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  • Karen E. Osborne

Reading for Mental Health

In a typical grandparent-grandson conversation, I queried nine-year-old Aidan, “Is math still your favorite subject in school?” “No,” he replied. “I love to read. If you can read, you can learn anything.”


Only a few years earlier, Aidan struggled with reading. But he loved books. Over the years, since a few months old, we bought him tons. As he got older, he borrowed others from the library. Through all those years, my husband and I read to him. Whenever he said, “I’m not good at reading,” we said, “You’re not good at it yet.” Now he devours books, loves to talk about them, and is expanding his interests to include non-fiction.

Of all the gifts we’ve given him, we know the joy of reading is the best one.

Reading is not only essential for children, but also important for adults. In this article by author Neil Gaiman, he makes the case for “why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens” as he discusses reading, the importance of libraries and daydreaming.

Gaiman says, reading “forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts.” He also argues that reading teaches empathy. “You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.” The world needs literate, empathetic adults to survive.

Another point Gaiman makes is that buying books is expensive and not within everyone’s financial reach. That’s why libraries are key. Adults and children need access to free books.

As a girl, I lived in the library, borrowing the allowed seven every week. I raised my children in the public library. They’d start reading as soon as they chose their books, sprawled on the floor or in one of the provided comfy chairs. I agree with Gaiman. Libraries are essential.

In another article, written by Elizabeth Bernstein for The Wall Street Journey, she makes the case for the therapeutic value of reading, especially in high stress times like now. “There’s so much noise in the world right now and the very act f reading is a kind of meditation,” says Mitchell Kaplan bookstore owner and founder of the Miami Book Fair. “You disconnect from the chaos around you.”

The article also offers tips for helping you read mindfully so you can receive the full benefits.

  1. Put your phone away.

  2. Make reading a habit by trying to read the same time each day.

  3. Read the way you did as a kid. Try to channel that sense of wonder, absorption, and innocence.

  4. Try listening to audio books.

  5. Put down the book if you’re not getting into it (don’t let reading stress you more).

  6. Start a new book as soon as you finish the previous one.

What are you reading these days? What is transporting you? What are your children and grandchildren reading? What are your library memories?

I just finished a crime story, Cold Betrayal by author A. J. McCarthy and A Promised Land, by Barack Obama. Check out my series What are You Reading? What are You Writing? for more great reads.

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