As an avid reader, I LOVE to be entertained by a well-told story. And of course as a writer, I LOVE when readers say things like: I couldn’t put your book down or it kept me up past bedtime.
Fiction is supposed to be entertaining—a good story with lovable characters wrapped up in a riveting plot.
But books are more than pure entertainment. They are laced with incredible power.
First they have the power to increase our health.
Did you know that the average American adult watches five hours of TV a day? (This is according to a very interesting article in the New York Times from June 2016.) The study came just a few weeks after Netflix revealed some data about how quickly people finish one entire season of a TV show — about five days, usually spending two hours a day watching.
Amidst the modern obsession with iphones, ipads, ipods, laptops, DVD’s, and other items that facilitate our ever-increasing addiction to screens, books offer a healthy alternative. Research shows that reading is related to a longer lifespan. The New York Times in August of 2016 cited a study that says: “Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.”
Not only can reading help lead to longer life, but studies are also showing reading has the power to stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s in old age. Fishers Alzheimer’s Foundation says: [People are asking] can we do anything to slow down late-life cognitive decline? The results suggest yes. . . Read more books, write more, and do activities that keep your brain busy irrespective of your age.
In addition to aiding our overall health, the process of reading also increases intelligence.
We all know that reading can be educational; we can learn a lot about different topics, historical eras, etc. But did you know that research has also shown that reading in and of itself can actually increase a person’s intelligence? In a Guardian article, “Can Reading Make You Smarter?” the author says, “Recent scientific studies have confirmed that reading and intelligence have a relationship so close as to be symbiotic.”
Psychology Today cites studies specifically related to novel-reading: “Researchers found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function.”
Even greater than entertainment, health, and intelligence, books have the power to change our LIVES. Not just our brains and bodies, but our LIVES. Stories help us realize we aren’t alone in our struggles, give us hope, and challenge us to live better lives.
I hear from readers often about the impact my stories have on their situations and lives:
“I had been struggling with a virus for three weeks and the winter’s here in northern Canada can last six months. The book had interesting history, good romance, and was exciting. It gave me a renewed appreciation for my husband and encouraged me to keep striving to live for the Lord.”
“The book is such a powerful and beautiful story of love and redemption. Of God’s forgiveness and his grace. No matter what we have done, no matter where we go, the decisions we make, God’s grace is enough. His love is enough. His forgiveness is enough. I was moved to tears multiple times while reading this book.”
I hear from young and old alike. The broken-hearted, the broken-bodied, the broken-spirited. I hear from those who have been encouraged to persevere in their faith amidst persecution, those who’ve been challenged to step out and face fears, those who are discouraged and have been refreshed.
Stories have POWER. Stories have the power to move us, minister to us, and motivate us.
Sunday school teachers and youth leaders know the power of stories to capture attention and move students. Parents know the power of stories to teach character lessons. How many of us have used the story of the tortoise and the hare to teach our children to persevere? Or the story of the boy who cried wolf to illustrate the importance of telling the truth?
Pastors know the power of stories (through illustrations) to help us remember truths better. Jesus knew the power of stories, which is why he used them so often during his ministry on earth to relay truths (in all four gospels Jesus tells over 45 stories also known as parables).
Stories have the power to teach us lessons and to bring us hope. And Christian fiction in particular has the power to point people to the true Giver of Hope.
How about YOU? What do you think are some of the benefits of reading?