Why Reading Matters

Why Reading Matters

2009, Science  -   69 Comments
Ratings: 7.71/10 from 48 users.

Why Reading MattersScience writer Rita Carter tells the story of how modern neuroscience has revealed that reading, something most of us take for granted, unlocks remarkable powers.

Carter explains how the classic novel Wuthering Heights allows us to step inside other minds and understand the world from different points of view, and she wonders whether the new digital revolution could threaten the values of classic reading.

Reading is an important skill that needs to be developed in children. Not only is it necessary for survival in the world of schools and (later on) universities, but in adult life as well.

The ability to learn about new subjects and find helpful information on anything from health problems and consumer protection to more academic research into science or the arts depends on the ability to read.

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Silvia Bellini
7 years ago

I really love reading and I couldn't imagine my life without it, because I think it's one of the best gifts in the world. When I was younger I used to think it was boring and useless. Now I find it very relaxing but also a healthy way to spend my free time. Indeed, as this video shows, reading is a great exercise for our brain, which is an incredibly powerful machine and that's something we shouldn't take for granted.

I found this documentary very interesting because I learned new things about my brain and I realized how complex and extraordinary it is.

Laura Martinelli
7 years ago

When I was about 13 I used to read a lot. I have always loved reading, because when I do it I feel like nobody can hurt me and I am in another dimension; but lately I've lost this passion. Thanks to this video I have understood how incredibly powerful is our mind. Reading is very important and schools should encourage students to do it, maybe showing documentaries like this. Now I think I'm going to find more time to rekindle my old passion. I have reevaluated my ideas: reading is not a waste of time, on the contrary it is the best thing we can do.

Veronica Cretti
7 years ago

I think that this documentary says in a simple way how much is important to know ourselves, in particulary our brain. That's beacause our mind is one of the most extraordinary thing in all of the universe, also the scientists can't explain the really brain's power, therefore keep it healty whit daily exercises, like reading and studying, can help us to improve our knowledge. In our lives should have more information about the importance of our mental healty because today a lot of guys don't consider it's importance.

Jessica Alessi
7 years ago

Our brain is an extraordinary machine and thanks to it we can do all our everyday activities. Scientists haven't discovered all about our brain, because it's a very complex machine, even the most complex machine in the world. We know that we must keep it in action, and to make it possible, the best activity we can do is reading. It's very important for our brain because we can improve our memory, learn lots of new interesting things, discover new places and know about the cultures of the other countries in the world.

Giulia Marchetti
7 years ago

Our brain is such a powerful machine: it controls everyrhing we do. This documentary explains us its power, and like the other muscles in our body, the brain needs exercise to keep them, otherwise we'll lose all his amazing skills.

Reading is a perfect exercise to keep our brain strong, because it activates a lot of part of it. This documentary shows us how a book can change our brain: reading can improve our memory, we can learn informations about other countries and cultures and we can forget about our problems for a while.

I have always loved reading, especially travel diaries and adventure books and I really don't understand why some people think that reading is boring: in my opinion reading is a fantastic activity that permits us to live adventures without spending a dime.

Yuliya Bodnar
7 years ago

I have always loved reading, but i have never been really conscious of how important it is until i watched this video. The brain,like the other muscles of our body,needs exercise and challenge to mantain its functions and to improve our abilities. Reading is an inexhaustible source of information, it helps us to improve our memory and concentration, to stop for some time our life and just forget all the world around us and enter into the story we are reading about. The positive effects are countless. The complexity of our brain is astonishing,and it is probably the most powerful men's tool,so it hasn't got any sense not to use it. The video shows us how active is our brain while we are reading, and it explains us how it changes every time we open a book. Nowadays people don't really appreciate this activity,because they retain it boring and useless,but it could also be because they have not found a theme they are interested in,how for example the man in the video,who talks about how he at first didn't like reading,but then,after reading a book about football,he started to read frequently and even wrote a book himself. So to conclude i want to say that in the actual age we extremely need to read and improve our minds, if we have active brains,we will always be able to solve issues and undertake every situation,because by reading we absorb also others experience and knowledge,and this is very useful and important.

Michela Baronchelli
7 years ago

"The effects of reading could be more extraordinary than we could have ever dreamed."
I completely agree with this sentence because I think that reading build new connections in the brain, so could help us to have a good mental stimulation, to improve our memory and to expand our vocabulary, but it's also a great "time machine" which helps us to learn new things as a free entertainment.

Erika Z.
7 years ago

First of all I want to say that this documentary was very interesting. I didn't know that our brain has to change to let us read. It's very interesting that when we read our brain, while we are relaxing, is working very hard to give a sense to the words and phrases.

Alessia Zanni
7 years ago

It's amazing how powerful our brain is.
Since I was a child I've always liked reading, because a good book can bring you in another life, in another place, in another time, but I never thought about the effects that it produces on the brain, it's incredible.
However, in my opinion, every book contributes in some way to make us a better person, to change part of us, to change the very way of understanding life and to live it.
That is the reason why reading really matters.

Anna Belotti
7 years ago

Today is impossible to imagine a world without words that are everywhere around us. But reading and writing don't come naturally for our brain. Human brain is probably the most complex machine in the universe and the most powerful too. In the 90s, scientists had the possibility, thanks to new imaging technologies, to look inside a working living brain for the first time and see what happens in it when we speak, write and read. They also proved that reading, a thing that most of us take for granted, is actually very remarkable in our lives. Reading keeps our brain active and engaged preventing it from losing power and it is the best exercise to keep it healthy, strong and fit.

In fact studies have shown that when you become good at a particular skill you can actually see the brain structure changing and growing; on the other side if you don't train it enough you can see it shrink. Moreover reading makes us more empathetic and able to get into other people's minds. It develops our creativity, imagination and curiosity. Reading improves our vocabulary, our concentration and our memory and it also gives us bits of information in different fields. So a good book literally has the power to change you.

Erika Mondini
7 years ago

I think that the human brain it is like a car, a very powerful car. Every engine needs its fuel and brain's fuel is a book. When we read, goes off in our brain some mechanisms that scientists haven't discovered yet. Reading matters, but needs steadiness and it is so remarkable how our brain expands our knowledge without efforts, when we read a book. This documentary it is very interesting and I agree that we have to coach our brain with the pages of a book.

Sarmenti Giada
7 years ago

In my opinion reading is very important for our life and this video explain very well why. The documentary shows how powerful is our brian and how important is reading to keep it fit. Indeed reading improve our imagination, memory,concentration and vocabulary, it reduces stress and overall it develops emphaty how largely explained in the video

Michael Manzoni
8 years ago

In my opinion this article is very symbolic and representative of our brain’s power; quite all the actions we usually do, are often taken for granted, but the range of abilities which our mind permits us isn’t something simple or something predicted, on the contrary only a special mechanism like the brain can be able to manage all these activities.

The evolution of the study technology has given us the chance to discover some new areas of our mind, or at least to analyze them in a more efficient and sophisticated way. Although we can define our brain as most powerful machine in the world, it needs anyway a constant training. The perfect/most suitable form of training consists in this case in reading, activity which the video is focused on.

A lot of people have spoken in this video but the concept I noticed that they have in common can be summarized in a few sentences: reading is the most important activity we can do to keep our brain fit: it doesn’t matter if we read in English, Italian, German or in other languages, in every book we read we find something new: it mustn’t necessarily fascinate us, but it will be something positive for our general knowledge or anyway, can help our mind; so the message I found in this article is: read, read and read again!

Elena Faustini
8 years ago

We sometimes forget how powerful our brain is : it is the most complex machine ever, which can do incredible things. As our brain must change every time we introduce something new, it is always in transformation and scientists are always discovering interesting things. It is composed of many parts, which have their own task : in particular, they are able to transform visual information into meanings and some areas are involved into reading activities. In my opinion, reading should be considered the most important treasure in our life: keeping our brain engaged, reading can improve our skills and prevent many illnesses, but it can also transport us into other realms, allowing us to relax. While our attention is focused a book, an active process starts: our head is filled with new bits of concepts that we never know when they might come in handy; therefore reading represents a great resource in order to feed our brain and revitalize our mental system. Finally I can say that I totally agree with this doc because, yes, we must train our brain and use it, otherwise we'll lose it !

Stefano Malonni
8 years ago

Studies have shown how our brain is without doubt the most complex gray matter in the universe. It has certainly a great potential, but it hasn't all been discovered and maybe this will never happen. In my opinion our brain could be compared to a computer, because it has a lot of functions and moreover it is always evolving, day by day. Personally I don't read a lot, although I know it is important. In fact people should read for multiple reasons: It keeps our brain active, it is a great way to reduce the stress, it helps you to extend your vocabulary and above all everyone can read books through libraries for example. As the studies show is important to keep our brain fit and reading is certainly the best way to do it.

Laura surini
8 years ago

I found this documentary very interesting because explains in simple words what is important nowadays for our life. The human body is a perfect machine and the engine of this machine is our brain. For this reason we have to keep it active. Scientist had revealed that reading is the perfect exercise for the brain. You can learn a lot of new things, extend the vocabolary with new words, learn about new places and new cultures and understand different points of view.

Elena Chioggi
8 years ago

Our brain is an extraordinary machine which can do a lot of things, and it is so complex that scientists haven't understand all of them yet. Maybe they will never completely discover how our brain works because it is in a continuous trasformation, a transformation which began thousands years ago and will go on in the future. Our brain is the most comlicated of the machines in the world and it is incredibly perfect. Humans have reached very important goals thanks to the use of our brain. Just like every machine it needs fuel to work and this fuel is reading. Reading is very important beacause sets in motion in our brain a lot of processes which keep it active. Reading has a lot of advantages which can get our life better.

10 years ago

reading matters but you didnt give the most important reasons why reading matters. You gave a very narrow reason. You didnt give us
THE reason why we should read but you gave us A reason why we should read.

10 years ago

I absolutely agree :) except of being afraid classic books will be lost in the digital revolution, in fact i have a digital copy of Wuthering Heights on my iPad, it's just as fun as reading the paperbacks. Hey it even saves trees. :)

10 years ago

quite emotive for a doco - but some good points for a discerning viewer

11 years ago

I think digital technology is just part of the evolution of reading, who knows, maybe in the future we'll have devices like the one from the movie Brainstorm where we can step into the thoughts, feelings and imaginations of others.

11 years ago

"Although most of us take it as granted ,reading is so remarkable.Reading and writing can not come naturally,doing so the brain must change."
This is an interesting documentary!
Once I wondered how will I be able cultivate in me a culture of reading and writing (for I aspire to be a writer) and this documentary is paving the path!

There are great things to be learnt here,imagine how Prof Maryanne Wolf said that Human beings were never born to read or write but to speak,see,smell and hear.

So what were we born for?
To speak,see ,smell, and hear?
There is no single place in the world which is not affected by environmental pollution so that what we see,smell,hear in not all there is.Primitive people(ancestors) felt nature to the extend that they did not need reading ,writing,storing information,...!

We live in an opposite reality.Reading is an important skill that needs to be developed in children. Not only is it necessary for survival in the world of schools and (later on) universities, but in adult life as well."

We learn from Nature that The Environment is a very important factor for development and change(Since Reading and writing can not come naturally but the brain must go some changes).
We need the force of environment like this ,media ,education that encourage people to read and write in a creative way so as to form a complete human fit from the 21st Century and the generation to come.

