Is Reading Contagious?

Science indicates 75 percent of parents wish their children would read for fun more. Yet most parents stop reading aloud once the child learns to read on their own. A report from Scholastic suggests reading out loud to kids throughout their elementary school years inspires them to become bookworms, reading five to seven days per week for fun. More than 40 percent of frequent readers ages six to 11 were read to at home, compared to 13 percent who did not read for fun.

At any age, reading increases intelligence.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

—Dr. Seuss

Diving into a good book opens up a whole world of knowledge. An increase in vocabulary is an obvious result, but it also leads to higher scores on intelligence tests. When children read for fun, it also leads to higher intelligence later in life.

Reading boosts brainpower.

Not only does regular reading make us smarter, but it also increases actual brainpower. Reading regularly improves memory function. Think of it as exercises for the brain. Aging often goes hand-in-hand with a decline in memory and brain function, but regular reading helps slow the process, keeping minds sharper longer, according to research published in Neurology.

Readers are more empathetic.

Being immersed in a story world, caring about characters, helps us relate to others. And so, we’re more aware of another person’s emotions, according to research published in Science Magazine. Interestingly, fiction has a greater impact on empathy than nonfiction.

“Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano wrote of their findings.

Reading may help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Those who engage their brains through reading are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who spend their downtime on less stimulating activities like television. Research suggests exercising the brain helps reduce the risk of developing other brain diseases, as well.

Reading reduces stress.

A 2009 study by Sussex University showed reading may reduce stress by as much as 68 percent.

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination,” cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis​ told The Telegraph.

Reading helps us relax.

There’s a reason snuggling up with a good book sounds so appealing. Because it is! Reading washes away the stressors of the day as we melt into the pages of a good book.

Reading fiction for fun.

Readers of fiction have increased creativity, empathy, and emotional intelligence. Losing ourselves in a fictional character’s experiences make us more open-minded and allow us to spend time in someone else’s shoes. Thus, readers become better humans than non-readers.

Reading supports self-improvement.

Readers support lifelong learning. One of the best ways to do that is to pick up a book and learn something new. Waving at readers who prefer nonfiction!

In general, read is good for our wellbeing. 

Some of us read to escape reality or imagine worlds beyond our own. Some read to learn new skills—cooking, crafting, creativity—or about real people who intrigue or inspire us. Some read thought-provoking books, some dive into futuristic worlds beyond our imagination. Whatever the reason that brings us to the page, reading is one of the best forms of self-care.

Is reading contagious?

Absolutely! Rather than rattle off statistics, I’ll pose a question. How many books have you bought based on word of mouth? When we see another reader all excited about a new book, we want to feel that way, too. So, what do we do? We check out the book.

When children see their parents reading for fun, it plants the seed for them to become lifelong readers, as well. In adults, if one partner pleasure reads several times per week, it lights a spark in their significant other. My husband never read for pleasure till he married me. When he first took the plunge, he devoured more books per week than I did. Over the years as he built and ran his small engine business, he had less time to read. But he dives between the folds whenever possible. Why? Because he sees how much I enjoy reading, and it’s contagious.

TKZers, why do you read? Does your partner read? Do your kids read? What’s the best thing about reading for you?

She may be paranoid, but is she right?

A string of gruesome murders rocks the small town of Alexandria, New Hampshire, with all the victims staged to resemble dead angels, and strange red and pink balloons appearing out of nowhere.

All the clues point to the Romeo Killer’s return. Except one: he died eight years ago.

Paranoid and on edge, Sage’s theory makes no sense. Dead serial killers don’t rise from the grave. Yet she swears he’s here, hungering for the only angel to slip through his grasp—Sage.

With only hours left to live, how can Sage convince her Sheriff husband before the sand in her hourglass runs out? Preorder on Amazon for $1.49

*Though HALOED is Book 5 of the Grafton County Series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

This entry was posted in Reader's emotion, reading, reading habits, reading to children and tagged , , , , , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone, Story Empire, and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-9 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

31 thoughts on “Is Reading Contagious?

