Does Reading Improve Imagination? Research Found This!

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If you struggle to envisage the outcome of a different approach, or if you struggle to think out of the box and come up with innovative solutions or take a big picture approach in life. Or, perhaps you need to develop your imagination skills in order to come up with something new.

The question people often wonder is whether you can enhance your imagination skills, and if so, whether reading can help!

Reading is known to improve your imagination skills! Specific genres of books such as novels entice you to imagine different story scenarios. Fiction books often require that you imagine the characters and their world! Such activities stimulate parts of your brain associated with imagination.

In this article, we’ll have a look at why reading stimulates the imagination and what you can do to use reading to enhance your and your children’s imagination skills.

Can Reading Stimulate Imagination?

Through research, it has been proven that reading stimulates your imagination.  It has always been attributed to two aspects of reading.

Firstly, when reading fiction you are continuously imagining how the plot is developing and how the imaginary world or circumstances created in the story look like. This makes it easier for your mind to imagine things in real life as well. 

Secondly, it has been established with Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans that the right side of the brain is activated when a person is reading.

Related Article – 21 Benefits of Reading Regularly [Here’s Why We Should All Read!]

As the imagination ability of a person is centered in the right hemisphere of the brain, the “exercise” the hemisphere in the brain receives when you are reading, stimulates your imagination.

So, yes reading stimulates the imagination in more than one way.

How Does Reading Books Improve Imagination?

young beautiful woman reading a book in the park while imagining

Let’s look at two ways reading books improves your imagination.

1. Stories Stimulates Your imagination

Your imagination abilities are improving the more you practice your imagination. As mentioned above, when you are reading books your brain is continuously imagining the actions and scenes you are reading about. Your skill to imagine things is kept active by reading.

2. Reading Activates Sections in the Brain Associated with Imagination.

Recent studies indicate that reading has a much larger effect on your imagination capabilities than what has always been believed.  

Since the 1960s the theory suggested by Nobel Prize Winner, Sperry that a person uses his left brain only for more analytical thinking and the right brain only for things like imagination, intuition, and arts has been accepted.

It is now believed that the theory still holds water, but that it is only half of the truth.

It now has been proved that whether you perform a logical or creative function, you receive input from both sides of your brain. Although the two sides function differently, their work complements each other

When you are imaging something, it originates in the right side of the brain, but the image is influenced by the more “technical” left side of the brain as well.  

As reading also activates many areas in the left hemisphere of the brain the “exercises” provided by reading to the left side also help to improve your imagination abilities.

Benefits of Imagination

The imagination skill of a person is much more than only the ability to imagine a work of art to be created. Although writers, composers, poets, and visual artists must have a good imagination to create, all people need a good imagination.

You use your imagination for large and small everyday life situations. Here are a few examples:

1. Imagination Enhances Problem-Solving Skills

Being imaginative helps you to overcome obstacles at home and work. By imagining how the situation would be if the obstacle is removed, you’ve started to get a solution for overcoming the problem.

With a well-developed imagination, you can look at challenges in new ways and come up with solutions no one else has thought of.

2. Imagination Develops and Preserves Your Memory

Studies have shown that being imaginative creates more neurons in your brain. People who continue to utilize their imagination throughout their life – even after retirement – are 73 percent less likely to develop Dementia and other memory problems.

Thus, not only does reading improve your memory, but it also reduces the decline in memory as you grow old!

3. Imagination Makes You More Emphatic

With a high level of imagination skills, it is easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can imagine what it’s like to be them.

Thus, a good imagination makes you more emphatic. You can also come up with inspired ideas for others to help them cope with their conflicts as you can imagine how certain actions might influence them.

4. Imagination Triggers Your Curiosity  

Using your imagination to disassociate from reality, allows you to imagine different possibilities and scenarios. This can help come up with new ideas. Thus, not only do you increase your curiosity through imagination, but you also become more creative when you read.

A side-effect of this imagining of different scenarios is that it leads to exploring new possibilities. In this pursuit of your imagined solutions, you acquire more and more knowledge and skills.

5. Imagination Can Even Save You Money

With a developed imagination you can create new ways of doing things for free or cheaper than what they would have been if you just keep on doing things in the same way as always. It can be useful in the workplace, but also at home.

At home, for instance, you can from time to time look at what is in your food cabinets and imagine what new type of meal you can put together without buying anything extra. Or you can imagine what type of toy will keep your toddler busy and make it yourself.

6. Imagination Develops Your Self-Confidence

Allowing yourself to use your imagination you can imagine how scenarios will play out. This enhances your confidence to make proposals and decisions. By imaging the outcome of an action, you feel more self-confident to take the action.

What Type of Books to Read to Boost Imagination?

As we’ve indicated in this article reading books as such is good to develop your imagination. Every time you read a book there are areas in your brain that are activated and “exercised.” But to specifically practice your brain’s imaginative skills, the following types of books can be read:

  • Novels – require you to imagine the outcome of scenarios and actions
  • Poetry –  require you to imagine emotional scenarios
  • Biographies – require you to put yourself in somebody’s else’s shoes
  • Travel Journals – require you to imagine how places look and what can be seen and enjoyed

Reading Books to Inculcate Imagination amongst Kids

Father reading a story book to his two kids as they image

When kids are reading books, or books are read to them, they “disappear” into a fantasy world. In this fantasy world, the characters in the book are living and experiencing life.

When children have read books or you’ve read stories to them, entice them to describe how the world looks like where the characters are living.  Also, ask them to tell you what they would have done if they’ve been with the characters in that world.

By encouraging children to make up their own stories linked to the stories they’ve read, you allow them to utilize their imagination.

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