books or becoming a member of a book club as one of the ways to stay mentally and socially active which can help reduce the risk of dementia. They say although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia keeping active, eating healthily and exercising your mind can all help reduce the risk.

So whether you prefer turning the pages of a physical book or curling up with an e-book the benefits are clear. If you want inspiration for your next book, check out the best books for 2022 or take your pick from the lists compiled on the Greatest Books.

Happy reading!