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Want to live longer? Read!

It’s been a banner year for readers. Two major studies have revealed terrific results: Readers live longer, and are better tuned into the emotions of others.Yale University study of people over 50 (pony up for the whole thing here) found that those who read for three-and-a-half hours a week or more were 23 percent less likely to die than those who chose screens or window-staring over books. And at the New School for Social Research, in New York, a study discovered literary fiction fans – devotees of Harper Lee, Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie, for instance – had more insight into people’s emotional states, due to fiction’s “aesthetic qualities and character development,” as opposed to, say, more plot-driven crime novels.

Reading is good for your health

But while up-to-date research is always comforting, the health stats on reading are pretty solid. The National Reading Campaign has been working toward making reading a national priority since 2008. They developed the National Reading Plan, which aims to provide all Canadians with free and equal access to desired materials, in 2012. Among the many benefits NRC lists include reading as a source of pleasure; an activity that empowers critical thinking, increases self-worth, reduces barriers to access, preserves culture from generation to generation, and allows people to be active citizens. In 2009, a British study found that reading for just six minutes reduced stress by up to 60 per cent in some patients.

Kids and books – a natural pairing

Children, naturally, benefit from being read to until they can do it themselves. A 2015 study found that kids aged three to five responded positively to hearing bedtime stories, which caused “activation of brain areas supporting mental imagery and narrative comprehension…[which] may help inform eco-bio-developmental models of emergent literacy.” The International Reading Campaign found that allowing students to choose their own material for leisure reading – outside of school and homework – as they get older does wonders for their individual reading comprehension, language, vocabulary development, general knowledge and empathy for others. (But maybe hold back on bribing them to do it.)

Visit your local library

It’s not just kids who need a reading push – considering the advent of the smartphone, television’s second golden age and craft beer, adults could use some book time too. Why not celebrate Public Library Month by hitting the stacks? The Halifax Public Libraries system has a terrific database of staff picks, ranging from historical fiction (The Count of Monte Cristo) to classics (Anna Karenina) to books by contemporary authors (Diana Gabaldon), in case you’re overwhelmed by choice. (They’ve also got separate suggestions for poetry and for reading “around the world.”)

Add an incentive

If you find it hard to get motivated on your own, join a book club, a two-pronged approach – you’ll have a social event to look forward to, and a looming deadline to hit. For the truly screen-obsessed – or if you lack storage or funds – there are a number of e-readers on the market that are lighter than an actual hardcover.

Your turn: Share your favourite book in the comment section below.

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