Reading is one of the greatest ways for humans to gain knowledge and it helps with the development of ideas, perspectives and insights. As a regular hobby, it can also offer readers an escape from the stresses of daily life.
- Adults with higher literacy skills are employed at a significantly higher rate.
- 63% of all employers rate reading comprehension very highly for high school graduates looking to begin their careers.
- This jumps to 72% for two-year college graduates and increases to 87% for four-year college graduates.
- Those who can read and write earn 30% to 42% more income when compared to people who cannot.
- In countries where adults attain high levels of literacy proficiency and low levels of low literacy, per capita incomes are increased.
- Greater life satisfaction is reported 20% more often by people that read for just 30 minutes a week.
- 87% of US adult book readers say that books are important in their life, with 44% reading for fun every day.
- For adults between the ages of 18 and 64, book reading can significantly reduce perceived feelings of loneliness.
- People are 28% more likely to report feelings of depression if they don’t read.
- 96% of bedtime readers would recommend the habit to other people for its health benefits.
Benefits of reading physical books
Reading books can be a cheap (or even free) and accessible hobby that provides multiple benefits. The habit of reading can help improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional states, greatly impacting their quality of life.
- A survey of adults based in the US highlighted a multitude of benefits that can arise from reading physical book copies.
- 85% of those surveyed agreed that reading physical books helps with learning about history.
- 82% of those surveyed agreed that reading physical books helps to improve focus.
- 81% of those surveyed agreed that reading physical books helps to learn about different cultures.
- Each of the twelve benefits listed were noted by at least 62% of adults surveyed.
|Helps with learning about history
|Helps to improve focus
|Helps to learn about different cultures
|Helps to reduce levels of stress
|Helps to think outside the box
|Helps to become more open-minded
|Helps to make you feel better when down
|Helps to develop problem-solving
|Helps to enhance creativity
|Helps to focus on the present
|Helps to feel empathy
|Helps to connect with others
A graph is given below to show the top 5 benefits of reading physical books according to US-based adults:
Benefits of reading on intelligence
Reading can significantly enhance a person’s intelligence by allowing for cognitive stimulation, boosting knowledge acquisition and encouraging analytical thinking.
- Reading can help individuals to learn new words that may not have been learned from other activities.
- Readers have been shown to perform better on reasoning and logic tests than non-readers.
- During the reading process, the brain is able to mentally create graphic and intense simulations of the descriptions within the text.
- Due to this, the human brain perceives the experience of reading as though it is being lived in reality.
- This process allows readers to experience a wide range of experiences, emotions and different perspectives.
- Whilst reading, people have additional control over the pace of their learning compared to other learning environments, which can aid their comprehension.
- Frequently, older adults who read often can have larger vocabularies when compared to younger adults, which could be partly due to their reading habit.
Benefits of reading on society
Reading can influence societal behaviors by developing a person’s empathy and critical thinking. This can lead to an increase in open-minded and well-informed citizens.
- Greater life satisfaction is reported 20% more often by people who read for just 30 minutes a week.
- A greater sense of community, social inclusion, enjoyment of social occasions, openness, and talkativeness is felt by those who read for pleasure.
- Readers are more likely to take time to consider a situation before reacting and are better equipped to process major unexpected events.
- Frequent readers have been found to identify the personal details of others more easily, such as ethnicity, culture, class and political views.
- Being an adult with a high level of reading comprehension makes you 5 times more likely to vote in elections than those with a low level of reading comprehension.
- In the US, literature readers are 2.53 times more likely to perform volunteer work when compared to non-literature readers*.
- Shared reading group participation has been linked to a number of benefits for emotional and social well-being.
(*Non-literature readers may be readers of other texts such as newspapers, magazines and comics, or not read at all.)
How readers participate in other activities
Compared to non-literature readers, literature readers have been shown to have a much higher rate of participation in a wide range of leisure activities, suggesting a higher level of openness.
- From the given data, the top 3 most common activities for literature readers were exercise (72%), attending performing arts events (49%) and attending sporting events (45%).
- For non-literature readers, the top 3 most common activities were exercise (40%), attending sporting events (27%) and playing leisure sports (24%).
- A higher percentage of literature readers participated in each activity listed when compared to non-literature readers.
- Non-literature reader participation did not exceed 17% on any listed activity related to the arts.
|Attend performing arts events
|Attend sporting events
|Visit art museums
|Perform volunteer/charity work
|Do outdoor activities
|Play leisure sports
|Create visual or written art
A graph is given below to compare participation rates for literature readers and non-literature readers:
Literacy and employment
Studies have shown that the habit of regular reading can improve literacy, numeracy and problem-solving abilities, all of which can have a great impact on a person’s employability.
- A 2017 survey of US adults showed that average literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving skills are at their highest levels in people who are employed.
- People who are unemployed show reduced scores on average in literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving.
