Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reading for your brain: an experiment

Today I want to discuss something near and dear to my heart: reading.

(Shocking, I know.)

I've talked about people who -never- read on the blog in the past. This is something that I will always have a hard time wrapping my mind around. And let's be real. I don't read the things that super intellectual types carry around. You will never catch me reading Poe or Shakespeare. The only classics I collect are Wuthering Heights and The Odyssey. I don't even read as much as a lot of you do (where do you find the time??)! But I do read a lot more than the average American and I really believe it's beneficial.

There have been tons of studies done on the benefits of reading. For example, according to this Buzzfeed article, reading can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, reduce stress, and can even make you sexier! But the area I see the effects of reading the most in day to day life is in vocabulary. People constantly ask me what words mean. No, I don't use words like "moribund" or "cupidity," but I like to think that I have higher than average vocabulary skills.

To test this assumption in an extremely unscientific way, I put my money where my mouth was (or something like that) and went to

If you've never heard of Free Rice then you should definitely check it out. You can choose from several categories to test your knowledge and, for every question you answer correctly, the World Food Programme will donate 10 grains of rice. It doesn't sound like much, but it definitely adds up!

So I convinced a few people to head over to the vocabulary category and take the quiz, which is split into 60 levels. Because I'm a student of the humanities and don't know how to science I just told everyone to take the quiz and let me know when they missed a question. Here's what happened when I tried it:

I'm not totally ashamed, but I did think I'd make it a little further. To be honest... it got pretty difficult and really tripped me up sooner than I expected! Maybe I should pick up some Shakespeare after all? Anyway, the results looked like this:

Books this year Books in last 30 days Best vocab score
Subject 1 (Me) 68 books 9 books Level 36
Subject 2 42 books 7 books Level 30
Subject 3 16 books 1 book Level 25
Subject 4 2 books 0 books Level 16

Obviously this isn't a very thorough study. Like I said, I'm no scientist. But I still find the results to be pretty interesting. I think enough studies have been done that show the relationship between reading (outside of school) and vocabulary that this actually isn't at all surprising. Still, it's always interesting to see things first hand.

What do you guys think? Do you notice these kinds of differences within your own friends and family? How much do you think reading really benefits you?