The joy of reading books?

Book Lovers Day celebrates the bibliophiles out there

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Turn a new chapter and start reading!

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Books are a vehicle of transportation, and the reader is in the passenger seat. They can take you to faraway magical worlds, full of awe and wonder, or you can walk down the halls of power, eavesdropping as individuals change the world. You can join wizards at Hogwarts, Hobbits in the Shire, and wardrobes can be doorways to Narnia. You can solve crimes with Sherlock Holmes or fall in love with Mr Darcy. You are swept away into imaginary worlds with imaginary characters, escaping from the stresses of real life for a time.

And yet, there are those who refuse to open their minds to books.

In England, 36 per cent of adults do not read for pleasure, with this figure rising to 44 per cent for young people aged between 16 and 24. UK adults would like to read more, but they are unable to find time in their busy lives to wind down with a book. New research from the Reading Agency found that two-thirds of adults would like to read more (67 per cent), but nearly half (48 per cent) say they are too busy to do so. Over a third (35 per cent) struggle to find the right book for them, and a quarter (26 per cent) would like a recommendation from their friends or families.

Across the pond, Americans are also struggling to pick up a book. About a quarter of adults in the US (24 per cent) have not read a book in whole or in part in the past, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to the Pew Research Center. Adults with a high school degree or less are about five times as likely as college graduates (36 per cent v seven per cent) to be non-book readers in any format in the past year. The number of Americans not reading books has increased since Pew Research Center first started conducting surveys about book-reading habits in 2011 - it was 19 per cent that year.

They are missing out on a world of pure imagination, as well as health benefits of reading books. Getting lost in a book is good for you, with the 'transportation' making you more empathic and creative. Melanie Green, associate professor of communication at the University of Buffalo, told NBC News that reading can help us better understand and interact with other people, keep our brains sharp, expand our world views and grow as individuals.

She said: "Stories allow us to feel connected with others and be part of something bigger than ourselves."

Keith Oatley, professor emeritus in the department of applied psychology and human development at the University of Toronto, explains that reading makes us think and feel in different ways. "You give up some of your own habits and thoughts, and you take on your own idea of being a different person in circumstances that you might otherwise never had been in," he said.

Starting reading books early can lead to higher intelligence in later life by opening up a world of knowledge from very young. According to a paper from the University of California, Berkeley, children's books expose kids to 50 per cent more words than prime time television or even a conversation between college graduates. Exposure to this new vocabulary helps with higher scores in reading tests and general tests of intelligence.

But don't worry - it's not too late if you didn't start from an early age. "The brain is like a muscle, and by exercising this muscle, people can improve their brain power," the Business Insider writes. Participants in a study read 30 pages of a book the night before a MRI of their brains. In the morning, the results showed there was a heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex - the area of the brain associated with language and intelligence. Even though the participants were not reading the novel in the MRI machine, their brains were still retaining a heightened connectivity as if they were.

Book Lovers Day celebrates the bibliophiles amongst us, but it offers non-readers the chance to turn a new chapter and starting reading books. Not only does it spark your imagination, escaping the real world for magical worlds, it is good for you. Chapter one of this journey starts now.

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