Read more books for better health

Books on display

The Graves-Hume Public Library carries a wide selection of large print books. Books newly added to the collection are on display on a center table. A collection of young adult books have been moved to the shelves in the background. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)

Read more books for better health

The availability of digital content has made it easy to forget how pleasurable it can be to pick up a good book and get lost in a story. In fact, a 2015 Huffington Post/YouGov poll of 1,000 adults in the United States found that 28 percent hadn’t read a single book in the previous 12 months.

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health analyzed 12 years of data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study concerning reading habits. Among the 3,600 participants over the age of 50, those who read books for as little as 30 minutes per day over several years were living an average of two years longer than those who didn’t read.

Studies have shown that reading improves fluency and story retention while providing a host of additional benefits to young children. However, the perks do not end with the passing of adolescence. Data published in the journal Neurology found reading regularly improves memory function by working out the brain. This can help slow a decline in memory and other brain functions. Frequent brain exercise can lower mental decline by 32 percent, according to research published in The Huffington Post.

Studies even suggest that reading can help a person be more empathetic to others’ feelings. Research published in the journal Science showed that reading literary works (not popular fiction) cultivates a skill known as “theory of mind,” which is the “ability to ‘read’ the thoughts and feelings of others.”

Reading also can be calming, helping to reduce stress as a result. By losing oneself in a book, worries and stress can melt away, says research conducted in 2009 at the University of Sussex. Measuring heart rate and muscle tension, researchers discovered that study participants needed just six minutes to relax once they began reading.

How to find more time to read

Even the most devoted bookworms sometimes have trouble finding time to read. If you’re among the masses resolving to spend the year ahead reading more than you have in the past, consider these tips to find more time to cuddle up with a good book.

• Turn off your devices. Think of how much time you now spend each day fiddling with your devices. If you’re a parent, the statistics might surprise you. A 2017 survey from Common Sense Media found that parents of children between the ages of eight and 18 spend an average of nine hours and 22 minutes each day in front of various screens (i.e., smartphones, tablets, televisions, etc.). While not all of that is downtime, chances are a good portion of it is. Whether you’re a parent or not, turning off your devices is perhaps the single most effective way to find more time to read.

• Schedule time to read. Clear your schedule to read much like you might do to watch a favorite television show. Both books and television are forms of entertainment, so why clear time for one form of escapism but not the other?

• Turn books into travel buddies to find small minutes to read. Busy people may think they don’t have the time to devote to reading, but if they read in small intervals, the amount of time will add up. Carry a book with you whenever you leave the house. Read during commutes (if you’re not driving), while in physicians’ waiting rooms or during a lunch hour.

• Read first thing in the morning. A recent survey from the global market research firm IDC found that 80 percent of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning. Instead of scrambling to read your alerts or overnight messages when you get out of bed, spend the first 10 or 15 minutes after waking up immersing yourself in a good book.

• It’s okay to quit. If you’re a few chapters into a book and it’s not striking your fancy, it’s okay to trade up for a more interesting tale. Don’t feel obligated to finish a book if you are not engaged.

• Read paper books. Reading printed books can be a welcome, relaxing change from looking at screens all day. This may inspire you to read more and for longer periods of time.

• Join a book club. A book club in which you engage with fellow readers can motivate you to read more often.

Reading provides a host of benefits, and resolving to spend more time reading books can pay dividends for years to come.

Illinois Reading Council chooses top books for 2019

NORMAL – The Illinois Reading Council has unveiled its list of top books to read in 2019 as part of its nationally acclaimed Illinois Reads program.

Each year for the past seven years, the IRC and Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White, who serves as Honorary Chairman of the Illinois Reads program, have worked together to select six books in each of six age categories written by authors who have a tie to Illinois.

A statewide project promoting reading for Illinois citizens, Illinois Reads recommends books ranging from read-to books for infants to books for adult readers. A variety of topics and themes are chosen for each age group.

The Illinois Reads book selections for 2019 are:

Ages Birth – 4 Years

Hope by Matthew Cordell

The World Never Sleeps by Natalie Rompella

What to do with a Box by Chris Sheban (illustrator)

Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan

The Forever Tree by Tereasa Surratt and Donna Lukas

Ready, Set, Sail by Meg Fleming

Grades K-2

Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall’s Life & Art by Barbara Rosenstock

What Can A Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers

My Heart is a Compass by Deborah Marcero

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins

Shark Nate-O by Becky Cattie and Tara Luebbe

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo

Grades 3-5

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up by Sally M. Walker

Dangerous Jane by Suzanne Slade

Stick Cat: A Tail of Two Kitties by Tom Watson

The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider

Field Tripped by Allan Woodrow

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

Grades 6-8

Out of the Wild Night by Blue Balliett

The Unsinkable Walker Bean and the Knights of the Waxing Moon by Aaron Renier

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt

Drum Roll Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

It’s Not Me It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Grades 9-12

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield

I am not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

How to be an American: A Field Guide to Citizenship by Silvia Hidalgo

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry the VIII Tell All by Stephanie Hemphill, Linda Sue Park and Candance Fleming

American Panda by Gloria Chao


The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

The Girl from Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

Murder in the News: An Inside Look at How Television Covers Crime by Robert H. Jordan, Jr.

A Word for Love by Emily Robbins

Booklists for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 can be found on the Illinois Reads’ web site at

Illinois Reads is sponsored by the Illinois Reading Council, a nonprofit organization with close to 4,000 members across the State of Illinois. The mission of the Illinois Reading Council is to provide support and leadership to all who promote and teach lifelong literacy. More information is available at

Winter Reading BINGO begins

MENDOTA – The Graves-Hume Public Library will host Winter Reading BINGO for all ages from Jan. 1-Feb. 28.

Complete a BINGO (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) and receive a prize. Each square is a different genera or kind of book you must read. After your first BINGO, enter your name to win a prize basket. Complete as many BINGO cards as you can before Feb. 28.

Pick up your BINGO cards at the library.

Second Tuesday Book Discussion

MENDOTA – The Graves-Hume Public Library hosts a book discussion for adults on the second Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Books can be picked up at the library; registration is required.

Upcoming books include:

Jan. 8 – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Feb. 12 – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

March 12 – Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

April 9 – Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah