Reading Builds Confidence By Stephanie Morris

Reading is wonderful! You can escape to new worlds or learn a new skill, but the benefits of reading go far beyond simple enjoyment and education. Reading can influence our very character. Reading promotes a sense of confidence, broadens perspective, and empowers each individual reader.

A study done several years ago by Dr. Josie Billington at the University of Liverpool states that those who regularly read for pleasure have higher self-esteem, less stress, and cope with challenges better than those not currently reading. I have loved to read for as long as I can remember but had no idea that my outlet benefited other areas of my life. I feel better about life when I take time to escape into a book of fiction, for me, a simple and sublime pleasure. Even when I choose to improve a portion of my life with a non-fiction selection, I feel empowered and energized to ramp up my efforts and improve. All those benefits are uniquely different but fit within what this research has found.

This same study discovered that reading only 30 minutes a week will allow a person a 20{a943efe07e07cd18503f2a953fd40aaba11d99e204b9c1b413d8858b70ad0e76} higher chance to “report greater life satisfaction” than others who don’t read. Researchers also found that readers are “21{a943efe07e07cd18503f2a953fd40aaba11d99e204b9c1b413d8858b70ad0e76} less likely to report feelings of depression” and are “10{a943efe07e07cd18503f2a953fd40aaba11d99e204b9c1b413d8858b70ad0e76} more likely to report good self-esteem” than those who aren’t reading.

During college, I didn’t have time to read for pleasure like I had previously. And even though I was practically forcing myself to read textbooks like crazy for my classes, I did feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Most college textbooks are not exactly exciting and drawing out important information to prepare to be tested on isn’t an easy feat, but the completion of any hard thing is a valuable one. And that’s above and beyond the concepts I learned.

It can be easy to forecast the many societal benefits of our children learning to read and becoming literate, but there are also personal benefits to health and wellbeing. Those who read also find it easier to prioritize, make decisions, and plan. It’s not just those who read non-fiction books about organizing, being better at business, self-improvement, or ways to get their lives moving. Fiction can be just as powerful. Good writing immerses a reader in the life of someone who will face an obstacle to achieve a goal. Just like a mentor, that fictional character is going to lead the way up the mountain, through the wringer, or into battle, and somehow their success is transformative. Readers often walk away from a good book feeling more empowered, more assertive, and more confident than ever.

It’s no surprise that this research has also proven that reading stretches our understanding and broadens our perspective. We get to go places we’ve never been, to time periods we weren’t born in, and experience feelings we may not ever have (or be forced) to feel. This experience helps us become more empathetic, tolerant, and respectful. Reading also helps us know we are not alone in the challenges we face

Don’t we want all of these benefits for our kids too?

We talked to Rhonda Graff, an elementary speech and language specialist, who related a story and her own in-the-classroom findings:

“During first grade, I moved to a new school. On my first day, I was given a quick reading test to evaluate my reading level. I was placed in the “Dogs” group. I looked up on the board and saw “Star” and “Moonbeam” groups written above the “Dogs” group. I wondered which kids were in those higher groups because I knew they must be the smart kids.

To this day, I can still recall a couple of the kids in my group. They seemed sad and less outgoing. How I knew this as a first grader is odd to me, but I remember even being a bit ashamed because I knew I was in the low reading group. To be honest, it gave me the motivation to work harder, and soon enough, I was in the “Stars” reading group. The moment I moved up was branded in my mind—I felt like I could accomplish anything.

As an elementary school reading specialist, I have worked with hundreds of students since 2004. I’ve noticed the difference in confidence levels between the “good” readers and the ones that struggle. (This is based on the typical students, not special education students.) There seems to be a direct correlation between a child’s confidence and their reading ability. Children who read well seem to have higher self-esteem, which gives them the confidence to accept new challenges and try new things. This alone can significantly impact their overall academic career and how much they are willing to grow and expand their interests.

Those who struggle to read seem less inclined to participate in general. If a teacher does random, out loud reading, you often see fear in their eyes . . . what if I get picked to read? For some students, reading out loud is the single most-feared classroom activity. And it is a perpetual cycle because poor readers lose self-esteem when required to read out loud.

Reading is more than just a school subject, more than something to be checked off your academic checklist. Your ability to read can give you the wings to discover new things in and out of school and the confidence to soar.”

Reading is powerful and impacts our lives in extraordinary ways—and it doesn’t even have to consume our free time to benefit us. I am thrilled to understand more fully the incredible rewards of spending time in a book.

I don’t know why or what you read, and that really doesn’t matter. Just make sure you read, enjoy the benefits, and help your children develop a love and appreciation for a good book as well!

Happy reading!

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