top of page

Reading and Mental Health

Reading is important for our mental health for many reasons. Reading has been shown to help enhance our sense of well-being, foster understanding of ourselves and others, and help us with perspective-taking [1]. Reading also helps strengthen our brain by creating and strengthening connections within different areas in our brain [2]. Moreover, reading can also increase our ability to empathize, which is the ability to understand others’ feelings, beliefs, and perceptions [2]. Reading helps build vocabulary, helps to prevent age-related cognitive decline, reduces stress, can lower blood pressure and heart rate, helps prepare you for a good sleep, helps alleviate symptoms of depression, and even contributes to a longer life [2]! Read on to discover more ways that reading contributes to our well-being.

What is the relationship between reading and mental health?

Reading has been found to be associated with several mental health outcomes. In particular, one study found that younger boys with reading difficulties were three times more likely to report high levels of depressed mood than their peers [3]. Another study found that students who participated in a story group found greater improvement in mindfulness, optimism, happiness, and positive emotions when compared to a control group that did not participate in a story reading group [4]. In addition, students who participated in this reading group also exhibited a reduction in depression, anxiety, pessimism, and other negative emotions over a 5-week period [4]. Participating in a reading group and practicing reading skills can help improve mental health in children, as the students who participated in a reading group exhibited greater positive feelings.

There is clear evidence for a link between mental wellbeing and reading, as children who read below the level that is expected for their age tend to have lower mental wellbeing scores when compared to their peers who read above expected levels [7]. Furthermore, students with persistent reading struggles have also been found to report significantly greater levels of distress [5] and individuals with lower literacy have been found to exhibit greater mental health difficulties overall [6].

How can I improve my reading skills?

There are a variety of strategies that can help improve your reading skills at any age. Specifically, research has shown that good readers tend to:

  • Read a variety of texts [8] (e.g., picture books, chapter books, factual books, fiction books, magazines, etc.)

  • Use different skills, such as looking at the layout and headings, skimming before reading intensely, and finding specific details [8]

  • Guess the meaning of words that they do not know (e.g., by identifying key information and looking for clues in the text to understand what the word means) [8]

  • Reflect on what they have read [8]

  • Use their experiences and knowledge to make predictions [9]

  • Use visualization [10] which is when the reader creates an image of what is read [11]

  • Summarize what they read into their own words [10]

  • Ask questions to construct meaning, enhance understanding, find answers, solve problems, find information, and discover new information before, during, and after reading [12]

  • Make inferences, which is when readers need to use their own knowledge in addition to information from the text to come to conclusions [13]

What Now?

We can use strategies to help improve not only our own reading, but the reading of children as well. Specifically, we can teach children different helpful reading strategies at a young age to help foster and build strong reading skills. Although we can’t say that strong reading skills directly improve mental health, there is an important link between the two. Therefore, we can take steps to help become better readers, practice our reading skills, and help children become lifelong readers!

If you need additional support, you can contact us at with questions, or to schedule a consultation or book an appointment.

Blog post written by Kassandra Burk and reviewed by Dr. Andrea Stelnicki.

Literature review prepared by Kassandra Burk.

*The information contained in this blog post is based on a narrative review of available literature. Some studies may have been unintentionally omitted. You are advised to speak with a healthcare professional to determine if the information is appropriate to your specific circumstances.*


[1] Psychology Today. (2022). The mental health benefits of reading. Retrived from

[2] Healthline. (2023).Benefits of reading books: How it can positively affect your life. Retrieved from

[3] Maughan, B., Rowe, R., Loeber, R., & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (2003). Reading problems and depressed mood. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31(2).

[4] Arslan, G., Yıldırım, M., Zangeneh, M., & Ak, I. (2022). Benefits of positive psychology-based story reading on adolescent mental health and well-being. Child Indicators Research, 15, 781-793.

[5] Grills, A. E., Fletcher, J. M., Vaugh, S. R., & Bowman, C. (2022). Internalizing symptoms and reading difficulties among early elementary school students. Child Psychiatry and Human Development.

[6] Neuroscience News. (2023). Poor literacy linked to worse mental health worldwide. Retrived from

[7] Clark, C., & Teravainen-Goff, A. (2018). Mental wellbeing, reading, and writing: How children and young people’s mental wellbeing is related to their reading and writing experiences. National Literacy Trust Research Report. Retrieved from

[8] Cambridge University. (2023). What makes a good reader? How to develop reading skills. Cambridge University Press & Assessment. Retrieved from

[9] Block, C. & Israel, S. (2005). Reading first and beyond: The complete guide for teachers and

literacy coaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

[10] Adler, C. R. (Ed.). (2001). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read. Jessup, MD: ED Pubs

[11] National Reading Panel. (2000). Comprehension III teacher preparation and comprehension

strategies instruction. (Chap.4). Retrieved from


[12] Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2000). Strategies that work teaching comprehension to enhance

understanding. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

[13] Serafini, F. (2004). Lessons in comprehension explicit instruction in the reading workshop.

Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page