Words of Wellness
Reader's Digest India|October 2021
The surprising reasons why reading is good for your health
Meghan Cox Gurdon

Not long ago, Linda Khan was sitting by a hospital bed in Houston, feeling ill at ease. Beside her lay her 88-year-old father. His heart was faltering. He needed surgery.

What troubled her almost as much as his health was the fact that all day the two of them had engaged in nothing but depressing small talk. She and her father had always had good conversations, but now he seemed to be sunk in querulous contemplation of his predicament. He talked about the lousy hospital food, the tests, the doctors, the diagnosis, the potential outcomes. The scope of his interests seemed to have shrunk to the size of the room.

That day in the hospital, Khan’s eye fell on a stack of books that people had brought as gifts. Her father had always been a reader, but lately he didn’t have the energy or focus. She picked up Young Titan, Michael Shelden’s biography of Winston Churchill, and started to read it out loud.

Right away, it changed the mood and atmosphere,” she says. That afternoon, Khan read to her father for an hour. It was a relief and a pleasure for both of them. Reading gave Khan a way to connect with her father and help him in a situation that was otherwise out of her hands. Listening allowed her father to travel on the sound of his daughter’s voice, back into the realm of intellectual engagement, where he felt like himself again.

“He’s in and out of the hospital a lot now,” Khan says, “and I always read to him.”

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