National Read Across America Day takes place on March 2 every year. Established by the National Education Association in 1998 to help children become excited about reading, it is widely celebrated in elementary schools across the country.
While you may or may not have children in your life who will be celebrating, I believe it’s a holiday we can all celebrate. Reading is not just a subject in school but an action that can enrich all of our lives.
Benefits of Reading
We all know that reading can increase knowledge. Reading the news keeps us informed and reading self-help books may give us a new take on what improvements we can make. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Over the last several years, research has increased on the impact of reading fiction and one’s empathy. In reading the stories of others, your ability to empathize increases. Having high levels of empathy allows you to show up to support others through their experiences better, therefore being a better partner, parent, friend or community member.
While the past year has strained our mental health in many ways, reading can provide a form of escapism into a different reality. Temporary reprieve from the anxieties and stresses of daily life can provide tremendous mental health benefits and make you more resilient.
Reading can also foster community, an important aspect of our well-being. While I tend to read on my own, I love discussing books with others through a book club or just casual chats with friends. When I’m with my nephews, we always read together or chat about their current favorites. This connection to a shared activity can provide opportunities to have deeper conversations and connections with those who support us.
Reading as a Practice
Now, if you don’t consider yourself a reader, but you have made it this far, you are in fact a reader. The reading part of our brains is a muscle that can be exercised and can increase in endurance.
When I was a reading teacher, I spent the first month of the school year building the reading muscle in all of my students. Start trying to read for three-to-five minutes on day one. Each day after that, add a little more time. Soon you will find yourself capable of reading for 20 minutes or more. It’s also very important to make sure that you’re in a comfortable spot with good lighting. Remember to remove any distractions, like your phone or things that will pull your attention away from your book. Finally, be sure you pick books you’re interested in, and don’t be afraid to step away from a book that isn’t grabbing you. You will read more when you are excited to see what happens next or are particularly engaged in the topic. There are too many great books out there to spend time on the ones that don’t capture your interest.
Don’t forget about audiobooks! Maybe you can listen to a book while you’re walking the dog or doing household chores. That’s one way to get in your physical activity and your reading at the same time.
What I have been reading lately:
- Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
- How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith
- In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerstrӧm
- Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
What will you read on Read Across America Day?
Christine Halpaus, a training specialist at Vitality, is a former K-6 educator. She earned her Masters in Teaching from George Mason University. Christine and her husband enjoy whatever time they can get outside whether kayaking in Lake Michigan, taking long walks in the sun or the snow with their three rescue dogs, enjoying the evening on a patio, or finding quiet in nature outside of Chicago.