Taunton School Main Building at Dusk

How books build brains

Posted: 8th May 2017

Last Saturday the academic scholars and myself were treated to an in depth and fascinating talk on reading and brain development. We are often reminded of how essential it is to read, though we aren’t always aware exactly how it is benefiting us, though in this session we definitely learnt that.

Using the analogy of training for a marathon, Miss Lockwood took us through the steps we all take in building our abilities to read. Firstly we learn the alphabet, akin to taking our first steps. Then, we take in sentences, similar to going for a short jog. Finally we read large chunks of continuous text, equivalent to the marathon in terms of how much we are working our brains. We learnt that actually the areas of our brain that work with reading texts are closely interlinked with those that deal with our long term memory. The concept that reading can actually improve our ability to retain information is great news for those avid readers who are currently studying for upcoming exams. Also, it is good to know that reading is actually brain food!

Though we generally associate reading with only improving our skills in English, there are actually some surprising other ways that reading can advance us in. For example, by reading fiction we are strengthening our creativity, something that comes in very handy when attempting to solve a maths problem. As well as this, when the character in our book finds themselves in a problematic or saddening situation, we develop our skills of empathy and general understanding of others.

Of course, we also had to address reading from our beloved screens, something that is becoming increasingly topical as e-books become more and more popular. We learnt that, shockingly, reading from a screen does not actually utilise the part of our brain that works with long-term memory. Therefore, according to proven science, it does not carry one of the key benefits that reading actual print does. To some, this may seem quite unbelievable, but it has been scientifically proven that this is indeed the case.

As a lover of books myself, I found this talk to be fascinating and a great insight into the many merits of reading. I certainly took a lot of interesting information back with me surrounding just how much books can positively impact our brains. Thank you to Miss Lockwood for giving us such a passionate and fascinating talk to help start Saturday school on a positive note.

Alice Searle
Year 10 Academic Scholar


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