- The lowest average scores across all categories were seen in those who were out of the labor force (not looking to enter employment).
|Average numeracy score
|Average literacy score
|Average digital problem-solving score
|Out of labor force
A graph is given below to show average adult literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving scores by employment status:
Literacy level effect on job opportunities
Developing initiatives to improve literacy levels during childhood and adolescence may prove to increase the chances of employment once an individual reaches adulthood.
- People with less than proficient literacy levels are much more likely to report that it negatively impacts them when it comes to employment.
- A US survey found that 70% of adults with a below-basic prose literacy level believed it limited their job opportunities.
- 38% of adults with a basic prose reading level believed it limited their job opportunities.
- 16% of adults with an intermediate prose literacy level believed it limited their job opportunities.
- In contrast, just 4% of adults with a proficient prose literacy level believed it limited their job opportunities.
|Prose literacy level
A graph is given below to show the effect of adult prose literacy levels on job opportunities:
Reading comprehension level and educational attainment
In order to achieve a high level of reading comprehension, the ability to read fluently is a must. Fluent readers are able to better focus on the meaning of a text rather than focusing on decoding the meaning of individual words, which aids understanding.
- A link can be seen between higher prose literacy levels and the upper levels of educational attainment (which require increased reading comprehension).
- According to a US study, 1% of people whose highest educational level was to attend some amount of high school or less (without completion) have a proficient prose literacy level.
- 4% of high school graduates have a proficient prose literacy level.
- 5% of vocational, trade or business school students have a proficient prose literacy level.
- 11% of people who attended some amount of college (without completion) have a proficient prose literacy level.
- A person with a proficient prose literacy level should be able to consolidate information and make advanced deductions from complex, abstract and lengthy prose texts.
|Proficient level in prose literacy
|Less than/some high school
|High school graduate
|Vocational, trade or business school
A graph is given below to show the percentage of adults with a proficient prose literacy level by highest level of education:
How reading for fun affects reading ability
In order to attain the benefits that come with a regular reading habit, readers could choose to focus on books that interest them the most. Readers that enjoy their time reading may have a greater desire to read frequently, compared with those that read out of necessity.
- An assessment of 12th-grade students in the US found that those who read for fun regularly in their own time have higher reading scores on average.
- From the given data, the highest average reading score (304) was found in students who read for fun almost every day.
- The average reading score for those who read for fun once or twice a week was 296.
- The average reading score for those who read for fun once or twice a month was 289.
- The lowest average reading score (275) was found in students who never or hardly ever read for fun.
- Average reading scores were shown to be 10.55% higher in those who read for fun every day when compared to those who never or hardly ever read.
- Carrying on the habit of reading for fun into adulthood can help individuals attain higher levels of achievement in their academic and professional lives.
|Average reading score
|Almost every day
|Once or twice a week
|Once or twice a month
|Never or hardly ever
A graph is given below to show how reading for fun affects reading scores:
Literacy and health
In addition to contributing towards the improvement of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills, reading also provides a number of health benefits when practiced as a regular habit.
- A survey of US adults showed that average literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving skills are at their highest levels in people who self-report as being in excellent or very good health.
- People who self-describe as being in good health show reduced scores on average in literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving.
- The lowest average scores were seen in those who self-describe as being in fair or poor health.
- Average literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving scores consistently fall in accordance with an adult’s self-reported health status being worse.
|Self-reported health status
|Average numeracy score
|Average literacy score
|Average digital problem-solving score
|Excellent or very good
|Fair or poor
A graph is given below to show average adult literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving scores by self-reported health status:
Reading comprehension level and prison population
Reading comprehension levels can have a significant impact on future life success. Individuals who are able to read and understand prose to a proficient level drastically reduce their chance of being incarcerated during their lifetime.
- A link can be seen between individuals with lower prose reading levels and the increased chance of their incarceration.
- A study into the US prison population found that 97% of adults incarcerated were not at a proficient level when reading prose.
- 41% of the prison population read prose at an intermediate level, compared to 44% in the household population.
- 40% of the prison population read prose at a basic level, compared to 29% in the household population.
- 16% of the prison population read prose at a below-basic level, compared to 14% in the household population.
- 3% of the prison population read prose to a proficient level, compared to 13% in the household population.
|Prose reading level
A graph is given below to show the effect of adult prose reading level on the prison population:
Adult reading FAQ
How to improve reading comprehension adults
- To improve reading comprehension skills in adults, learners are encouraged to focus on the following areas:
- Active reading to engage with the text at a deeper level, using annotation, summarization and questioning.
- Vocabulary development to enhance word comprehension, keeping vocabulary lists and reading from a wide range of materials.
- Reading techniques such as skimming and scanning, identification of themes and other forms of active engagement with the text.
How to teach reading to adults
- To teach reading to adults, it is important to focus on the following areas:
- Phonics and word recognition can build a strong foundation for the identification of words.
- Adaptive instruction to make the learning relevant and engaging to the learner, preferably appealing to their interests.
- Comprehension strategies to encourage adults to engage actively with the texts that they read.
How to improve reading skills for adults
- To improve an adult’s reading skills, they are recommended to practice reading with regularity, attempt to read diverse materials that also match their interests and join reading clubs or classes.