In the early 90s, training as a dyslexia expert began my journey into the brain and behaviour, which underpins my work today. Understanding how reading changes us is still my interest and we now know so much more about the benefits of reading, particularly reading for pleasure. I even came up with my own word: “Readaxation” means reading for pleasure as a deliberate act to reduce stress and boost wellbeing and performance.
CAUTION: every time you see “reading reduces stress by 68%”, ignore it. It is a lovely result, but based on a study of 16 people. The research I prefer is robust and relies on much larger or repeated studies.
Aspects of reading changed with the advent of screens and digital reading. Many of you will be interested in what research says about any differences between reading print or on screens. Even though this is relatively new, there is now substantial research and I am up-to-date in it. I have a good understanding of what we know of the effects of different types of reading – not just print or digital but also fiction or non-fiction and simple or complex. I find it endlessly fascinating! You’ll find separate information about this in the resources section (see Digital vs Print) but I have put a few key links below.
Also, as a former dyslexia specialist and ardent proponent of the benefits and pleasures of recreational reading, and a strong supporter of school and public library services, I have good insight into how to develop the reading habit even in those who find reading difficult, boring or unpleasant.
MY OWN RESOURCES
- Here is a large bundle of printable handouts which I provide for my talks on this subject: ReadingBrainHandouts
- My blog posts on this topic: here
- Especially note this useful article I wrote on the effect of discussing benefits/pleasures/wishes re reading for pleasure with young people
- And these two on why fiction is NOT more valuable a reading material than fiction: HERE and HERE.
- Two things on Readaxation:
You can download and copy these:
BOOKS BY OTHERS
- Proust & the Squid – Story & Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf
- Such Stuff as Dreams – The Psychology of Fiction, by Keith Oatley
- iBrain – Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind, by Gary Small
- Words on Screen – The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, by Naomi Baron
- The Organized Mind, by Daniel Levitin
- Lost in a Book – the psychology of reading for pleasure, by Victor Nell
ONLINE ARTICLES and RESEARCH (I’ve reduced this list to a minimum but have more to add later)
- The Reading Agency review of science behind reading for wellbeing
- “An emerging body of research highlights the power of stories to help children handle their own and other people’s feelings”: www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/may/13/reading-teach-children-empathy
- Long-term vocabulary benefits from ‘reading for pleasure’ in childhood: www.ioe.ac.uk/newsEvents/107587.html
- The PISA OECD study – “Do Students today read for pleasure?” www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/48624701.pdf
- “Effects of reading on knowledge, social abilities, and selfhood”, by Marr, Djikic and Oatley (Shorter way of getting the message of Such Stuff as Dreams!)
- National Literacy Trust – “Reading for Pleasure” www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0000/0562/Reading_pleasure_2006.pdf
- Nat Lit Trust re online reading for children: http://publishingperspectives.com/2013/05/as-kids-on-screen-reading-overtakes-print-outcome-is-worrisome/
- “Reading at Risk”: www.arts.gov/pub/readingatrisk.pdf
- Difficulty of text: www.wired.com/2012/10/books-growing-brain/
- And re the Shakespeare/Wordsworth effect: www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9797617/Shakespeare-and-Wordsworth-boost-the-brain-new-research-reveals.html
- Bibliotherapy: cilip.org.uk/cilip/blog/does-bibliotherapy-work
Reading and empathy
(A big topic of mine)
- EmpathyLab, a wonderful UK organisation devoted to building empathy through reading
- A paper on the power of non-fiction to build empathy: https://thelexlexicon.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/teaching-empathy-through-reading-personal-essays-insights-from-a-creative-nonfiction-class/
- Three articles I wrote on this subject:
- Non-fiction and empathy: https://www.nicolamorgan.com/the-reading-brain/non-fiction-and-empathy/
- Empathy: Non-fiction does it just as well as fiction https://www.nicolamorgan.com/the-reading-brain/empathy-non-fiction-just-well-fiction/
- Empathy from stories – true AND made up: https://www.nicolamorgan.com/the-reading-brain/empathy-and-its-source-in-stories-true-and-made-up-stories-empathyday/
A few items about the difference between print and digital
My handout on this is called Digital vs Print, in item No 1 in the numbered list above
Research released Dec 2019 by the Reboot Foundation and reported in Forbes mag – “Students Who Read On Tablets Score Poorly In Reading”: www.forbes.com/sites/helenleebouygues/2019/12/12/new-data-students-who-read-on-tablets-score-poorly-in-reading/
Reading on screens: www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/
“Print Matters More” – great research commissioned by Egmont: www.egmont.co.uk/research/print-matters-more/
“Reading Print Versus Digital Increases Comprehension”: www.adweek.com/galleycat/reading-print-versus-digital-increases-comprehension-study/90133?red=as
“What does your brain like better – print or ebooks?”: http://publishingperspectives.com/2014/06/what-does-your-brain-like-better-paper-or-ebooks/
I hope you have found this selection of resources useful. Remember they are only starting points and there is much more in the rest of my website, my books and classroom resources. Do ask me to speak to your audience, ideally in a virtual visit: see the Speaking section of my website.
Copyright © Nicola Morgan www.nicolamorgan.com