I'm sure your parents have reminded you that “Practice makes perfect.” And the old joke says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer, “Practice, practice, practice.” There are many other proverbs and quotations that support the importance of practicing, but it is common sense – the more you do an activity, the better you become at it. This is true not only in music, dance, and sports, but in learning languages too. One of the best ways to become fluent in a language is to read extensively in the language.
According to Warwick B. Elley, in a study of 9,073 schools from 32 countries, there is a steady increase in academic achievement in student populations who have the greatest amount of voluntary free reading. However, not only does extensive reading correlate with higher academic achievement, it raises the IQ (as measured by standardized tests), improves creativity, and increases the potential job salary earning, according to numerous research studies conducted by the National Institute for Literacy in the United States. In addition, several studies show that reading in a target language increases vocabulary learning and retention.
Aside from these serious academic reasons to read, there are several other benefits to reading. It provides relaxation and an escape from the tensions of life. It can be fun, stimulating and rejuvenating. Several early studies are showing that the habit of reading, well into old age, can help keep the mind active and slow down the onset of senility, which is common in sedentary elderly people.
So the next time you reach for the remote control, hit the “Off” button, turn the pages of a book and exercise your brain cells with a good story.