Between urgent work e-mails, status updates, tweets, and magazines, you read all the time, right? But when was the last time you lost yourself in a book? The experience of becoming fully immersed in plot and character, “hearing” the words as you read, then carrying those words with you for a while—called “deep reading” by many literacy experts—offers benefits beyond the fun factor. When you’re engaged in this set of operations, your brain isn’t simply taking in surface information. “It’s connecting information to your own background knowledge and helping you form your own creative thoughts,” says Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development and the director of the Tufts University Center for Reading and Language Research, in Medford, Massachusetts. Scientists have confirmed this with neuroimaging. For a 2009 study published in Psychological Science, 28 men and women read fiction while researchers used functional MRIs to track their brain activity. As participants reached different points in a plot, their brains reacted just as they would have had the events in the story been actually happening in their real lives. In other words, when you’re reading a novel or a narrative memoir with full attention, you don’t only understand the story, you experience it. And there’s no feeling quite like it.
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