Reading for pleasure can help reduce pandemic stress, increase empathy: experts

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‘Pleasure reading’ excellent way to reduce pandemic stress, increase empathy: experts
WATCH ABOVE: The COVID-19 has been a source of stress for many Albertans. According to experts, more people have been getting back into reading as a way to unplug and relax during this time. Eloise Therien has the story. – Nov 9, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic carries on with no promised end in sight, paired with the incoming winter conditions in southern Alberta, individuals may be feeling negative mental impacts.

According to Dr. Robin Bright with the University of Lethbridge, outlets such as reading a novel could boost one’s emotional well-being.

“Reading for pleasure has tremendous benefits, and there’s a great deal of research to support that,” she explained. “It’s interesting to note that reading also helps to decrease stress levels and anxiety, and has been shown to increase a sense of empathy as well.”

Dr. Bright deals with family literacy, and says students in school who are reluctant to read can find ways to engage in literacy with the help of those around them.

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She adds teachers who are currently partaking in online learning shouldn’t see their physical distance from students as a barrier to connecting with them about their interests.

“The most important thing is to find out your reasons for that disinterest,” Dr. Bright said. “Sometimes it’s simply because there are a lot of other activities vying for a student’s attention.”

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While many parents choose to read to their children at a young age,  Dr. Bright said such an activity should continue on throughout life as a form of bonding.

According to statistics from Scholastic, girls are more likely to be frequent readers than boys, and younger children are likely to read more often than older children.

“It increases that interaction among family members,” she said. “Reading can and should continue for pleasure well into adulthood.”

For Big John’s Books, a locally-owned used bookstore in downtown Lethbridge, the pandemic has actually seen more customers coming into their store to browse, possibly searching for a new hobby.

Customer Scott Horner said the pandemic has impacted his personal reading habits.

“[I’m] probably reading more,” Horner said. “Just more time at home, more opportunity to read. So yeah, I would say in general myself and others I know are reading a little bit more than we have in the past.”
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“In my opinion it’s probably one of the best hobbies. It also keeps your mind sharp, which is very nice,” Big John’s Books owner John Pyska said.

While online shopping has experienced a boom in recent months as customers try to combat interaction during COVID-19, Pyska said many people still prefer coming into brick-and-mortar stores.

“Some of the reason why we’re still in business and probably will be for a very long time is some people have to browse, that’s what they love to do” he said. “Browsing is actually [50] per cent of the book-buying experience.”

The Lethbridge Public Library has resumed in-person services, and are currently offering free adult memberships.

Dr. Bright said of a lot of the reason more people are getting back into reading is likely due to the availability of resources following government relaunch plans.

“Visiting libraries and going to these reading advisory tools have helped people reconnect with reading in a way that may have been difficult when the pandemic first hit,” she said.

Dr. Bright is currently away from the U of L, and said she is currently writing a book titled, “Sometimes Reading is Hard.”


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