Reading plays an integral role in developing our intelligence, problem-solving, and analytical skills. All good reasons to do more of it.

We’ve all had it embedded within us since the day we were born: The only way to become smarter, no matter what you study or where you are, is to read. What few people tell us, however, is why reading plays such an integral role in developing our intelligence, problem-solving, and analytical skills, and our ability to understand others with alacrity.

Why, then, is this hobby–one that gets more and more difficult to maintain as we get older–so crucial to maintaining our brain function and improving our overall intelligence?

Well, for starters, children who are exposed to books from a young age are naturally forced to incorporate a larger working vocabulary in their everyday language. Being exposed to a wide range of words, especially in fundamentally developmental years, encourages children to learn new things in an eager manner–developing an inquisitiveness that ultimately shapes how people approach all kinds of learning later on in life.

In addition, reading boosts our ability to understand new concepts–such as when one encounters a scenario, setting, or people they haven’t yet had exposure to–and our capacity to incorporate these new ideas in our existing everyday lives.

Stories have also been shown to aid greatly in determining our abilities to understand, deduce, and analyze a situation. For instance, anticipating a narrative–such as attempting to guess who the perpetrator of a crime in a murder story–is an excellent way of applying problem-solving and reading-comprehension skills that are often assessed as a measure of one’s overall intelligence in standardized tests.

Getting a head start on reading, then, appears to be an easy way to boost one’s intelligence at the onset, rather than needing to develop it later on. Reading at a more advanced age, however, is also a great form of mental stimulation, as evidenced by the plethora of “reading aloud” programs at elderly homes. In fact, some research has indicated that reading can actually delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or slow the process of memory loss.

So, if you’re looking for a way to become smarter, start surrounding yourself with books. The more you read, the more you know!