Life Hack: Reading Makes you Smarter! | LibroLiv

It’s a topic that’s widely discussed, with related facts usually quoted to encourage kids to actually pick up their reading comprehension homework. But today I’m going to look into whether reading really does make you smarter. And by reading I mean reading anything, from books, to web pages, to Tweets.

So, does reading make you smarter?

Last year when I was studying English Language at A Level, we researched childhood language acquisition. I always found this so interesting, yet equally so difficult to get my mind around. Language really is a phenomenal thing when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it.

Image result for language acquisitionThis study was split into three parts: vocal language acquisition, reading, and writing. The most important distinction here is that vocal language acquisition is widely believed to be inherent and innate, whereas reading and writing are acquired and learned. In short, without teaching, humans would not be able to read and write. However, they would still be able to speak. Perhaps this speech would be a little rudimentary, but still.

The simple relationship between vocal and written language is that written language is like a code – if you break it, you achieve spoken language. Hence, it would make sense that a grasp of spoken language aids the development of a grasp of written language. Remember when you were a child learning to read, and when you got stuck on a word you were told to ‘sound it out’? This is exactly that.

However, I’ve always been interested in looking at it the other way around. Does a grasp of written language aid your grasp at spoken language? And does it make you smarter?

The short answer is an almost-unanimous yes.

Tandem lol.png

There are many studies and theories that suggest cognition and language acquisition develop in tandem. If this is the case, then the act of reading – which introduces us to new language – is likely to make you ‘smarter.’ For one, literacy improves our understanding of the world. Children are told bedtime stories in the hopes that they’ll relate or they’ll at least remember what happened. (Shirley Heath looked at this in her 1983 study ‘Ways with Words.’) These so-called ‘experiences’ can then be mapped to their own lives – meaning empathy and understanding of the world increases. In short, these stories make kids smarter, faster – especially much faster than if they would have had to experience first-hand everything that they read about.

Image result for reading happyReading is also proven to make you less stressed, happier, and even more resourceful. However, there is a lot of conflict regarding which form of reading this applies to. If we consider ‘reading’ at its base form – defined as comprehending the meaning of written symbols – then these features would also apply to magazines, web pages, and even Tweets. There are a few articles out there regarding how the way we read has changed, and not just in terms of the move from physical books to e-readers. If you ask a bookworm what distracts them from reading, many of them will say social media.

Image result for scrolling social media

It’s very easy to become quickly absorbed by Twitter or Instagram or Reddit. It’s very easy to fall into a Wikipedia wormhole. Yet we rarely consider this reading. In reality, we are constantly reading. Meaning and writing is everywhere. You just have to step through your front door to see road signs, house names, advertisements – all requiring you to read. Information is everywhere, and we absorb it at a rapid pace. Without even thinking about it. And with so much information available at our fingertips due to technology, it is almost a given that we would be getting smarter. And this only becomes more apparent when we look at the act of reading itself.

In 1994, David Olsen published a study called The World on Paper, claiming that reading – a conscious awareness of letter, word and sentence formations, as well as what is meant by these features – extends subsequent learning and thinking capacity. In short, the more you read, the larger your capacity to learn and the more information your mind can comprehend (a.k.a. the more you read, the smarter you become). It’s almost as if, with everything you read, you’re not just pumping information into your brain but air, as if making space for new information in the future.

big brain lol.png

So, if we have access to so much information and reading makes you smarter, aren’t we stuck in an exponential loop of getting smarter and smarter? All because of reading???

Maybe that’s a little extreme…

But the point stands: reading makes you smarter – both the act and the content. So next time someone asks you why you’re reading, no matter what is is, just let them in on this little secret: reading, in all forms, makes you smarter. Maybe social media a little less so, but still…

Reading makes you smarter! So pick up that book, smash that TBR, and grow your brain until it looks like that guy above…

The Big Bang Theory GIF by CBS

books make u smarter


8 thoughts on “Life Hack: Reading Makes you Smarter! | LibroLiv

  1. I did a paper reviewing studies on language acquisition and reading; reading definitely helps with cognition and language ability, and the earlier you start, the more benefits there are! I think there was also a study done where it showed that those who read (stories revolving around people, particularly) have a higher emotional intelligence, because empathy is such a huge part of connecting to characters and reading. It’s nice to know you’re helping your brain by doing something you love. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I studied a similar thing in my last year of school – where the more you read about people and actively think about how you are similar/dissimilar to them, the increased level of emotional intelligence. Amazing and interesting stuff! Those of us who love reading really are the lucky ones haha!
      Thanks for commenting (:

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jonathanufi

    Since I love reading, I want to believe this is true. Since I’m I read a lot, I know it’s true. I think many of the world’s problems would be solved if more people appreciated reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an interesting post, Olivia.

    I am sure that reading does, generally speaking make the reader smarter. As a child I was encouraged by my teacher to create my own dictionary. Every time I came across a word I didn’t comprehend I went to “The Little Oxford Dictionary of Current English”, looked it up and entered its meaning into my dictionary. I am convinced that this helped to improve my vocabulary and its certainly something I would encourage students to do.

    Not reading and relying on technology may make us less smart in some respects. A few days ago I was chatting with a friend who is in his eighties. He related the following (true) story to me. While in a car he asked the driver where they where. She replied that she didn’t know but would check using GPS technology (she couldn’t read a map). My friend was shocked at her inability to read maps and saddened that the ability to do so may be in danger of dieing out.

    One can, of course argue that the demise of the capacity to interpret maps doesn’t matter as there exists GPS. However what happens when one’s mobile phone ceases to work and one is stuck in the depths of the wilds with no map or (if one has a map) no ability to interpret it?

    I think that what one reads can impact on how smart you become. To take an admittedly extreme example. In Nazi Germany books by Jewish authors and other writers disapproved of by the Nazi Party where banned (and many where destroyed). Being exposed to only those books approved of by the National Socialist German Workers Party produced many individuals who where indoctrinated with National Socialist views, such as a hatred of Jewish people and a belief in Germans as the “master race”. Likewise the exposure to Communist propaganda in the former USSR and the Eastern Block helped to skew the views of many towards the non-Communist world (although smuggled books helped, to some extent to counteract this.

    Best – Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting point! Of course, the content of what we read is really important when considering how much it teaches us. And it’s always disappointing when books are banned. But in a less extreme climate than Nazi Germany, I like to think that reading as widely and frequently as possible improves our intelligence. And not just in terms of the content, but the act itself contributes to our intelligence in terms of mental capacity and ability to empathise.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great topic. I personally agree with you, I think I’ve become more knowledgable and my English really became fluent because of reading. Although of course it also depends on the types of books you’re reading. If you read more informational, historical or educational books you’ll definitely learn more – but doesn’t mean that you will immediately get smarter, cause people can always forget the things they read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True – I forget most of the things I read if it’s not a novel! I think i read somewhere that you have to read things 3 times before you know them. But, nonetheless, I’m glad the thing I enjoy most also improves to my intelligence!

      Liked by 2 people

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