Does Reading Make You Smarter?


Much has already been said about the impact of reading on a person’s intellect. One’s success is significantly determined by his ability to read effectively. In fact, many of the world’s most eminent intellectuals are certified bibliophiles.  With all these, we are led to ask– Does reading really make a person smarter?  How so exactly? Here are the answers to these questions.

Reading: An Ideal Form of Brain Exercise

All of us know the importance of a good workout to stay fit. The same thing is true with our brain. A study conducted in Stanford University proves that reading is the workout the brain needs in order to stay in its optimal health.

To conduct this study, a group of people were asked to read Mansfield’s Park by Jane Austen while being monitored by a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine. The group was asked to read the book under two situations. In the first scenario, they were asked to read the book for the purpose of recreation; while in the second scenario, they were asked to critically analyze the book as if they were evaluating it for a thesis. Although there was no difference between the two scenarios, the MRI mapping showed that the minute they started reading in both circumstances, there was a noticeable rise in the level of blood flowing to the brain. Not only this, blood was also flowing to those parts of the brain, which were currently not in use.

The Major Intellectual Benefits of Reading

All these years, the world has been abuzz with plenty of reasons as to why it is essential for people to develop and maintain a healthy habit of reading. But how does it exactly benefit the human mind?

It expands your vocabulary.

Reading does significantly expand your vocabulary in ways that you may not notice right away. It exposes you to and lets you uncover the context of the words that you’ve probably never heard of before. Reading compels you to look up the meaning of the words you’ve just read, hence as you go further along, the more the sentences make sense to you than before you began reading them.

It improves your communication skills.

This goes hand in hand with vocabulary: the more you read, the more words you have available in your frame of reference to use in everyday conversations.  Reading teaches you new words and new ways to use the words more correctly when constructing sentences in your mind.

It develops your analytical skills.

A research conducted by Dr. Anne E. Cunningham, professor of psychology in the University of Berkeley in California, shows that readers are seen to have a greater general knowledge and are able to spot patterns a lot quicker. The more patterns you spot, the more developed your analytical skills become.

It is an effective memory booster.

Reading and memory are two interrelated concepts. When you read, you are more of training your brain to retain the ideas and words you are reading, which eventually helps boost your memory.

It enhances your ability to focus.

Effective reading does demand a lot of focus. No person can possibly comprehend what he’s reading if he’s not paying attention to it at all. Thus, reading is one of the proven ways to hone a person’s ability to concentrate.

How Does Literature Boost Your Brain Power?

Scientists and psychologists  at the Liverpool University performed an experiment to determine the brain activity of subjects reading the works of literary icons Wordsworth, Shakespeare, and Eliot. The subjects were then asked to read modern translations of the texts as they had their brain activity examined again. The conclusion? The more difficult the text got, the more their brains fired up. Such compelled English professor Philip Davis, who was responsible for collaborating on the study at the university’s magnetic resonance center, to infer that serious literature does act like a brain rocket booster.

The same research done in the Liverpool University explicitly concluded that reading poetry boosts activity in the right side of the brain, which is the area associated with “autobiographical memory.” This enables the reader to evaluate his own experiences and relate to what he had just read. The study gave way to the inference that classics are more beneficial than self-help books.

Famous Smarty Pants Who Are Avid Readers

Despite its numerous benefits on a person’s mental well-being,  reading is still underrated as a crucial component of leadership development. Considering how many prominent people–world leaders and business titans– are wide readers, just draws you farther from underappreciating it. Listed below are just a few of the world’s most famous intellectuals who are avid readers:

  • Steve Jobs has been reported by The New York Times  to be a passionate reader of William Blake’s literary pieces.
  • Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, has his own library and insists that people leave their shoes behind before entering it.
  • Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Industries, says poets are the original system thinkers.
  • Winston Churchill did not win a Nobel Prize for peace but for literature.


So to answer the question,”does reading make you smarter?,”it most definitely does.  However, the catch is that you will need to read more difficult materials that actually works your brain.  Sorry, reading 50 Shades of Grey will not make you any smarter.  Apart from those benefits mentioned above, reading gives you a context with which to view other cultures, thus consequently making you more intelligent, tolerant, and capable of embracing human differences. Intelligence, in simple definition, refers to one’s ability to learn. Therefore, what better way is there to learn than to read?

Now that you know about the benefits of reading, go check out some books at the library or go buy some books on Amazon.  You can start by reading Sherlock Holmes as mystery novels have been known to be especially beneficial to the brain.


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