A chapter a day keeps the grim reaper away!

Has your New Year’s resolution lost its luster?

Dump it!

Here’s another that will extend your life span without dieting or exercise.

Read books.

Yes, that’s it.

Three and one half hours a week should do it. According to a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine readers who are 50 years old or older live two years longer than non-readers.

According to Avni Bavishi of the Yale University School of Public Health, this advantage is most closely linked to reading books. “When the reader’s mind is engaged in a story two cognitive processes create a ‘survival advantage’ thereby increasing lifespan,” said Bavishi. First, reading books promotes the slow, “immersive process” of “deep reading” which is a cognitive engagement that occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material. Second, the reader engages mentally in finding applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented.

Researchers speculate that fiction is the most effective genre. “We had seen some mixed effects in previous literature that seemed to indicate that there may be a survival advantage to general reading; however, we were impressed with the magnitude of the difference of effect between reading books and reading newspapers/magazines.”

Reading is good for us at every age

You don’t have to be over fifty to reap benefits. Adults as well as children who read regularly experience enhanced vocabulary, improved articulation, and increased creativity.

Did I mention that reading also relieves stress? Just six minutes of reading has been shown to lower heart rate and muscle tension. A bedtime reading routine helps your body wind down which improves sleep.

Reading even promotes world peace because readers develop greater understanding of others’ beliefs and views which builds capacity for empathy. Neuroscience backs this up. Researchers at Emory University found that reading fiction tricks our brains into thinking we are part of the story. The empathy we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sensitivity towards real people. Carnegie Mellon University studies report that when you get lost in a book your brain lives through the characters at a neurological level.

According to findings in a study at Cambridge University, reading fiction provides excellent training for young people to develop and practice understanding of how other people feel and think. Stories have the power to bring emotions to life and help children understand their own feelings as well as the feelings of others.

So make 2019 the year you read every day. The benefits of reading will improve the way you handle your feelings and the feelings of others. Read with a child every day and live to see a new generation handling the challenges of the future with knowledge and empathy.

Rorie Measure is the president of the Children’s Reading Alliance, a grassroots citizen-led initiative to encourage family literacy throughout Doña Ana County. Rorie is a reader, writer, teacher, reading specialist and literacy trainer.