  1. Fiction for escape, most definitely. I want to escape into another time and place and visit their world and see what’s happening. And it has the added benefit of learning.

    I definitely need to increase my leisure reading time.

  2. Wonderful post, Sue. Thanks for pulling all this information together!

    I read for several reasons. I usually have two or three books going at the same time, I read craft of writing to constantly look for ways to improve. I read other nonfiction to learn or brush up on other skills. I read fiction for enjoyment and to see how other writers write. And. at bedtime, I read to reduce stress. It’s the only time of the day I can’t be interrupted.

    My wife reads Walmart Romance, and she doesn’t want any others suggestions. My children read, but some of them spend most of their time on SM. My grandchildren: I’m working on them. I’m writing a series for them that they will grow into over the next several years. We’ll see.

    The best thing about reading for me: It makes life fuller, more successful, and more enjoyable.

    Thanks for the info on Haloed. I just bought it, and look forward to reading it.

    Have wonderful week full of books, success, and enjoyment!!!

    • It makes life fuller, more successful, and more enjoyable.

      Agree 100%! Well said.

      Thanks so much, Steve! Wishing you a wonderful week!

  3. Such a wonderful post, Sue. Reading is near and dear to my heart. It is contagious–I still remember the moment when, at the age of three or four, I saw the cover of a book my mother was reading–a science fiction thriller with a giant radioactive spider on it.

    In fifth and sixth grade I attended a brand-new elementary school with modular classrooms, the kinds where the walls can be easily moved to make the classroom space larger or smaller. I took advantage of that to sneak off to the library during class until I was caught. So, naturally I wound up working in a library.

    I read because I love learning, being immersed in worlds both real and imaginary, and being swept up in a narrative. My wife is an avid reader. We also listen to audio books while we do jigsaw puzzles. Currently we’re listening to Wilkie Collins epic “The Woman In White.” I don’t have children, but I’ve done my best to encourage our nieces and nephews to read, though now that all but one are adult, they have tend to spend more time online and watching video. The best thing about reading to me is the way in which it connects me to the world around me, as well as help me understand myself.

    One of the coolest things about working at the library was being able to connect readers young and old with a book, and also read stories to young children. Humbling to think that I was often the first adult other than their parents who read to them.

    Thanks so much for today’s post. Have a fantastic week!

    • Aww, Dale, being the first reader in a child’s life is special. Imagine how you’ve impacted their life.

      My husband and I are toying with the idea of getting an audiobook to listen to while we drive. Normally, my mind wanders, but driving might be different. My brother devours audiobooks that way.

      Isn’t it funny how our parents reading tastes influence our own? My mom and dad were huge King and Patterson fans.

  4. Yes, reading is certainly contagious. My mother (age 91!) is enthusiastic reader, which certainly influenced me. My wife and I passed that on to our daughter — and she’s inspiring her three sons to read.

    BTW, looking forward to Haloed.

  5. Mrs. B and I read at night to our kids. Over the summers Mrs. B sponsored “Mom’s Summer Reading Club.” When they completed a series of books, they got a little prize. Both our kids are readers. Now, there is “Nana’s Summer Reading Club” for the oldest grandson, who is eight. He’s a reading machine. It’s a glorious thing to see him with a book and not a joystick in his hands. Two more boys to follow.

    I always have a fiction and nonfiction book going. So little time, so many books…I’m reminded of poor Burgess Meredith in that famous Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last.” Saddest episode ever!

    • Awesome!!! Mrs. B sounds like an inspirational lady. Our grandchildren all love books, but I fear the nine-year-old is getting sidetracked by the computer. One of her teachers introduced the kids to YouTube during virtual classes of 2020. But she still asks for books for Christmas, so maybe all hope is not lost. Great idea about handing out little prizes. I’ll try it.

