Read and live longer

Read and live longer

i Mar 31st No Comments by

First published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday on Friday, November 18, 2016

SCIENTISTS ARE now realising that reading can make you healthier and increase your lifespan. In an Internet article posted on October 12, Honor Whiteman reported on a study published in the August Journal of Social Science & Medicine which states that reading books could increase your lifespan.

The study, led by researchers from Yale University’s School of Public Health, says that “adults who reported reading books for more than three and a half hours a week were 23 percent less likely to die over the next 12 years compared to people who didn’t read.” Researchers can’t quite figure out exactly why this is true, but they are searching for the answers. (On an interesting note, the report said that 75 percent of American adults have read at least one book in the past year).

Here’s what else researchers noted:

1. Reading reduces stress, which is responsible for about 60 percent of all illness and diseases. Stress raises the risk of stroke by 50 per cent and heart disease by 40 per cent. The study points out that stress bombards us from all directions every single day of our lives, and reading can be a major stress reducer. A study in 2009 conducted by the University of Sussex claimed that reading can reduce stress levels by as much as 68 per cent. One of the co-authors, Dr David Lewis, a neuropsychologist, says that just six minutes of reading anything – a book, a newspaper, a magazine – showed a measurable reduction of stress in people. There are other studies that back up these two studies.

2. Reading can slow cognitive decline: Readers, it seems, have sharper memories because reading is like exercise for your memory. A study conducted at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center with 294 adults who had an average age of 89 years proved this. For up to six years before their deaths, participants went through activities to test their memory. When the participants’ brains were analysed after their deaths, researchers found “…those who engaged in reading, writing, and other mentally stimulating activities in early and late life were less likely to show physical evidence of dementia…” Again, other studies support this finding.

3. Reading can improve sleep: Studies show that watching electronic devices before going to be bed can make it difficult to fall asleep, but a book before bedtime, the Mayo Clinic says, “can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.” So, for all those people who give me the excuse “reading puts me to sleep,” the answer is this: it’s supposed to put you to sleep.

4. Reading can enhance social skills: I know that most people think of readers as nerds, but studies published in the journal Science seem to support my claim that readers are actually more interesting people than non-readers because they have more information to talk about. You could say people who read have more experience in dealing with people because they “meet” a variety of people in books. Readers also score higher on tests that measure empathy. Keith Oatley, the author of a study at the University of Toronto, Canada, says “fiction can augment and help us understand our social experience (better).”

5. Reading may boost intelligence: This point needs little if any explanation. When you read, you become more knowledgeable. We have known about the importance of reading from many ongoing studies since the 1950s when research has measured the benefits of reading in terms of academic progress. Now, it is possible for science to me a s u r e how reading actually affects our health. Reading really is a lifesaver.


For more information:

Trimont College sponsors two ALTA students

i Mar 17th No Comments by


Last December when ALTA’s weekly column featured an article that called for the public’s assistance to sponsor an ALTA student, the young men of Trimont College responded.  On January 27th 2017 the boys of Trimont College together with volunteer parents of the school’s PTA hosted their first “ALTA Tuck Shop”.  One class from the junior school and another from the upper school collaborated and brought in their favourite snack items, which was donated to the PTA Tuck Shop.  The sales on that day yielded approximately twelve hundred dollars which to the boys was equivalent to sponsoring two ALTA students.

Whist the parents and teachers all recognize it is good to teach children corporate social responsibility in the Citizenship Class they attend, this practical exercise provides the boys with a valuable life lesson.  For the boys of the junior school in particular the notion that there are adults amongst us who cannot do what they do so easily every day in their classrooms, that is; to read and write, was an eye-opening realization for them. Thus when the opportunity came to purchase snacks that they understood was going towards helping an adult to read and write they were happy to part with their allowances.  PTA parents who volunteered their time at the Tuck Shop expressed their joy to see the boys come out of their comfort zone to spend extra even on their class mates.  The teachers too joined in by purchasing snacks for the boys in their classes, all for a worthy cause.

This initiative will continue on the last Friday of each month during the school year with the classes from both the junior and upper school alternating to host the monthly “ALTA Tuck Shop”.  With such a positive and encouraging response from the first ‘ALTA Tuck Shop’ some parents of the other classes have conveyed they are patiently awaiting their son’s class turn to host their ‘ALTA Tuck Shop’ to join their sons in baking treats to donate for such a worthy cause. For the young men of Trimont College this opportunity to help ALTA sponsor-a-student project is going beyond fundraising for a good cause as it has garnered excitement, engagement and enjoyment amongst the boys, parents and teachers of Trimont College.

ALTA is extremely grateful to the individuals, groups and companies who donate to our Sponsor a Student programme. Sponsoring a student helps ALTA as it covers the cost of training and equipping the teacher, providing materials for the students, advertising so students know about the classes, record keeping and enabling guidance from ALTA for the class teachers and administration.

You can opt to sponsor a specific student if you know anyone enrolled in the ALTA Programme, sponsor a student taking ALTA classes in your community or let ALTA pick a student for you. In October every year, you will receive a progress report highlighting your student’s achievements and recommendations for further advancement. Should your student be unable to continue ALTA classes, ALTA will assign another student to you.

If you’re interested in sponsoring an ALTA student,click here.