What are the dangers of reading books and should we do anything about them?

I started to worry about the effects of book reading after I had been interrupted by sounds from my neighbour’s garden.

The calling in of Poirot or Holmes, however, was not necessary in establishing the reason for the commotion – the parents had decided that their teenager had spent enough of the day on whatever device he was on and had summoned him to join the family meal outside.

The teenager did not agree, but his argument against the “come outside” view lost a certain amount of its pervasive force, in my view, by being limited to expressions of how much she hated her parents and the rest of the family.

But then I remembered my teenage years in which my parents also sought on occasion to get me out of my book and into family conversation. Was I just a pre-digital version of this teenage girl’s behaviour?

Thus I got to wondering about the difference between books and video games, and in doing this I found a large number of articles saying that playing video games is good for young people because it stimulates their imagination and enhances creative thinking.

But that wasn’t what I observed as I did my nosy neighbour bit.  So I dug further and found that in articles written by psychologists with proper qualifications the clear view is that playing these games increases heart rate and blood pressure.  Stress hormones rise and the individual becomes overstimulated – and often unable to come down.

Although any kind of reading stimulates the brain, researchers at Stanford University found that “literary reading” (as, for example, reading of the classics) stimulates multiple cognitive functions. They conclude that reading a novel and then discussing it, thinking about it, and/or writing about it is an extraordinarily effective “brain exercise”.

In short reading a novel stimulates the imagination, while playing contemporary video games stimulates creativity in response to the game, but reduces any sense of exploration of abstract ideas and the ability to communicate.

So, after my grand survey of one family I conclude that reading is still a good idea. And to help encourage reading Wordsworth Editions has a very wide range of classics from as little as £1.88 each (with no delivery charge and no minimum order) covering authors from Conan Doyle to Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne to James Joyce.

If you want to see our selection of 50 essential texts taken from our full range of 400 titles, please do click here.

We also have our offer of a free book just in case you have not come across Wordsworth Editions before. To receive a free sample of one of our classics without any obligation please do email education@wordsworth-editions.com with your name and the school address, and we’ll put it in the post to you with our compliments.