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Reading For Fun Might Be Good For You!

September 26, 2013
Cover scan of a Classics Comics book

Reading the classic comic book for fun as a kid meant that I could pretend to have read the actual book as an adult. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may be a “Duh!” moment.  Researchers claim that kids who read for fun at an early age read a lot more as adults and have better math skills than adults who didn’t read as much as kids (more here).  In other words, reading just for enjoyment might be good for you.

I say “might” because I don’t trust studies.  Researchers can make/support any claim they want, so I don’t automatically believe something just because a study says it’s true.  For a study, this one has a significant sample size.  And it was conducted over a long period of time.  These are good signs.  But I still don’t automatically believe it.  I want to believe it, though. 

The study claims that kids who read for fun read more as adults. That makes sense.  Of course, kids who hate reading will be more unlikely to read.  Nobody wants to do what they don’t like to do.  I’m a believer in reading for the fun of it.  That’s the only reason I read anymore.  I’m done with school (I hope), so I don’t need to read anything that I don’t want to read, and if something that I don’t want to read absolutely has to get read, then my wife does that for me (and I can say that without much fear of retribution because she usually doesn’t read this blog). 

It’s a lot easier to read for fun as an adult than it was to read for fun as a kid.  As an adult, I can read what I want when I want.  When you’re a kid, you’re at the mercy of adults.  If you want to read the latest copy of The Walking Dead, and your parents give you the complete boxed set of Little House on the Prairie, you’re screwed (and you’ll probably hate reading for the rest of your life). 

I was lucky.  My parents let me read what I wanted.  I read comic books, Mad Magazine, and lots of Charlie Brown books, but my parents kept some other stuff around too.  I read a couple Narnia books in elementary school.  I read The Hobbit.  I even began reading Conan the Barbarian books.  While other kids read Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, I had a copy of Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Z Book.  You can’t hate reading while reciting Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Zs to a bunch of your friends. 

I read a lot of comic books as a kid, and I turned out alright.  At least, I think I did, but reading so many Classics Illustrated comic books made me a literary fraud.  By reading comic book versions of literature such as A Tale of Two Cities or Moby Dick and then reading the first few pages of each classic novel, I could usually pretend that I had read the classics and get away with it.  This made me seem much more literary than I really was.  But I actually read a few entire classics too, like The Three Musketeers (still one of my all-time favorites) and The Iliad (not one of my favorites). 

Supposedly, reading for fun has carry over in other areas, such as math.  Maybe avid readers will say that they still suck at math.  But maybe they would have sucked at math even more if they hadn’t read for fun.  I have no proof to back that up, but I’ve learned that if I say something with enough authority in my voice, people will believe me. 

And maybe reading for fun really has helped my math skills.  My job has almost nothing to do with math, but I still use basic math by choice in my personal life.  For example, if I’m paying cash, and the total is $3.27, I might give the cashier $4.02 to get three quarters back instead of a mess of change.  Most clerks look befuddled (they probably don’t read for fun).  A few understand right away (they probably read for fun).  If I hadn’t read for fun as a kid, I might have a bunch more useless change in my pocket right now. 

I like reading for fun.  I read because it’s fun.  If reading always felt like War and Peace, I probably wouldn’t have done it as much as a kid, and I wouldn’t be reading now.  Without my love for reading, I never would have started Dysfunctional Literacy or written The Writing Prompt or begun The Literary Girlfriend.  It was because of my mom and dad (who both let me read what I want) that I now read and write and occasionally can do math in my head.  Thanks Mom and Dad! 

Reading about this study made me think about the books that I read for fun as a kid.  What books did you read for fun when you were a kid?

11 Comments
  1. bdallmann permalink

    “I’ve learned that if I say something with enough authority in my voice, people will believe me.”

    How can I trust anything you say now? Have you been lying to us all this time?? -_-

    • I have a monotone voice, so I hardly ever say anything with authority, which means that I usually tell the truth. The problem is that when I’m writing, nobody can hear my voice (and whether or not it has authority in it), so I probably haven’t answered your question.

  2. Adult books I really shouldn’t have been reading. I don’t know about math, but they definitely increased my vocabulary. 🙂

  3. I read for fun as a kid and I was a boffin at math in school (not anymore, though), so this study seems plausible to me 😉

  4. OMG!! Reading can be good for you?! I am shocked. 🙂

    “A disturbing new study finds that studies are disturbing” ~ Ellen

    • I think there was also a surprising study that showed studies weren’t surprising (or was it the other way around?). I didn’t read it closely.

  5. One of the things Korea does wonderfully is making all kinds of classics into comics. The kids go nuts for that kind of stuff. I have elementary school students reading Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, the Talmud, Greek mythology. They even slip English, science, Chinese, etc. into comics and the kids love it.

  6. Reblogged this on LibGuy and commented:
    Read for fun!

  7. Ben Grange permalink

    I loved reading as a kid, mostly Harry Potter–over and over and over. Now I know that I can blame J.K. for always doing math in my head wherever I go.

  8. Wow, I never connected reading to math skills before. Maybe that’s why I am so good at calculus. Haha. Actually, I always attributed my success in school to the amount of reading that I did as a child.

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