WE may take the ability to read for granted, yet 18 per cent of 15-year-olds in England and Scotland leave school without basic literacy skills.

This is a sad state of affairs, as being able to read has the greatest impact upon what an individual may achieve, much more than all other variables, including parental socioeconomic status.

Yet learning to read is far more than just a predictor of financial success. It could be as vital for our mental and physical wellbeing as diet, exercise and not smoking.

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Far from being a solitary pastime, it can build a loving bond between parent and child. The benefits of reading to your little one begins before they develop their own literacy skills. By hearing your voice, and seeing pictures on a page, they become able to concentrate and follow a story, and even after they begin to read for themselves, allowing them to read to you and vice versa will not only further their skills but also foster a love of books.

While it is easy to place a child in front of a television or device, a series of rapidly changing images does not encourage the brain to develop in the same way.

Not only is your child likely to be confident and achieve more as a keen reader, they will acquire lifelong skills. By entering the minds of characters, they are more likely to develop empathy for others and a better ability to read social cues.

Daily Echo:

For many of us, plunging into a novel is a way to temporarily escape the stresses of daily life. Reading for just 30 minutes a day has shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, and may be as effective for relaxation as physical exercise or yoga.

While it may be tempting to check your phone before bed, or use a tablet, the blue light emitted adversely affects the body’s natural hormone melatonin, vital for regulating sleep. The written word has the opposite effect, and is a good way of winding down.

Reading has been shown to help depression, and the NHS recommends books on prescription.It not only gives you give you pleasure; it may even stave off dementia.

Daily Echo:

A study of 3,600 individuals older than 65, over a 12-year period, showed those who continued to read regularly lived up to two years longer than non readers.

While it is a bold statement to suggest that reading on its own prevents dementia and promotes longevity, it may be that positive feelings from this activity allow people to approach other aspects of their life in a more positive way.