It is a real piece of luck when your passion from childhood becomes your career.
In the many years since I first became a junior publishing assistant, I have never, for a moment, lost the pleasure and stimulation of burying myself in a good book.
Which is why since I and others set up Quick Reads in 2006 to encourage more people to discover books I have always been determined that however significant the educational or economic implications of reading are for our country, books’ most important benefit was their impact on the emotional lives of individuals.
At different stages in my life, books have meant different things to me.
At moments they have opened up new horizons, at others they have been a huge support.
Often, I have shared treasured books with my family and friends but sometimes I have kept the reading experience to a private pleasure.
But every time I open a new book, it is with the keen anticipation of embarking on a new emotional and intellectual journey.
So I was not surprised to read a new research report, commissioned by Galaxy which sponsors Quick Reads, revealing that adults who spend just 30 minutes a week reading are 20 per cent more likely to be satisfied with their lives.
Amongst the many benefits experienced by regular readers were higher self-esteem and greater self-acceptance.
In part this must be because reading, although paradoxically a solitary activity, actually helps us feel less isolated.
One in four readers say that a book has helped them realise that other people have shared their life experiences.
Baroness Gail Rebuck at Penguin Random House publishing offices HQ
Readers also find it easier to make decisions and are 10 per cent more capable of planning and prioritising.
Dr Josie Billington, who partnered with Quick Reads to produce the report, concludes that this may be because readers are more able to recognise that difficulties and setback are unavoidable aspects of human life.
It is not simply that we feel better about our own problems but that we have a greater capacity for empathy.
With just 30 minutes of reading a week, two thirds of readers report a better understanding of other people’s feelings.
Readers were also found to have a stronger and more engaged awareness of social issues and of cultural diversity than non-readers.
Regular readers reported 57 per cent greater cultural awareness and 21 per cent more general knowledge.
The stories and ideas contained in a book can open our minds and unite us with other cultures, helping us to gain a deeper understanding and respect for them.
Books can also expand our minds, and readers reported higher levels of creativity than non-readers.
This sense of connectedness extends beyond our immediate social circles.
The report found that readers were more comfortable with strangers, reporting not only that they find it easier to start conversations but also find greater enjoyment in these interactions.
Reading can be a social as well as a solitary, activity and the act of reading immediately makes us part of a wider community.
Quick Reads has long advocated reading for pleasure but with this report, Reading Between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure, we have for the first time tangible empirical evidence of the benefits to our emotional health, empathy and well being.
It is also revealing about the reasons why people have abandoned reading for pleasure.
Every time I open a new book, it is with the keen anticipation of embarking on a new emotional and intellectual journey
Sometimes it had to do with a disruptive life event; 14 per cent of lapsed readers cited divorce, the death of a family member, ill health or loss of their job as the moment they stopped reading.
While there is no panacea for personal tragedy, I believe reading can help you at such a time.
In fact, the report showed that readers were less likely to experience low moods or feelings of depression if they read for 30 minutes a week.
But overwhelmingly the most common reason for giving up on books, blamed by 42 per cent of the 16 million lapsed readers in the UK, was lack of time, perhaps because people saw reading as an indulgence rather than a necessity in their lives.
Now of course I don’t expect books to come before family or work but this report demonstrates that reading for pleasure is a vital part of a balanced life.
As part of the research, 20 lapsed readers were recruited to take part in a reading challenge in which they read a title of their choice from the Galaxy Quick Reads series for 20 minutes every day for 10 days, keeping a daily diary of their mood and wellbeing.
Yvonne, aged 42, said that “reading gives me the confidence, independence and time to myself that I need in life”.
Matt, aged 29, commented: “I am so glad to be reading – after reading for half an hour on my lunch break today I felt happy, sharp and cheerful and the feeling lasted all afternoon.”
Sarah aged 39 told researchers: “I feel I’m sleeping a lot better since I’ve been reading and also I feel a lot calmer.”
Consider, if we were all to find just half an hour a week to read, what a collective difference this could make both to us as individuals and to our society.
Which is why I believe Quick Reads is so important.
Apart from lapsed readers, one in six adults of working age in the UK struggle with reading and might not be able to complete a shift report at work, worry that they have not understood a letter from their child’s school or struggle to apply for a bank account.
Their reasons for not reading are varied but they are often based on fear.
Some people say they find reading scary and intimidating, thinking books are “not for them” or that they are difficult or boring.
This belief partly reflects a lack of suitable, simple reading material for pleasure – exciting, story-driven books in all genres.
It was to break down this barrier that, with the help of the whole publishing industry, we set up Quick Reads.
Every year we commission a list of short books by bestselling authors which are full of the action and emotion you would expect to find in any well-known author’s work but limited to 100 pages and edited to reduce barriers for the less confident or lapsed reader.
This year, with Galaxy’s support, we have been able to produce an enviable list which includes Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle, Jojo Moyes and Sophie Hannah.
Since 2006 we have distributed over 4.7million books and registered over 3.9million library loans.
Quick Reads’ ambition is to introduce or reacquaint as many adults as possible to the pure pleasure and sense of wellbeing to be found within the covers of a great book.
courtesy of Daily EXPRESS