By taking into account that changes won't happen if I only focus on how to benefit from others in the number of information I publish either hard copy(Books) or soft copies(On internet).

Today humanity is recognizing how worthless information sold for money gain are not valuable.
Rather by choosing the mutual responsibility for one another we can bring about the changes we aspire:The culture creative reading and writing.

11 years ago

Very good documentary.

I find that I need to constantly be reading and learning. It keeps me balanced; when life gets too busy and I don’t read for a while, I find my diet suffers, then I don’t get enough exercise and tend to become more withdrawn. I now have become aware of this and when I see I am gaining unwanted weight, and starting to feel emotionally isolated it is one of the first things I check, then correct.

Another thing I have noticed about myself over the years is that when I am in ‘learning mode’ I grasp new concepts easier and when I stop reading and learning it takes me a while to get back into that learning groove again.

Ray Stewart
11 years ago

I am a history buff and know a lot about this kind of thing, mainly reading from books, internet search and also studying it at collage and university.

Discovered in the mid 90's there is evidence that suggests the first Symbolic Written Word (made by drawings) was created 8500 BC in modern day Turkey, but there’s much more evidence that shows words where made in 10,100 BC in what is now Iraq.

A professor a British archaeologist Leonard Wooley, in 1929 (I think it was) done some digs to uncover the first evidence of people writing down records of their daily lives, dating back just 1,500 BC but he began the long standing project in finding new sites throughout the globe.

In 1984 an archaeologist, Richard C Cooper found a hidden cave in Southern Spain, where pottery with symbols upon them in the form of squares and other shapes, plus double or single lines. At first they where just seen as patens, but after much research and after more findings around the same area, these shapes where classified as letters.

So when this writer Rita Carter suggests that the written word / alphabet appeared about 5000 years ago, she’s wrong in so many ways.

11 years ago

Also i have learned so much since i left school from reading on all kinds of subjects and have enpowered myself now

11 years ago

I think reading is one of the greatest gifts - knowledge is power, you can unlock a whole world

11 years ago

I remember when I was a little girl I refused to learn to read. I thought it had no use, and i was wickedly stubborn. I was old enough that I remember what it felt like to look at writing and know it had symbolic value, or was the name of something , but being unable to connect it to meaning or sound. Then, finally, when I was almost 7 I learned to read and became obsessed with it.

When I was writing poetry regularly my brain definitely functioned differently.

11 years ago

I wanna rub that womans feet in the thumbnail pic so baaaaad. Reading is good.

His Forever
11 years ago

LOL. I used to read avidly. Now I do so with a mouse in my hand! My wife thinks I'm having an "affair" with my computer ---- need to switch back to books, I guess.

11 years ago

Treating the brain as a machine unduly limits it capacity.

11 years ago

How many times can you say "bit" in one show...don't know why british people think that's cute, it's just annoying...

11 years ago

In a documentary such as this, is the only thing many of you can take away from it the technicality of their claims "The human brain is the most complex thing in the universe" ? Take a P600 signal on it. Seriously.

My curiosity, would heavy reading in a child/young adult actually change the shape of the skull, that is, before the cranial sutures have completely fused, and might that alter the potential benefits of reading by age group?

phillip wong
11 years ago

Is the universe really the most complex thing in the universe? really? First, the question presuppose we know with complete objectivity of all the things and objects in the universe. Second, the question presuppose we have a measure to rank everything in the universe. Does the first assumption hold? Do we know everything in the universe? I think not. Perhaps there are infinity many universes, and if so, are we going to saying our brain in the most complex thing in all those universes as well? Obviously not.

11 years ago

I always tell my students that " If you can read, you can do anything!
You can teach yourself many things.

11 years ago

We read on the computer, does it make a difference?

11 years ago

I grew up with the encyclopedia britannica and guiness book of world records. that explains my fondness for useless facts! no wonder i love science so much! ^_^

11 years ago

Interesting... just finished watching a doc on my computer about reading, instead of reading about it. Seriously though, I almost experience symptoms of withdrawal if I don't have a good novel to read every evening. The connection this program made about reading & empathy was something I found both fascinating & very true. Of course if you are not an avid reader you likely don't give a s#!@ about what I think.

11 years ago

haven't seen it yet but that is obselete concerning the nature of this topic:''to be lost in a scripture opens doorways into unknown realms of oneself & many others,if not the entire cosmos!''.....true words by a great man....me grand-pops!

11 years ago

This is an interesting documentary. It makes me wonder:
1.) Is it possible that our view of 'reading' is too narrow and needs to be expanded to fit new contexts?
2.) Has reading evolved over time and developed into a new 'thing'?
3.) Intuitively, I feel that the next great exploration into the brain will include an understanding of the inner workings of the mind from the inside-out (as opposed to the other way around). Will this new exploration open gateways never explored? Will we discover new healing powers? Change the way we see our 'selves' and others?

Thanks for making me think!

11 years ago

Well, we're hardly in a place to make a comment on the complexities of machinery in the universe. I mean, do we really have enough data on the machinery- biological or otherwise- of, say, the distant galaxy Arp 220? Or our nearest galaxy, Andromeda? Or even the closest stars?

And it's "PROBABLY the most complex"- so somehow she had enough data to to come up with a probability formula, and she came up with 50%+ chance of the brain being the most complex?

It would be like saying "earth probably has the most water in the universe!" sure, it has the most of any planet we know. If you said solar system, it would be a very accurate statement. But the whole universe? We don't KNOW enough about the universe to say ANYTHING is probable.

So LOL, ridiculous statement. Doc's kind of interesting, though.

11 years ago

The human brain is the most complex eight pounds of matter we have encountered. It has a greater number of neural connections than there are stars in the sky. Those connections are constantly restructuring as time passes and each individual has a different pattern based on their life experiences.

Not only are brains in charge of the vast entropy reversal machine called the human body, they are also the seat of sentience. Mad respek from this biologist!

11 years ago

This was an interesting documentary on the importance of reading in today's society of 2011.

I would like to add some other observations that I have noticed in the public schools in North America. These observations have been observed in the San Francisco Bay area, Las Vegas Nevada and Ottawa, Canada.

I have three children in the school system aged 7 1/2, 11 and 13 years.

Public schools are very proactive at encouraging kids to read books. Schools simply cannot get kids to read enough books. However there are some kids who are delayed in reading due to brain development. Not all kids develop at the same rate.

To get around this problem I began working with public schools to get the kids involved in creating their own books. The kids would be encouraged to draw artowrk about what they loved about their area and then write short stories about it. The work would be scanned and published as an eBook.

The response from the public schools in the San Francisco Bay area, Las Vegas Nevada and Ottawa Canada was over whelming. Not one school or school district thought that the kids had the ability to create their own creative book. So not one public school tried.

I found it very interesting especially since I was offering $60,000 in computer equipment, scanners, office equipment and office furniture to get an eBook creation project off the ground to encourage students to create their own picture and short story eBooks. Not one single school in North America wanted to get involved.

The response was always the same, children can only read professionally created books, they are unable to create their own.

When the idea was introduced into Russian schools, the response was very different. The Russian schools were very excited to have their students creating artwork and short stories about what they loved about their area to be scanned into "Russian Kids Art Album eBooks". I would complete projects for kids in Orshanka, and Volgodonsk Russia.

To this day I still have the $60,000 in computers, scanners, office equipment and office furniture unable to find a school willing to empower their students to be creative and create the artwork and short stories to make their own "Kids Art Album eBooks".

The public school system itself in North America has created the reading problem by NOT encouraging their students to be creative writers and artists.

11 years ago

"The most fascinating thing of all is this: the human brain. It's probably the most complex machine in the universe."

LOL that's kind of a ridiculous statement.