  6. Amen to everything you said, Sue. In last week’s post, I mentioned the huge void in my life during several weeks when I couldn’t read due to eye surgery. Until that, I had no idea how many hours in the day were devoted to reading.

    A lot of my reading is editing and beta reads for books that are not yet published. In addition to the mental stimulation of reading, there’s the additional challenge of looking for ways to help the writer make the book better. It can be exhausting but also rewarding.

    And it’s cool to get sneak previews of stories before publication.

    • I don’t how you do it, Debbie, and still find time to write. Sounds like a ton of added work. Though, yes, I can understand how rewarding it must be.

  7. My dad loved books, so I read early and often. My 5th grade sub surreptitiously sat next to me one day and whispered that I’d maxxed out on the reading test, which measured up to high school level. At the time, I didn’t see it as a big deal. I don’t recall even telling my parents. But I’ve been omnilegent over many years, reading (and now writing) most genres.

    • Wow. High school level in fifth grade. Impressive, J!

      I enjoy reading in several genres, too. I think I’m turning into a mood reader, choosing books from my never-ending TBR according to my mood that day. 🙂

    • I should add that my mother was the one who read to us when we were small. Somehow, I still have my copy of Winnie the Pooh, inscribed with my name and “Christmas 1944” in my dad’s best handwriting.

  8. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting side-by-side on the couch with our pre-school son and reading from one of the stacks of books we had checked out from the library. Even as a pre-schooler, he would correct me if I got in a rush and tried to skip sentences.

    Being retired is glorious. I finally have time to dive into that TBR list that was getting out of hand. Although writing has made me more critical of the things I read, I still find joy in almost every book. And I’m grateful to the authors who have given a part of themselves to the rest of us.

    I just pre-ordered Haloed. Good luck with it!

    • And I’m grateful to the authors who have given a part of themselves to the rest of us.

      Me too, Kay! I can always tell when the author is deep in the zone. The writing sings.

      Thank you! Enjoy. 🙂

  9. Both my parents were readers. My dad was strictly nonfiction, mainly magazines like “National Geographic.” Mom loved fiction, and my sister and I were named after characters in novels. The boys were named after important people in my dad’s life. So, the same pattern. I don’t have too many memories of being read to although I’m sure I was, but Dad was a traditional Southern storyteller. We got Bushy Tail Squirrel stories along the lines of B’rer Rabbit with the little guy winning against a predator fox.

    All of us kids were serious readers, and my siblings’ kids are serious readers, too. My younger brother read the Harry Potter series aloud, and he and his family were traveling from Texas to North Carolina when one of the books came out. The adults and the older kids read it aloud through the trip. Everyone was hoarse but happy by the time they made it home.

    When the siblings’ kids were little, I was the family storyteller so they had original content every night on order. I also had the pleasure of introducing them to fantasy I enjoyed and science fiction like STAR TREK that their mom had hated when we were growing up. Evil laugh. Evil laugh.

    • The family storyteller… Your destiny was written in the stars, Marilynn.

      How cool that you’re named after fictional characters! Love that.

  10. There’s a common theme here.
    Readers become writers.

    But non readers mostly don’t. Of course there are exceptions.

    I got sent home from Miss LaPolla’s first grade class for hiding a copy of R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island in my desk when I was supposed to be reading Alice and Jerry and “Jump, Jip, Jump!”
    It’s been all downhill since then.

  11. I will read anything…even the backs of cereal boxes. When I was a preteen, I lived next door to my male cousins and the three of us formed a bookclub one summer and tried to out-read each other. (Evidently, I started young at turning everything into a competition.)

    I’ve always read for entertainment.

  12. Sue, my internet wife, you had to be there while Rita read Harry Potter to Emily and Alan as jammied, bedtime kids. Rita became the character voices, and when the movies came along, Goo and The Wedgie (nicknames), said, “That’s not what they sound like.” There’s magic in storytelling. Pure magic. Let’s never stop telling stories.

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