CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

Bookworms Have Better Brains in Old Age

Original image
ThinkStock

For some, being lost in a book is better than watching a movie. And although it might seem that bookworms let the world pass them by while their noses are stuck in a book, their love of reading will serve them well: According to a new study from the July issue of Neurology, readers and other mentally active folks have boosted brainpower in old age.    

"Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as [reading, writing, and playing with puzzles] across a person's lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age," says study co-author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, senior neuropsychologist at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center.

For six years prior to their deaths, 294 people took cognitive tests, which examined their memory and clear thinking. The subjects also recounted how frequently they exercised their brains by reading a newspaper or book (or favorite blog, ah hem); writing a letter; playing a thinking game like chess or Sudoku; or visiting a museum or theater. All the subjects, part of the Rush Memory and Aging Process, donated their brains to science so that the researchers could examine them after death. (Currently, the only way to definitively determine if someone suffers from Alzheimer's is to look at the brain post-mortem for tangles, lesions, and plaques, hallmarks of the disease.)

Subjects who read, wrote, and played puzzles experienced fewer cognitive problems; what's even more interesting is that mental activities stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Even if their brains displayed plaques, tangles, and lesions, people who exercised their brains did not exhibit behaviors of Alzheimer's.

“Based on this, we shouldn't underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves, and our parents or grandparents," Wilson says. 

Not a big reader? Never fear—it’s not too late to start. The study finds that people who challenged themselves later in life lowered cognitive deficits by 32 percent. The bad news: People who didn’t engage in mental acrobatics experienced cognitive decline 48 percent faster.

Original image
Kyle Ely
arrow
school
Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
Original image
Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

Original image
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
arrow
literature
How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
Original image
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios